Archive for “Youth Sports” Tag

Lessons From the “Greats”

They Do it Again and Again…Lessons from the “Greats”

There are a lot of lessons that High School Strength & Conditioning Professionals can learn from the “greats” in sports. Names like Bolt, Walsh and Phelps likely resonate with you in some way.

They are great athletes, but not only that…they repeat greatness on a daily basis.

What if you could help your athletes become “their” great?! 🙂

Making a positive impact on youth through great coaching can help your athletes live up to their potential. They all have the abilities to do something great. How will you help them?

In this video, Dr. Haley Perlus talks about what makes Bolt, Walsh and Phelps so spectacular. The best thing is you can teach your high school athletes these skills as well. That’s right, skills like having fun, being “real”, having the mindset to compete and focusing on the little things.

These are just a few things that Dr. Perlus talks about in this 6 minute video. Watch the video above now.


Want to Help Your Athletes with the Mental Side of Their Game?

Want to Enable Them to Succeed Again and Again? Here is a FREE RESOURCE FOR YOU to get started!

GET MY MENTAL TOUGHNESS CHECKLIST

 

Thank Yourself

The Purpose of Youth Sports

I am a medical professional so there is a duty to talk about “problems” and “pain.” After enough years I would like to approach it with two different “P” words: purpose and progress.

thanks-1183283_640I have written a hundred plus articles on the topics of injury prevention, rehab, and sports performance but have not fully addressed something more profound…that youth sports are great.

Problems exist, and we talk about them a lot. Massive increases in over training injuries and dropping out of sports by 8th grade are at an all-time high. Also, the number of crazy parents and coaches doing embarrassing things seems to be growing daily.

But what is the purpose of youth sports? Some could say, to develop top notch athletes but more economist types would say to support a growing multi-billion-dollar industry.

I say it is about fun.

Youth Sports is Not a Job

Fun, determination, hard-work, success, failure, big highs, disastrous lows, and all the rest that goes into building strong character. Sports is only a good paying job for an infinitely small part of the population and at those levels, it still is a job.

Youth sports is not a job—it is an opportunity to participate in something a child loves.

The whole purpose is to give our children a chance to experience greatness for themselves, in whatever tiny amount, which in turn can carry on to so many other things. Opportunity for success and risk of failure is what sports is all about.

As we live in a crazy interconnected world, let’s take a moment and appreciate what you do. You show up day and night to provide children with the opportunity to live out their dreams, their fun and their chances at glory.

In these moments, we can watch fun unfold.

Thank Yourself

If you are reading this article, perhaps you have been visiting the IYCA for some period of time in the hopes of learning. Learning how to make youth sports better, safer and smarter. Learning how to maximize the fun and minimize all the other stuff.

So just take a moment and appreciate yourself, that you care about the well-being of children, and that you are a coach.

That sounds like a purpose. That feels like progress. So thank you.

Dr. Keith Cronin, DPT


About the Author: Keith J. Cronin

Keith CroninKeith J. Cronin is a physical therapist and owner of Sports and Healthcare Solutions, LLC. Keith currently supports US Operations for Dynamic Tape®, the “Original” Biomechanical Tape®, providing guidance for education, research, and distribution. He graduated with his Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) from Belmont University in 2008 and later earned his Orthopedic Certification Specialist (OCS).

Prior to graduate school, Keith was a collegiate baseball player and top-level high school cross country runner. He also had the opportunity to work as a personal trainer (CSCS) prior to his career in physical therapy, providing a very balanced approached to educating fitness and rehabilitation. Keith has focused his career on the evaluation, treatment, injury prevention, and sports conditioning strategies for athletes, with particular attention to youth sports. He currently lives in the St. Louis, MO area with his wife and two daughters, Ella and Shelby.

 

5 Reasons Your Athlete is Slow

Reasons for Slow Athletes

Speed kills in nearly every sport.

Giant TortoiseThe ESPN highlight reel is full of fast moving, high flying plays and color commentary never suggests, “That guy is just too fast, slow down!” We covet the concept of speed so much that the number of speed and agility camps popping up in every town seems endless.

When it comes to speed though, it seems to be unfairly dispersed towards those with better genetics. There is a lot of truth to this but just like too many programs running on your computer, there could be some things slowing down your young athletes.

Here Are 5 Reasons Your Athlete may be Slow

Reason #1: Getting Taller

This is the kid that just looks funny when running. We all have seen it and unfortunately you may have an athlete you are working with that falls into this category. Arms and legs just seem out of whack and you wonder how this athlete doesn’t just fall down with each step.

I wanted to start with this one because the culprit could be something you have no control over—a growing body. If you have a chance to check out the Long Term Athletic Development concept and you dig a little into it, you will see that there is a time frame that athletes are encouraged to develop speed.

This includes swinging a golf club and throwing a ball, but the same goes for running fast. Pop into your pediatrician’s office and you will see how this mirrors that of a slower growth period prior to puberty.

This is not a coincidence.

If your athlete seems to be having a slowdown and there has been a lot of growing, complaints of aches and pains, and sleeping 24/7 let’s not get too caught up on fixing the problem—just let things work themselves out for a bit.

It doesn’t mean your athlete should avoid doing things fast, just keep a healthy realization that this child is going through an iOS update and things might be running a bit slow.

Reason #2: Asymmetry

An unbalanced body, is a major risk factor for injuries and that same thing applies to speed.

Pro Tip: An athlete CANNOT achieve their top level of explosiveness if there is significant asymmetry from side to side. The body works best when in balance.

SportThis balance does not have to scale out perfectly, but it needs to be close. For example, in the rehab world we like athletes to have 90%+ symmetry from a single leg jump following ACL reconstruction.

Why? Because if one leg can push and land faster than the other, then it puts the rehabilitated leg at increased risk.

The human body will only move as fast as its slowest part. Since sprinting is full body motion this requires exquisite timing.

Making sure that the body is in balance is critical to optimal performance.

Reason #3: Poorly Rehabilitated Injuries

Injuries will happen in sports. Even as a physical therapist, I will break the glass and acknowledge that “bubble wrapping children” is not the answer. However, just as injuries are a part of sports, the means to return the body to optimal performance is critically important.

Hamstrings and calf muscles are often the victims of fast moving. Quad and hip flexor strains, as well as achilles tendinopathy, also fall in the mix. Regardless, damage to the soft tissue requires appropriate rehabilitation. This could be a muscle tear, tendon irritation, fascial tightness, etc. but not addressing an injury appropriately is going to slow down an athlete.

Pro Tip: This is particularly important if these injuries are from overuse as now the breakdown is exceeding the healing. Children normally heal REALLY fast so if this is happening it means this athlete’s activities are way too much!

Reason #4: Sport Selection

In high school I excelled at two sports—Cross Country and Baseball. How well do you think these two worked together when it comes to speed? Just terrible!

Every fall I would train my body to maintain a pace to run many miles and then in the winter I would have to condition the opposite—teaching my body to be explosive for swinging, throwing, and stealing bases.

Now I was a pretty committed Type A person when it came to sports and I put in the sweat equity to make it happen. It was great for my arm, gave me a solid off-season but not so good for my first explosive step.

If your athletes have sports that are polar opposites when it comes to speed, this may cause some slowdown.

Muscles can be retrained so don’t just quit all endurance sports because of this article. Just keep in mind that this type of athlete may need a bit more attention on the speed training side of things.

The IYCA’s Long Term Athlete Development product is a sure-fire way to get our athletes ready for any sport.

Reason #5: Weak Core and Hip Flexors

“Strengthen the Core” has been beaten to death but I am going to kick this dead horse again.

Weak Core = Slower Athlete

Watch any sport where an athlete rips off their shirt and what will you see? A human washboard. Training these muscles are hard, time consuming, and for most young athletes this type of conditioning moves to the bottom of the pile. I am sure you have read a lot of articles on the importance of core training…let me try another one.

When the arms and legs move quickly there is a lot of energy that travels back and forth to generate velocity. A smooth running engine is flawless and if you watch the fastest athletes out there it almost looks effortless.

The hip flexors, in particular, help drive the legs forward as the athlete flexes down into a sprinting position. These muscles are attached to the front of the spine which means every step, the lower back is jerked forward and side to side.

If the surrounding core musculature does not offset this motion, then the legs have a poor platform to pull off of, confounded also by the forward energy generated by the arms being dissipated as well. As a result, your athlete becomes a car with weak chaseerattling and wobbling along.

Now if you were behind the wheel of this weak framed car, would you floor the gas pedal? I didn’t think so.

The brain is no different. If the body is at risk of injury, the self-preservation systems will slow everything down. You could “will it” all you want but your brain isn’t going to risk damaging the body unless there is a bear chasing after you.

Take Home Message

Running fast is more than just wanting too but also realizing there are limitations, such as genetics, that we have no control over.

Some people have more fast twitch muscles and others don’t but they recognize individually achieving top speed requires more than just training to run fast.

Speed and agility training, when used appropriately, is a good adjunct to strength and conditioning but should always be considered in balance with the bigger picture.

Speed does not develop day-to-day. It’s more like a business, quarter-to-quarter with a solid year-end review.

Summary

If your athlete just shot up an inch last month and is concerned about feeling slow, assure them that it’s normal and things will get back to normal soon. If their response is that of ten different emotions all in a single conversation then you definitely know you are making the right call!

Dr. Keith Cronin, DPT


About the Author: Keith J. Cronin

Keith CroninKeith J. Cronin is a physical therapist and owner of Sports and Healthcare Solutions, LLC. Keith currently supports US Operations for Dynamic Tape®, the “Original” Biomechanical Tape®, providing guidance for education, research, and distribution. He graduated with his Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) from Belmont University in 2008 and later earned his Orthopedic Certification Specialist (OCS).

Prior to graduate school, Keith was a collegiate baseball player and top-level high school cross country runner. He also had the opportunity to work as a personal trainer (CSCS) prior to his career in physical therapy, providing a very balanced approached to educating fitness and rehabilitation. Keith has focused his career on the evaluation, treatment, injury prevention, and sports conditioning strategies for athletes, with particular attention to youth sports. He currently lives in the St. Louis, MO area with his wife and two daughters, Ella and Shelby.

Additional noteworthy items about Keith:

  • Keith is currently a reviewer for the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy (IJSPT) on a variety of topics including throwing athletes, concussions, and ACL rehabilitation.
  • Keith has produced several online CEU courses for PTWebcuation.com on the topics of running injuries, ACL rehabilitation, Patellofemoral Syndrome, and injuries to the Foot and Ankle.
  • In 2012, Keith participated in a concussion education program in Newcastle, OK that resulted in the documentary “The Smartest Team: Making High School Football Safer” which had several runs on PBS worldwide.
  • Keith has also been published in a variety of media, publishing almost 100 articles through venues including MomsTEAM.com, Advanced Magazine, the 9s Magazine, the American Coaching Academy, and Suite101.
  • Keith was also featured on Fox2News several times on topics of concussions and ACL injuries.
  • In 2008, Keith was a winner of the Olin Business Cup at Washington University for his product innovation “Medibite” a jaw rehabilitation system designed to improve the outcomes for individuals suffering TMJ dysfunction.

Easy Games with Resistance Bands

No matter what age, athletes love games. If you really want your young athletes to enjoy your sessions, then you need to implement some sort of game play into each program.

Games come in different forms, from old-school games like tug-of-war to games that your own athletes co-create, they all play a role in the “fun factor” and “success factor” of your sessions.

We all want successful sessions that our athletes continue to WANT to come back to…right?

3 Benefits of Game Play

Note: Be sure to watch the video at the bottom of the page, as Guest and Resistance Band Expert, Dave Schmitz provided us with an awesome example of games to play with bands.

Games

Game Play Benefit #1:

FUN! Life is way too serious for most athleteseven some of the youngest take their sports to the extreme. A reminder that sports and training should have a “fun factor” is very important for youth.

Implementing 5 minutes of fun into your sessions will increase those “feel good” chemicals and lead to more productive, happy athletes.

Game Play Benefit #2:

COMPETITION! No matter the game, adding a bit of competition simulates what athletes may face in their sport of choice…or in life.

When training becomes competitive, athletes are able to reach a different level of performance, similar to real life game-day situations.

Pro Tip: Create games that encourage performance and reward effort.

Game Play Benefit #3:

IT ISN’T WORK! Let’s face it, training is hard work and occasionally met with resistance. Have you ever met a kid who would rather do sets of squats than play a game? Well, there is always one…but the majority don’t look at games as “work”.

Pro Tip: Games eliminate the “thinking component” of training. They allow athletes to think less and act more. When performance becomes instinctive…the real goals are achieved.

Play Games!

Check out these Resistance Band Games from Dave Schmitz:

 


Want additional games to help develop better athletes?

Check out 3 fun, exciting games from Youth Performance Expert Dave Gleason that will increase your athletes’ speed and agility.

Learn More


About the Author: Julie Hatfield

Julie Hatfield (1)Julie is the Executive Director of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA). She grew up as an athlete and played collegiate softball at Juniata College. She currently owns and operates her own youth fitness business pouring into young athletes. Her areas of expertise are youth sport performance, youth fitness business and softball training/instruction. Julie grew up on a dairy farm and can challenge the best of the best in a cow-milking contest. 😉

5 Easy-to-Remember Aspects of Program Design

The best youth coaches are always looking for ideas, tips and tricks to improve their program development. Maybe it’s because they are the “never settle for anything less than perfection” type personalities, or just because they are getting bored with their current programming.

Either way, we have found some great techniques for how to approach program development, that will help you improve your programming, mix up the mundane, and continue to get great results with your athletes.

Pro Tip: When developing a program or improving an existing program, think of the acronym P.L.A.C.E. to make sure that you are delivering an extraordinary experience.

Plan & Prepare

Every program needs a good amount of planning and preparing. It is no secret that the best performance coaches in the industry have a tried & true system when it comes to planning and prepping their sessions.

What is your plan? How do you prepare?

Quality planning and preparation will take your training to the next level


Learn how to prepare your athletes to perform and to design programs that fit within a model of long term athlete development.

Watch Video


Lifelong Lessons

You have an amazing opportunity to simulate and help athletes overcome many barriers and obstacles. Find ways to relate training back to life and make it a part of each program.

Overcoming barriers, fears, weakness and obstacles can easily be brought into a training program in a non-threatening, manageable way. It is a great moment for you to impact that athlete for life.

On a similar note, when you program from the long term athlete development model and principles, not only do you get to spend many years with a single athlete, you also get to implement a rock-solid foundation in movement that will change their life.

Never lose site of the bigger picture: lifelong health & happiness.

Application to sport

It is an unfortunate reality that many athletes are defined by the sports that they play. Educating them on the need to be well-rounded, foundationally sound and the concepts of long term athlete development is essential.

But the reality is still there. That is why “application to sport” is still an important part of your program. Don’t over-emphasize this topic, but give your sport-athletes as much as they they need when it comes to relating components of your program to their sport.

Confidence Building

Confidence building should be an integral part of each and every session when working with athletes. Providing a platform for confidence building will allow your athletes to achieve goals and perform at a higher level.

How will you help your athlete(s) mentally? Whether it’s in the confidence that you have in them, or the way that you play to their strengths and build their weaknesses.

There are many ways to instill confidence as a coach, so make it a priority.

Evaluate

There are two pieces to the evaluation part of your program:

  1. Evaluate the athletes
  2. Evaluated by the athletes

Every time you see an athlete, there should be a constant evaluation process that takes place. How are they feeling, how is school, how busy are they, how do they look when they move?  

Much of this evaluation should occur in your warm ups and before they start working.

Secondly, they evaluate you. At the end of each session, you can ask for feedback. How did they rank the session? How did they rank their performance? (I use a # system, 1-10)

Summary:

The good news is that the acronym PLACE is easy to remember, and will help you think through the basics of what to include in your program design.

What others tips, tricks and recommendations do you use? We’d love to hear!


Want to help make sure your athletes are prepared to perform for the long-run and not just for next week’s big game?

Download our FREE Prepared to Perform Video to hear youth coaching expert Wil Fleming break down critical aspects of the long-term athlete model.

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Author: Julie Hatfield

Julie Hatfield (1)Julie is the Executive Director of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA). She grew up as an athlete and played collegiate softball at Juniata College. She currently owns and operates her own youth fitness business pouring into young athletes. Her areas of expertise are youth sport performance, youth fitness business and softball training/instruction. Julie grew up on a dairy farm and can challenge the best of the best in a cow-milking contest. 😉

Pushing Power in Athletics

Power in Athletics

When it comes to developing the ability to push someone around, a skill necessary for almost every team-based sport, there isn’t a better training tool than the push up.

I’m sure there are plenty of 5/3/1, Bigger Stronger Faster, or other weight room guys that will argue a big bench trumps someone who can crank out a bunch of push ups any day.

That’s when I refer to the great Earl Campbell and Herschel Walker, two incredibly successful and punishing running backs in the NFL, who reportedly were body weight training guys. They swore by push ups and body weight exercises and clearly had no problem pushing around the best in the world over and over.

Additionally, you have to look at the population of athletes in front of you. We have mostly late middle school or high school age kids who have a low training age and lack the ability to activate their entire body. The push up and its progressions give us an opportunity to teach that skill to our athletes.

More importantly, a girl that can crank out 10 full push ups and a boy that can knock out 25, in our experience, has a body well-prepared for sport and the contact typical of most team sports.

Finally, from a biomechanical standpoint, I look at the push up and see the direct correlation to pushing necessary for sport. The body stabilizes on the ground with four contact points, but the majority of the body MUST be active when pushing away from the ground. Otherwise, we might as well be doing the worm.

That pattern very closely resembles an athlete pushing someone on a field or court, with two legs on the ground and the entire body activated.

Conversely, when assessing the mechanics of a bench press, the back, glutes, and (sometimes) thighs are in contact with a stable surface. I don’t know of a situation in team sports where that much of the body comes in contact with a surface while pushing. The exception, of course, is being on the bottom of a pile of players after a tackle and pushing someone off you, which is not ideal for high performing athletes.

So let’s take a look at our progressions to get a young athlete crushing push ups on a regular basis!

Progressions:

Plank on elbows/hands

When doing a plank on the elbows or hands we are looking for rigidity of the entire body and will use various cues to teach each body part how to activate optimally:

  1. Active legs (straight as an arrow)
  2. Glutes (squeeze a quarter between the cheeks)
  3. Trunk (brace like someone is going to punch your gut)
  4. Shoulders (envision a towel between the elbows or hands and try to rip it apart)

The plank requires a lot of focus and should be difficult to hold for a long time. Therefore, we find it much more beneficial to teach athletes a plank by having them fire everything for brief periods (10-20 seconds) rather than hanging out in a plank for a minute with just enough activation to make it look good.


Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers, in our world, don’t differ greatly from a plank. The only difference here is that the athlete now must learn to stabilize in a dynamic setting.

By only moving one leg at a time, they get the chance to maintain full body bracing, like the plank, while actively driving the knee towards the trunk.  Here, the athlete must be on his or her hands. Thus we implement a new cue, “push the ground away.”

By using that cue, the athlete now aggressively pushes his or her body away from the ground, giving the leg more room to move and activate the scapular stabilizers that are generally very weak and assist in poor posture with young athletes.

We also ask athletes to “torque the ground” with the intent of turning the hands away from each other. The hands shouldn’t move, but when torquing occurs, the arms become more active and better prepared for a push up later on in the progressions.

Once an athlete shows quality movement with the mountain climber, we will have him or her start to move the leg with aggression while stopping it at 90 degrees to the body. The exercise then turns into an excellent front leg drive drill for acceleration training.


Assisted Push Ups

We use two main variations of the standard push up to help young athletes progress towards completing a push up that is repeatable and consistent through fatigue.

Our first and most common assisted push up is completed via the use of a resistance band attached to the athlete’s body and a point well above the athlete’s body (typically 7-9 feet high on a rig or hook).

There are some significant benefits to this variation. First, the movement is quite similar to an unassisted push up from the ground. Second, the athlete can torque the ground with his or her hands and arms like we cue during an actual push up.

Once an athlete has developed sufficient assisted pushup strength and can perform the movement without the band, there is almost no adjustment necessary for a body weight push up.

There are, of course, limitations to any assisted pattern.

First, the core is supported during the assisted pushup and for many of our athletes who are stuck in anterior tilt, core strength is the limiting factor and sometimes allows them to continue doing the worm instead of a push up once the band is removed.

Second, we often miss full range of motion (ROM) with our younger athletes, particularly boys. They want to crank out 20 push ups because, “that’s what I did when I tested for football!” However, the only way their chest would touch the ground with their “testing push ups” would be if they had a 60-inch chest. And I have yet to see a 16-year-old that looks like Lou Ferrigno.

**We started using bean bags (like the ones used for bean bag toss) to force full ROM. Our athletes need to touch their chest to two bean bags stacked on top of each other and then progress to one bag before we take the band away and have them train the full push up. **

The other variation we use is an elevated barbell on a rack.

Again, there are both positives and negatives to this assisted push up variation.

First, it is great for younger female athletes who truly lack upper body strength. They can see gradual improvements in strength since the holes on our rack are 1-inch apart. They can make small gains, sometimes within a singular training session, and certainly over a 6-week training program.

Second, because of the height, those athletes who lack upper body strength can start to make significant gains in chest, shoulder, and arm strength since they don’t have to struggle through the pattern and can truly focus on form, positioning, and muscle tension.

But this variation also leads to some potential issues of which coaches need to be aware.

First, due to the angle the athlete is at, the shoulders tend to elevate once the chest and arms have fatigued. So you either need to stop the set before that point or cue the athlete’s “shoulders away from their ears.”

Second, since the hands are on the bar, not on the ground, torquing is nearly impossible. I am not going to lie to you and say I haven’t seen it done, but generally those just learning a push up can’t start pulling apart a bar plus do all the other things they need to do correctly.

Remember, this isn’t our end all, be all. Instead, it is a stepping stone from a mountain climber to a full push up from the floor.


Push Ups

The push up is our end all, be all. I fully believe an athlete does not need to train bench press unless they are required to test for their sport. For the sports required to test the bench, like football, there is enough contact and pushing involved in practice and play that it justifies working the bench press into programming.

However, no matter how advanced our athlete is starting out, I want to PERSONALLY see them do ten perfect push ups before they put their face under a bar and start benching.  All too often we have athletes come in who bench and are stuck at a certain weight.

When they show me their push up, it’s evident they lack the full body activation necessary to do a push-up. Once we train the push up correctly, they go back to the bench and magically set a new personal best.

The things we coach in a quality push up stay consistent with everything taught in the previous movements, but we add additional cues to maximize pushing power.

  1. Create rigidity through the body (body is one long piece of solid oak)
  2. Torque the ground through the hands (rotate the hands away from one another)
  3. Pull the body to the floor (rip the ground apart to give the chest space)
  4. Push down as your body comes up (push the ground away)

Once an athlete shows the ability to accomplish this and get his or her chest to the ground for a reasonable amount of push ups, we may add resistance in the form of plates on the athletes back. We had some strong male athletes rep out ten push ups with 90+ pounds on their back, so if you don’t think you can overload the push up, you’re wrong!

By taking the proper steps in progressing a young athlete through the push up, you will create a powerful, stable athlete capable of pushing around anyone he or she chooses.

And when the athlete returns to his or her team and can crush all teammates in push ups, they walk a little taller. When we as coaches can create confidence like that, we win!

ADAPT and Conquer,
Coach Jared


About the Author: Jared Markiewicz

JarredJared is founder of Functional Integrated Training (F.I.T.). F.I.T. is a performance-based training facility located in Madison, WI. They specialize in training athletes of all levels: everyday adults, competitive adults and youth ages 5-20+.

The long-term vision for F.I.T. is recognition as the training facility for those desiring to compete at the collegiate level in the state of Wisconsin. Alongside that, to also develop a platform to educate those in our industry looking to make strides towards improving the future for our young athletes.

Find out more about Jared’s gym by visiting F.I.T.

Career Highlights

  • 2014 Fitness Entrepreneur of the Year – Fitness Business Insiders
  • 2014 IYCA Coach of the Year Finalist
  • Volunteer Strength Coach for West Madison Boys Hockey and Westside Boys Lacrosse
  • Helped develop dozens of scholarship athletes in 3 years of business
  • Instructed Kinesiology Lab at UW-Madison
  • Houses an internship program at F.I.T. that started in 2013
  • Member of Elite Mastermind Group of Nationwide Fitness Business Owners

Push Ups Help Develop Powerful Athletes:

Learn more power evolution techniques today.

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Youth Sports Training Program Design Considerations

 

Youth Sports Training Variables

By Art McDermott
 

The purpose of this article to present some of the key variables required for a successfully designed youth sports training and performance program. This topic always seems to produce some VERY strong opinions about what works, what does not and what the latest and greatest techniques may be.
 

Once all the sweating, lifting and marketing are done, sometimes it may be difficult to tell the difference between one sports performance facility and another.
 

With rare exceptions, even a young athlete’s parents do not know the difference between a good program and one that is not so good. As a strength and conditioning professional, it is your job to be able to clarify this.
 

At the end of the day, there is one thing that cannot be hidden from the light. Results. Physical Testing at the start of a summer program and then a retest at the conclusion of the training will always reveal the answer to the single most important question.
 

Did the youth sports training program work?
 

We cannot cover all the facets that go into a complete program in one article. This topic takes an entire semester when I cover it with the physical therapy students at UMass Lowell. However, I will do my best to present to most pressing issues.
 

There are nearly as many different approaches to youth sports training program design as there are coaches in the industry. However, here some of the factors that should be considered when designing an effective program.
 

* Time Frame – How long do you have to work with the athlete?
* Sport – What position does the athlete play?
* Gender
* Time of Year – Is this a pre-season program or an off-season program?
* Muscle balances and weaknesses – If any imbalances or weaknesses are present, are these the result of overuse, a lack of training, injury other factors?
* Level of Experience (Training Age) – Has the athlete be training for years or are they just learning to train or lift weights?
* Chronological Age – What level of physical maturity has the athlete reached?
 

Let’s examine why these elements are important before designing a youth sports training program:

 

1) Time Frame: This is the first question I ask ANY athlete that comes to our facility. How much time do you have to train (in weeks)? This will determine nearly every aspect of the program. How much corrective work can I do? What kind of strength level can we expect to achieve? Will we have time to properly periodize the program? Basically, can we do our job effectively? We have literally had parents call us and say, “My son has hockey tryouts in two weeks and we would like to get some training in. What can we put together?” Short answer: Not much.
 

2) Sport: This is a given. Very rarely can two athletes in different sports be on the same program. The physical requirements from sport to sport vary too widely. This is why having “Today’s Workout” posted on a board is a far cry from a properly designed program. A thorough coach should understand the needs of each sport or at least be adept at doing the research to gain this knowledge. The coach must then customize each athlete’s program accordingly.
 

3) Gender: This one is also fairly obvious. There are particular movements that MUST be in every female’s programs. Among them are: Knee and hip stability, hamstring work and upper body work. ACL injury is epidemic among female athletes but the incidence of ACL tears can be reduced by up to 70% according to some studies, if a proper program is put in place. A disproportionally weak upper body is usually the standard for females and should be addresses as well. As Martin Rooney says, “Who decided it as OK for females to do push ups from their knees?”
 

4) Muscle Imbalances and Weaknesses: While some imbalances may be genetic, many are a result of the trend towards early specialization in sport at too early an age. Examples are: Hip flexor shortening in hockey players, spine injury in gymnasts and figure skaters, dominant arm hypertrophy in tennis players, etc.
 

Muscular Weaknesses abound and have multiple sources. Most younger athletes are weak everywhere…unless they are one of those high-end gymnasts. Pinpointing muscular weaknesses allows the coach to correct them. Once the musculature is in balance, the entire “system” will be able to gain strength more effectively overall.
 

5) Time of Year: This refers back to point #1. The time of year will have a clear impact on exercise selection. Generally, as the competitive season gets closer there is a shift from general work to more transferable strength and power work.
 

6) Level of Experience: This is an easily overlooked parameter. If I am training a gymnast, she could be in her 8th year of high-end training and still only be 15 years old. On the other hand, you could have a 15 year old male who has ever been in a weight room but wants to try out for baseball in high school. Should these two be on the same routine?
 

7) Chronological Age: This one varies in a very important way from Training age. Actual chronological age looks purely at the physical maturity of the athlete. Keep in mind that one major factor impacting program design is onset or completion of puberty. If an athlete has significant androgens present in their system, additional intensity and volume options become available.
 

While not all-inclusive, I hope this article demonstrates the need for a properly designed youth sports training. From the testing procedures used to the energy system program used, making sure each program the right program for your athletes is vital for the athlete’s success as well as yours!
 

 

Preventing Knee Injuries With Youth Strength Training Programs

Does Your Youth Strength Training Program Promote ACL Injuries?

 

Youth Sports knee injuries

 

The good news about knee injuries these days, and Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears in particular, is that medical science has turned what used to be a career-ending injury into something most athletes can recover from in time.

 

The bad news is that ACL tears are occurring more often than ever. Anyone involved in a youth strength training program likely knows at least one athlete who has had a severe knee injury in the past year.

 

Why do these injuries occur?

 

The ACL is a small ligament that runs diagonally inside the knee and connects the upper leg (femur) to the main shin bone (tibia). It’s job is to prevent the knee from twisting or moving side-to-side more than just a few degrees. When pushed beyond its relatively small limit, the ACL can either be partially stretched or ripped completely.

 

Youth Sports training knee injuries

 

In a sports setting, the ACL almost always gets torn during a one-time event. This can occur due to contact with another athlete, or during non-contact moments where the knee may be pushed out of position from a high level of force placed on it. Non-contact situations where this normally happens are during cutting, pivoting, out-of-control stopping, and awkward landings on jumps.

 

Surprisingly, about 70% of ACL tears in young athletes occur during non-contact events. Female athletes are between 3 and 8 times more likely than males to tear their ACL. Although all youth sports have some level of ACL injuries, soccer and basketball have the most for girls playing sports. For boys, it is football and lacrosse.

 

With nearly 150,000 tears occurring annually in the United States alone, more focus has not just gone into the rehabilitation process, but also in preventing these injuries from happening in the first place.

 

How To Prevent ACL Injuries With Your Youth Strength Training Program

 

One big piece of preventing ACL tears is to focus on both the ankle and hip joints, strange as that may seem. Knees basically go where the ankles and hips send them, so ‘prehabilitation’ measures focus on those areas.

 

For the ankle, it is crucial that young athletes limit the amount of side-to-side movement that occurs in that joint. Either during one leg standing postures or when running, the more their ankles roll the better the chance it will push their knees either in or out during faster-paced athletic events. Kids who tend to roll their ankles a lot may be much more susceptible to knee injuries when they get bigger, faster and stronger in their later years.

 

The hip joint needs to both be flexible and strong to function correctly, making it a little harder to train. For the flexibility side, stretches that specifically target the hips may be needed for those with limited ability to do a deep squat. Very young athletes (ages 11 and younger) are almost never in need of these, but once the teenage years approach and growth spurts really kick in, more stretching may be warranted.

 

Youth Strength Training Program

 

Strengthening the hips can be tricky, because most athletes with weak hip muscles have learned to move in a way that shifts the stress to their stronger leg and back muscles. You’d think a basic exercise like a squat would work the hips very well, but not for those who are leg-muscle dominant already. Isolated strength for the hip muscles plus relearning other exercise patterns, such as squatting, must both be done to stabilize and protect the knees.

 

Just as important in this equation is for young athletes to learn how to move properly. Being able to efficiently absorb the force of gravity when landing on a jump can lower your ACL tear risk substantially, and is relatively easy to learn for most focused and dedicated athletes. In addition, controlling momentum during stopping and cutting movements will further decrease your risk. These skills tend to take much more repetition to improve on, but it certainly can be done.

 

Although it is true that the younger someone starts improving these skills the better chance it will lower their future injury risk, it is never too late to build the strength, flexibility and movement skill required in sports with a great youth strength training program to keep your knees stable and safe.

 

Help young athletes train the RIGHT way, perform to their full potential and learn from the very best in industry by getting your IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist Certification today!

 

Youth Fitness Training

 

SOURCES: British Association of Sports Medicine, www.livestrong.com

 

 

Alternative Methods for Training Explosive Strength To High School Athletes

 

 

High School Athletes Strength Training

 

 

high school athletes

By Wil Fleming

Nearly all high school athletes, with very few exceptions, need to
develop explosive strength.

 

 

The instances in which the skill of explosive strength are used in
sports are endless, but when used “explosiveness” is very apparent.

 

A linemen firing off from their stance.

 

A soccer player rising above his opponents to head a ball toward goal.

 

A volleyball player making a quick lateral move to reach for the dig.

 

Instances of explosive strength are very vivid when used and typically are a part of a game changing play.

 

Typically I would now talk about the importance of Olympic lifts, but in some instances using a barbell is not possible due to equipment limitations or even the readiness of the athlete. In those instances, the need for High School Athletes does not diminish, but the need for creativity does increase.

 

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Training Young Athletes Where It All Begins

 

 

Foot Strike: The most obvious but most overlooked component of training young athletes.

 

 

About eight years ago, one of my high school high jumpers, Danielle, came running down to me at a track meet to tell me the news. As the coach of the long, triple and high jumps I was making the rounds at a meet trying to miss as few competitive attempts as possible, in a facility that spread the jump areas out. Needless to say, I missed her high jumps attempts. She was about to fill me in.

 

Between spurts of laughter, Danielle, whose athleticism is best described as “she is a really nice girl”, managed to tell me that during her approach she fell, crashed into the standard, caused a ruckus but rather enjoyed the experience. She then bounded off.  Momentarily, I was relieved to have missed it. Days later I scrounged up the video to see what I expected. Poor foot placement in the latter steps of the approach and some other factors caused the wipeout.

 

Her problem was caused by the same part of athleticism that also led to many of the great performances that day: the” foot strike.”  “Foot strike,” refers to the foot contacting the ground while running. That instant is vital to the success or failure of nearly every sporting endeavor, yet it is rarely emphasized, coached, taught or even discussed. It definitely should be. Since then, the other co-head coach of the track team and I have focused many hours upon this very topic. Here are some things to think about:

 

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Organized Chaos in Kids Training Programs


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Kids Training Programs Guest post by Phil Hueston

 

Most sports performance kids training programs (yes, maybe even yours) have 2 fatal flaws:

 

1) they don’t look anything like sports

 

2) they’re B-O-R-I-N-G!

 

 

Consider these questions:

 

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Coaching Young Athletes Back in the Trenches: Part 3

Coaching Young Athletes – Here’s the last part of what you need to know to become a great Coach…

 

(3) Constant Praise

 

This one is something I wish more Fitness pros understood when Coaching Young Athletes .

 

If your young athlete performs an exercise that is 90% incorrect, the only option you have in terms of making sure he or she eventually gets it, is to comment on the 10% that was right.

 

I know… The urge is to correct the mistakes, but as I’ve been saying for years now:

 

The human body comes equipped with an auto-regulatory feature that knows where proper versus improper functional execution lies. 

 

The goal is to ‘allow’ the body-brain to relax and find proper execution for itself.

 

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Long Term Training Models: Part 2

Long Term Training…

Point #2 – M.O.L.D: The Key to Long-Term training and Athletic Performance

 

Taken straight from the IYCA’s Youth Fitness Specialist – Level 1 certification material, this acronym should be the calling card for every single professional and/or volunteer working with young athletes:

 

M = Movement Must Dominate

 

Every aspects of your work with young athletes must come under the pretense of ‘movement’. Free-motion-based strength, torso, ROM, mobility, flexibility, speed, agility and cardiovascular training absolutely must be key to everything.

 

O = Open to Communication Variances

 

Coaching and communication are two of the much more important, but largely ignored aspects of proper athletic development.

 

Kids learn at different rates and via different means. If you are not prepared to accept that and create a system of communication that reinforces both positivist and your willingness to educate, you will only ever be half a Coach.

 

L = Learning Style Variances (more…)

The Blunt Truth About High School Athletes

High School Athletes

high school athletes

 

b) Learning Exploration (10 – 13)

 

  • Very similar in terms of primarily Outcome-Based (roughly 80%) and explorative in nature. In this phase, due to increased Training, Biological and Emotional ages however, we can add points of quantified instruction. The CNS is still very plastic and therefore adaptable to change – what we become fluent in while young, we retain forever.
  • Exploration type activities (games, skills etc) are more formalized and advanced. What was a simple 180-degree jump and land, now is a 180-jump and land with transition to back pedal jog. Adding complexity to movement sequences will increase the warehousing of neural/athletic ability.
  • Teach complex, multi-joint movements in a skill set fashion (4 points that guide young high school athletes from set-up to execution. ‘Squat’, for example:
    • Set Your Feet
    • Eyes Up
    • Hips Back
    • In-Steps Off
  • (more…)

Sport Specialization vs Sport Exclusivity

Sport Specialization‘.

 

Is it truly detrimental to the long-term success of a young athlete?

 

If so, how is it possible to spend the number of years necessary to develop the skill in a specific sport if your goal is to play at the next level?

 

Watch this –

 

 

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Early Sport Specialization: Part 1


Sport Specialization

Sport Specialization Vs LTAD

 

The IYCA has championed the notion that the long-term athletic development model, or LTAD, provides the greatest benefit to a developing athlete, in both physical and psychological aspects, over time. 

 

Contrary to ever-popular and growing model of early sport specialization, the LTAD model is intended to optimize performance slowly and equip the young athlete with foundational skills. 

 

Although far from “new,” in light of heavily marketed programs intended to maximize immediate potential sport specific gains, the commonsense simplicity of the LTAD model is starting to gain momentum with some practitioners.

 

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The #1 Youth Sports Training Question…

 

youth sports training

Youth Sports Training with Weights

At what age should a young person begin lifting weights or using Kettlebells?

 

The question I get asked more than any other.

 

Here’s my brief thought on the matter (taken right from the curriculum found in the IYCA’s Youth Fitness Specialist – Level 1 Certification (more…)

Now Available: IYCA Youth Kettlebell Instructor Course

Over the past 3 years with the IYCA, I’ve spent a lot of time considering this subject.

 

Are Kettlebells safe for young athletes?

 

Are they just a fad that our industry is embracing right now?

 

Are the reputed performance gains you get from using Kettlebells real?

 

I considered it all.

 

And then I asked the 2 people I trust more than anyone else in the world with respect to this topic:

 

Owners of the incredibly popular, Kettlebell Athletics.

 

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