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T-Spine Mobility – Jordan Tingman

Incorporating a small amount of mobility each day will eventually turn into great gains over time.

Mobility can be easily thrown into a complete warm-up, within the workout or at the end of a workout. It is much more important to do a little of something, than doing nothing at all.

The upper back/thoracic spine is made up of a lot of different musculature. The muscles surrounding the thoracic spine tend to tighten up, and often get neglected when working on mobility. When ignoring working on mobilizing these areas, the upper back can get tight, limiting overhead exercises and movements.

When thoracic spine mobility is compromised, athletes will unconsciously compensate by creating excess movement in other joints.  This typically means that the lower back has to create excess movement or stability because the T-spine is not functioning adequately.  It’s not uncommon for low back pain to be the result of issues in the T-spine/scapula, so taking a pro-active approach by spending a little time on this area can pay dividends you may never even know about because the athlete will be healthy.  While we’ll never get credit for it, that should ultimately be the goal of all performance coaches.

t-spine mobility

There are various reasons why we need to work on t-spine mobility:

-Overhead and throwing movements can be limited due to tightness

-Tightness can affect posture in the various squat patterns

-Mobilizing any especially tight areas can lead to injury reduction

To warm up for t-spine mobilization, foam rolling the entire upper body can be very helpful in warming up and stretching the muscle belly.

:30 seconds of each area

  • UPPER BACK-Starting with an upper back roll, crossing the arms in front of the chest
  • LATS-Roll out the lats, by keeping the hand palm up, arm by the ear, rolling all the way from the armpit to the mid rib cage area
  • PEC/SHOULDER- roll out the pec/shoulder area using either a foam roller or even better a lacrosse ball to really dig into the troubled areas
  • T-SPINE PEANUT- utilizing a mobility peanut, roll out the erectors or focus on t-spine extension using the peanut.

There are a variety of exercises that can be used to mobilize the t-spine in extension and rotation. You can use everything from foam rollers and kettlebells to bars and bodyweight exercises.

Here are a variety of exercises that can be used for t-spine extension:

Here are some exercises that can be used for t-spine rotation:

These exercises can also be used as an assessment. When you find an athlete who struggles with these exercises, you can spend additional time with them to address the issue.  If you never perform these exercises, you may never know it’s an issue.

Hopefully, this gives you several options to include in your programming.  It’s not necessary to perform all of these exercises in every session, but inserting them into an overall plan will help you address these issues in a pro-active way.

Jordan Tingman – CSCS*, USAW L1, ACE CPT, CFL1 is a graduate of Washington State University with a B.S. in Sports Science with a Minor in Strength and Conditioning. She completed internships with the strength & conditioning programs at both Washington State University and Ohio State University, and is currently a Graduate Assistant S & C Coach at Eastern Washington University.



The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes.  The course includes several hours of video instruction (including a complete Olympic lifting instructor course) and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America.  Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.

PNF Stretching – Joe Powell

PNF Stretching is one of the most effective, yet often overlooked, training techniques that coaches can employ to enhance flexibility.

For being recognized as an essential pillar of strength and conditioning, flexibility seems to lack the same attention and interest generated by other physical qualities that are developed through training. For example, look no further than the world PNF Stretchingof strength and conditioning on social media. You’ll be much more inclined to find strength coaches showcasing impressive feats of strength, power, speed or even balance.  How often do you see coaches talking about amazing flexibility routines?

It isn’t the fact that coaches don’t see value in increasing an athlete’s flexibility, it’s more to the effect that there are so many other athletic qualities that garner the spotlight, and thus have a higher emphasis within a training program. Luckily for us there are ways to improve flexibility that happen almost organically. Static stretching is universally known by athletes of all ages, and is typically found in some regard in any warm-up or cool down. A well-rounded strength training program featuring exercises performed throughout a full range of motion will even increase joint flexibility. However with flexibility, as well as other training effects like strength, power, speed, etc, in order to improve and display lasting effects, there needs to be a direct training stimulus occurring regularly.

So how can a coach utilize their allotted time with an athlete effectively and work to improve flexibility beyond simply static stretching at the end of a workout? Three letters: PNF.

What is PNF and how does it work?
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, or PNF, is a stretching technique that is used to improve muscle elasticity, and thus increase flexibility. For years PNF primarily existed in clinical settings, utilized by therapists to restore or increase joint range of motion in patients who were going through rehabilitation. Currently it has gained a lot of traction and is practiced within athletic and even therapeutic settings. The reason why it has gained popularity and should be included in a coach’s repertoire? It works. Research supports its effectiveness in increasing joint ROM.

While research has been conducted on PNF and its possible effectiveness for decades, it is still ongoing to determine what the exact mechanisms behind this form of stretching are. Four theoretical physiological mechanisms for increasing range of motion exist. They are: autogenic inhibition, reciprocal inhibition, stress relaxation, and the gate control theory. These four mechanisms are reflexes that occur when the golgi tendon organs in the tendons of the agonist or antagonist muscle detect harmful stimuli. Between them, these four theoretical mechanisms likely define why increases in joint range of motion are seen when using PNF.

There are two methods of PNF that are typically the focal points of any research on the topic. These two methods are also most commonly practiced in the athletic, clinical and therapeutic realms. They are known as the “contract-relax method” (CR) and the “contract-relax-agonist-contract method” (CRAC).

Contract-Relax Method (CR):
1. The target muscle is stretched and held passively
2. An isometric contraction of the target muscle is subsequently held for an allotted time
3. The target muscle relaxes and is re-stretched passively.

Contract-Relax-Antagonist-Contract Method (CRAC):
1. The target muscle is stretched and held passively
2. An isometric contraction of the target muscle is subsequently held for an allotted time
3. The antagonist of the target muscle is subsequently contracted while the target muscle is passively stretched

When performed regularly, PNF has been shown to have a positive effect on active and passive range of motions. This occurs by increasing the length of the muscle while also increasing neuromuscular efficiency. These results can be seen in healthy individuals, but also in those going through a rehab program to regain strength and ROM after sustaining soft tissue damage.

PNF Guidelines
The manner in which PNF is performed greatly dictates the results yielded. Just like any training program or exercise prescription, there are guidelines to follow that will enhance results and prevent any decrements in performance.

When to Perform PNF
Studies have shown that in order to increase muscular performance, PNF needs to be performed after exercise, or without exercise. However, when completed prior to exercise, doing a bout of PNF stretching will actually decrease performance in maximal effort exercises. Therefore, PNF is best utilized when placed directly after a lifting/conditioning session, post practice, during an athlete’s downtime (ie. Before bed) or on a true rest day. The research states that it is in the athlete and coach’s best interest to avoid using PNF in any capacity before a game, practice, lift, or conditioning session. When performed before any of these events, there is evidence of decreased performance in anything where maximal muscular effort is required, such as during sprinting, plyometrics, weight lifting, etc.

How to Perform PNF
Just like resistance training, results from PNF stretching can differ depending upon how it’s administered. While the passive stretch will differ depending upon the flexibility levels of each individual, it is important to give guidance on how much of an isometric contraction is given, as well as the duration of each stretch and contraction. The isometric contraction given by the individual being stretched can be 100% maximal, however if this is the case the athlete must be aware that muscles soreness and a potential contraction induced injury is possible. Giving a high, yet sub-maximal effort is recommended. In a healthy individual around 80-90% effort will suffice, and with an injured individual the contraction needs to be more individualized based upon nature of the injury as well as pain tolerance.

The typical time spent passively stretching an athlete when using PNF will range from about 6-10 seconds, where as the muscle contraction can produce effects when held anywhere from 3-10 seconds. The literature states that 6 seconds is preferred and will yield the appropriate response. Consistency and simplicity with athletes is crucial, so whatever time frame parameters are chosen need to be kept and utilized. As far as how many repetitions or bouts of PNF per muscle group are recommended will depend upon the individual, yet three seems to be an effective and appropriate number. After three repetitions, the ROM that is “unlocked” decreases significantly and the athlete has reached their so called finish. This ROM can improve but each rep seems to access around 15-20% increases in ROM and those increases just simply cannot keep occurring after each rep.

There will be varied affects when performing PNF, and while many stem from controllable variables such as the intensity and timing of the contractions and stretches, some changes in ROM will also depend on biological age, training age, and gender. The best results will come from a properly administered protocol that occurs several times a week.

Where to Perform PNF
PNF can be used on many muscle groups, however some remain easier to administer than others. As mentioned simplicity is key and it’s crucial to remember that majority of strength and conditioning professionals are not therapists. Majority of the following don’t require additional set-up, however if access to a massage/therapy table or anything to elevate the athlete off of the ground may make some muscle groups, like the hip flexors, more accessible.

Common Muscle Groups
• Hamstrings
• Quadriceps
• Hip Flexors
• Hip External Rotators
• Hip Internal Rotators
• Calf muscles
• Shoulder External Rotators
• Shoulder Internal Rotators
• Lat/Upper Back
• Chest Muscles

Joe Powell is an Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach at Utah State University.  He formerly held a similar position at Central Michigan University where he also taught classes in the Department of Health and Human Performance.  Joe is a regular contributor to the IYCA Insiders program and has been a huge part of bringing the Behind the Science series to the IYCA.  He is also the author of the IYCA Guide to Manual Resistance Strength Training.  Get more of Joe’s contributions in the IYCA Insiders membership.

11 Ways to Manage Challenging Parents and Coaches – Brett Klika

When youth strength coaches discuss their barriers to success with young athletes, dealing with difficult parents and coaches is often high on the list.

In nearly 20 years as a youth strength and conditioning coach, I’ve had thousands of positive experiences with parents and coaches. It’s amazing to work as a team to create a 360-degree support system that functions to amplify a young athlete’s success in sports and life.

I’ve also had experiences that left me questioning if I wanted to remain in this profession. Overbearing parents, undermining coaches, and a dysfunctional interaction of all of the above can derail the unique opportunity we have to positively impact a child’s life.

Over the years, I’ve developed some powerful strategies to solidify and improve overall cohesiveness with parents and coaches. It’s important to realize that for the most part, everyone involved with the development of a young athlete is acting on what they believe to be the best for their child. Engaging in a constant battle of “who is right” always ends poorly.

A far more effective approach is to establish clear communication and expectations, so everyone involved understands the intended outcome and their values with the process are aligned. It’s also important to evaluate the role our own ego plays in making or breaking a relationship.

Below are 11 different strategies that have proven successful for me in my career to create a functional, positive relationship between myself, parents, and coaches.

1. During the initial consultation, focus the questions and conversation towards the athlete. At times, this may require respectfully and artfully “cutting off” the parent if they try to answer a question directed towards the athlete.

Even though this appears to be dismissing the parent, I have received repeated feedback that this made the parent feel at ease because they knew I was focused on the needs of their child. It also helps establish an initial dynamic without being confrontational.

2. When talking to parents and coaches, prioritize a “how can we help you?” tone as opposed to “this is what we do with athletes” tone. Ask questions like “What do you value in a coach?” “What do you see as the ultimate outcome of your child playing sports?” This not only provides valuable insight, it helps parents and coaches feel heard vs. spoken to. This makes them more confident that you have their best interests in mind.


3. Listen to the language that parents, coaches, and athletes use when describing what they need/expect from a program. This is the language they understand, even if the semantics are off a bit. Whenever possible, use their language when sharing the details of your program. Don’t’ start a battle of egos by coming off condescending. There will be plenty of time for semantics while training.

4. Develop an understanding of where their points of concern may be with your program before it begins. You may use play and games frequently. You may take time to build a progression. You may focus on general aspects of conditioning vs. sport specific training (as you should). While these represent the best approach to training youth, the parent or coach’s lack of understanding of the process may cause reason for question.

Address these concerns out of the gait. “We use a lot of games to teach athletic skills because…” “You’ll see them doing a lot of things you may have seen in physical education classes. We do this because…” Addressing these at the onset of a program both verbally, and in a concise take-home document helps establish an expectation. They may decide that your approach isn’t in line with theirs, right or wrong. This saves headaches down the road!

5. Communicate frequently with coaches and parents. Most parents and coaches start to become overbearing when they don’t know or understand what you are doing with their child. Learn to keep things brief and specific. If parents are not present at training, take video whenever possible. When a child is training in a group, make sure to check in with each parent at least once per week. A quick face- to- face or text puts their mind at ease and lets them know you are on top of things.

6. When a parent brings an athlete to train, get their coach’s email address and let them know you are working with the athlete. Ask questions and frequently update the coach. When the coach is in the loop and respects your work, parents (even difficult ones) are more likely to as well.

7. If working with a coach and his/her team, make sure you have a line of communication to parents. This could be an occasional email, newsletter, or other way to create value for your services. When you have parents support, coaches often follow suit. After all, most coaches are ultimately hired and fired by some form of parent intervention.

8. Consider the “optics” of your training environment to coaches and parents. Even if you’re doing what would be considered the “right” stuff, if athletes aren’t engaged, challenged, and moving it doesn’t look good. You may be practicing great squat technique but if the training room is silent, your athletes are dead-faced, and there’s no sweat on their brow, it’s a hard sell to everyone involved.

Learn how to do the right stuff in a way that leaves young athletes sweating, smiling, and smarter.

9. Don’t undermine a coach, even if you don’t agree with their approach. There is no positive outcome in this scenario. If differences arise, immediately have a discussion. If a solution cannot be reached, part ways ASAP. From experience, I can promise this will actually save time, money, and headaches. There are a lot of kids that need and want your help.

10. The same as above goes for a coach that undermines your work. Have a discussion and make a decision ASAP. Don’t go to war. Attempting to bash one another’s reputation can have nuclear implications to everyone’s ability to help kids. Take the high road and prove them wrong in your community with action and reputation. Trust me, they will sink their own ship.

11. Check your ego. I’ve witnessed so many strength coach/sport coach/parent relationships go south due to semantic arguments and over-dogmatic convention. The same bad experiences we’ve had with parents and sport coaches, they have probably had with professionals like us.

Resist automatically dismissing parent and coach concerns about your program. This is hard to do. It’s true that some relationships just aren’t going to work, but it’s important to evaluate your role in increasing or decreasing the likelihood of this.

While all of the above will dramatically decrease the obstacles you face with parents and coaches, “toxic” individuals still exist. Make sure you’re not contributing to the sludge, cut them loose, and move on. These decisions can be difficult because we truly care about their kids and we may depend on the income.

From experience however, I can attest that the time and energy drain from these relationships create a drastically negative net result on impact and income. A single parent or coach can derail your ability, energy, and interest in helping kids.

When we communicate, listen, and check our own ego more often, we have a greater opportunity to help more kids become active and athletic for life.

Brett Klika is a youth performance expert and a regular contributor to the IYCA who is passionate about coaching young athletes.  He is the creator of the SPIDERfit Kids youth training program and has run successful youth fitness programs all over the country.  Brett is an international speaker whose passion for youth fitness has helped thousands of people learn how to create exceptional training experiences for young athletes.

If you want to be better at coaching young athletes, the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist certification is the industry gold-standard for youth fitness and sports performance.  Click on the image below to learn more about the YFS1 certification program.


Relatedness: Building Relationships & Buy-In – Jared Markiewicz

Setting the Foundation for Motivating Athletes

I want to walk you through a situation that happens to me often in the gym:

I see my athlete, Drake, and his heels are coming off the floor as he transitions from the eccentric to the concentric portion of the squat.

So I cue him: “drive down through the floor to stand up.”

Now I walk away to coach someone else since his set is done. 

A few minutes later, I am watching from a distance and I see after his second rep, his heels come off the floor. But then rep 3, 4 and 5, he adjusts and plants that foot hard into the floor, not only coming up more balanced, but faster!

I’m PUMPED!!!!

So after the set I go over, give him a big high five and ask, “Man Drake, did you feel that? You came up so fast and stable, that was great!”

And he goes, “Um yeah I guess I felt that…”

Ever happen to you?

Here’s the thing, almost no one we train is going to get as excited about squatting or a perfectly executed wall drill as we are.

But motivation, or “buy-in” as it’s been termed, is CRITICAL if we want our athletes to excel and stick with us for the long haul.

And if we want to improve “buy-in,” with ANYONE, we need to satisfy three components on a regular basis: relatedness, competency and autonomy.

  • Relatedness: our ability to connect with the individual’s interests, desired outcomes and pain points
  • Competency: providing the structure to develop knowledge and skill sets beyond their current baseline, ideally with carryover to performance and resiliency
  • Autonomy: establishing guidelines and boundaries so the individual can take ownership in achieving the desired outcome

These basic needs were recognized by Dr. Edward Deci and Dr. Richard Ryan, as important factors for increasing motivation levels in individuals and necessary for optimal growth and function. (see Self-Determination Theory)

For the typical coach, you are going to have three scenarios where it is your job to make sure motivation levels are consistently improving i.e. “increasing buy-in”:

  • Coach to Staff
  • Coach to Athlete
  • Staff to Athlete

This short video will help explain these concepts and scenarios, and set up a series on how to implement this information.

In the following video,s and the upcoming series on this topic, I will walk you through some simple action steps and the goals associated to create better buy-in.  We will explore the differences between how you will approach each of the scenarios (coach-staff, coach-athlete, staff-athlete) for the three components (relatedness, competency, autonomy) so that you can slowly apply these techniques for each situation.

By taking and applying these concepts, you will develop stronger, long-lasting relationships with both your athletes and staff – the key to making a big impact on our industry!

Let’s begin with the concept of Relatedness.

Relatedness: Coach to Staff

When creating “buy in” from your staff, it’s important for them to understand your past: where have you been, what have you done and what have you learned.

You want them to know you can relate to them. More importantly, you want to shorten the learning curve.

You have career capital to call upon, both good and bad. Give them a jump start by emulating your good experiences and applying the lessons behind the bad ones. As the Golden Rule states, “do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

And since we are talking the Golden Rule, listening and learning is a two-way street! EVERYONE loves to tell their story. So ask where they came from, what they have done and what they have learned. You will go further faster than ever before.

Action Step: Consistent conversations with your team or staff. Schedule them if necessary. We call ours “Huddles”

Goal: Learn and apply the knowledge you have gained to strengthen the common ground you all stand on TOGETHER!

Relatedness: Coach to Athlete

Scenario #1:

Coach – “Hey, how was school today Camryn?”

Camryn – “Good” –without ever looking up from her phone…

Scenario #2:

Coach – “Hey Camryn, I see you are on your phone, who is your favorite person to follow on Instagram?

Camryn – “Huh? You really want to know? Um, well it’s this hockey player but you don’t probably know her”

Coach – “Probably, but if you like her, I’m curious why. What makes her interesting to follow?”

Pretty easy to see which series of questions is going to stimulate a conversation and develop a level of relatedness not often achieved between adult and teenager.

When conversing with your athletes, you have to meet them where they are. We are NOT working with mini adults, despite what they might want you to believe!

Asking questions relevant to things they care about may take some work on your part. But aren’t the greatest teachers and parents making that kind of effort everyday? Why wouldn’t you, if you are a great coach?

Additionally, technology interrupts every social setting a teenager encounters. So when you do get an answer from them, give your undivided attention and ask follow up questions. You will be amazed how effective this can be!

Action Step: Have five go-to questions to create a conversation (adjust and replace as needed)

Goal: Achieve a response that leads to a brief conversation (at least) from all of your athletes in a reasonable amount of time. If possible, jot down some notes to study and recall later.

For some coaches with only a few athletes, the goal above might mean you need to get creative and you should have a conversation like this multiple times a week. For other coaches, who are in charge of 200 athletes across various sports, this may take some time.

Know your situation and adapt to it!

Relatedness: Staff to Athlete

“Oh man, Coach Jared is training us today! Where’s Coach Max, he’s way more fun!”

Music to my ears ☺

As you transition off the training floor, you don’t need to go out of your way to be an a$$hole coach. Let’s face it, there are plenty of a$$holes in this world already.

Instead, if you empower your staff to develop stronger relationships with your athletes, the above scenario will become more and more common over time.

So how do we get through the double whammy of getting coaches to “buy in” to the idea of getting our athletes “bought in?”

My answer: coCompetition and prizes!

Action Step: Create a challenge where the staff member is expected to get and recall responses from Athletes. To get started, you need three things

What your staff values for prizes
Parameters set: time, amount of touches/recalls, information expected
Opportunity to test and measure it!

For Example:

Performance coaching staff loves burritos (wait what coaches DON’T love burritos!) So the prize is a $25 gift card to Chipotle
Duration: Month of June
Info: Favorite pet/Favorite show/Favorite food
Goal: Ask 75% of their athletes (you calculate the number for them) and expect them to recall five of them at the end of the month.
Give them a spreadsheet to write these down but tell them they can track the info however they like
Test it: Any coach that gets all 75% and recalls the five randomly selected athletes gets a gift card to Chipotle

Goal: Increase trust level between athletes and staff without your involvement.

These videos and descriptions should give you a fairly thorough understanding of how to integrate the concept of Relatedness to multiple situations.  Stay tuned for the rest of this series when we address Competence and Autonomy.


jared markiewiczJared Markiewicz is the founder and CEO of Functional Integrated Training, in Madison, WI.  Jared has worked with a wide array of athletes including middle schoolers, collegiate and professional athletes, as well as adults – all looking to find the best version of themselves.  He sits on the IYCA Advisory Board, has gone through many IYCA certifications, and is a regular contributor and speaker for the IYCA.

Jared holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise and Movement Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s also a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM-CPT), an Advanced Sport Performance Coach through USA Weightlifting, a Level 2 Functional Movement Screen Specialist, a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach (PN1) and a golf fitness instructor through Titleist Performance Institute.


If you want to be better at coaching young athletes, the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist certification is the industry gold-standard for youth fitness and sports performance.  Click on the image below to learn more about the YFS1 certification program.

Keeping Shoulders Healthy – Jordan Tingman


The shoulder is a highly complex joint with many muscles and ligaments surrounding it for stability and protection. Because the shoulders are so inter-connected with the torso, I consider the shoulder joint part of the core. Proximal stability is required for safe execution and protection of the shoulder joint, and left untrained can lead to injury or pain at some point in an athlete’s career.

Shoulder stability and strengthening exercises should aim to strengthen the rotator cuff and structures surrounding the shoulder. 


When performing any shoulder exercise, it is important to emphasize retracting the scapulae to ensure that the exercise does not become trap or momentum dominant. Retracting the scapula requires strength and stability in the back and shoulder muscles to execute the movement, so simply getting athletes into this posture on a regular basis can help develop a basic level of stability. Checking to make sure that the scaps are “down and back” ensures that the movement is not becoming dominated by the trap muscles, which often become more active than the shoulder muscles themselves, and completely changes the exercise. 

Many athletes don’t even have an awareness of how to control their scapulae, so teaching them how they move and stabilize the shoulder can be an eye-opening experience for both the athlete and the coach.  This process may also bring up issues that may need to be addressed in a more comprehensive fashion.  For purposes of this article, we will assume that your athletes are able to adequately control them scapulae and aren’t presenting any glaring weaknesses.

Incorporating some basic shoulder movements into a team warm-up or workout warm-up can be effective in preparing the shoulders for practice or training. While most coaches perform a warm-up routine, the shoulders are commonly ignored in this process. 

I personally utilize the banded shoulder variations into our volleyball teams warm-up to prepare and strengthen the shoulders, but a comprehensive shoulder warm-up could be used for just about any athlete.  This short video gives you examples of some simple exercises using light bands that can be incorporated into just about any routine.

The following exercises may be used in conjunction with other strength movements within a workout to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles.  They can be used before-after exercises, as a super-set with another exercises, or part of a group routine than might include other bodyweight and/or core exercises.  

Mini banded shoulder variations can also be utilized without band resistance, to practice retracting the scapulae and moving the arms within the retracted position. 

Considering adding some of these exercises into your training plans or warm up routines to ensure you are adequately addressing shoulder strength and stability.

Jordan Tingman – CSCS*, USAW L1, ACE CPT, CFL1 is a graduate of Washington State University with a B.S. in Sports Science with a Minor in Strength and Conditioning. She completed internships with the strength & conditioning programs at both Washington State University and Ohio State University, and is currently a Graduate Assistant S & C Coach at Eastern Washington University.


The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes.  The course includes several hours of video instruction (including the Olympic lifts) and two textbooks with contributions from some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in America.  Click on the image below to learn more about how to become a certified high school strength & conditioning coach.

Narrow Your Niche, Increase Your Impact – Brett Klika

We’ve all heard the old adage “A Jack of all trades is a master of none”.

This holds true to nearly every aspect of life, including the role many of us have assumed as a youth strength and conditioning coach.

In becoming a youth coach, we’ve definitely narrowed down our focus of mastery. However, within “youth” there are now more varied needs than Youth Fitness Coachever. Sport coaches, classroom teachers, and parents are now looking for specific solutions to the specific needs of niche populations within youth.

These niche populations may not be served effectively under the “come all” strength and conditioning program model many offer within their facilities and institutions.  Strength and conditioning coaches willing to be in tune with, and master, solutions to specific needs within their community have an opportunity to change the message of their program from “We can help A child” to “We can help YOUR child”.

As you can see, the latter is a much stronger message and mission if I’m a parent or organization selecting a program for my young athlete(s).  This makes your program not merely “A” program available. It makes it “THE” program available for a specific demographic. The result is an ever-growing, long-term, successful program with a uniquely positive impact on the community.

Consider the 4 youth niches below that may represent underserved needs within your community.

5-8 Year Old Athletes

Despite the ages of 6-12 representing some of the most critical years for motor development, few quality development programs are available for the youngest cohort in this age range. There was a time that physical education took care of these kids, but statistics suggest that is no longer the case.

Many professionals shy away from working with young children due to inexperience, lack of patience with short attention spans, and children’s largely unfocused, endless energy. With proper training, resources, and experience however, this energy can fuel a fun and engaging program for this demographic of kids who need it the most.

While many shy away, tremendous opportunities exist for those who are knowledgeable, passionate, and focused on helping grade school age children.

Female Athletes

Fortunately, sports are not the “boys club” they once were. Sports participation amongst young women and girls is at an all-time high.  Despite this increase, young women’s access to quality strength and conditioning programs is often limited compared to their young male counterparts. Due to an inaccurate cultural convention, misinformed coaches, and a variety of other factors, strength training has not traditionally been embraced as part of young female athlete culture.

Coaches that create exclusive opportunities to educate young female athletes and their communities about the importance of strength training for performance and injury prevention have the opportunity to stand out in a crowded market.

Athletes with Special Needs

A growing number of youngsters are being diagnosed as “special needs” due to behavioral or developmental pathology. These kids benefit greatly from exercise programs, however, few coaches have experience or expertise with this demographic.

A variety of courses, certifications, and other educational opportunities are becoming available for those looking to help these kids.  Programs that specialize in working with athletes with autism, ADHD, and other special needs offer a much-needed service to an underserved population.

Homeschooled Children

Nearly 2 million children are homeschooled in the United States. These kids have standard academic requirements that include physical education. They also participate in sports. Parents of homeschooled children often struggle when it comes to creating a physical education curriculum for one child.

Additionally, homeschool parents are challenged with finding opportunities for their kids to socialize with other kids during school hours.

Coaches and facilities that are in tune with the needs of homeschooled kids and parents have an opportunity to offer a needed service with little to no market competition. Additionally, these kids are not bound by the hours of the typical academic day. Groups and classes can be run during the typically “slow” hours in the morning or early afternoon.  

Serving these special niches requires more than merely adding a class to your schedule. Parents, coaches and communities value experts. An expert will prompt a parent to overcome the barriers of money, transportation, and time to bring their child to a program.

If you are looking to grow your programs by becoming an expert that serves a niche, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are the specific aspirations/fears of the parents/athletes associated with this niche?
  2. What education/experience is necessary to serve this niche?
  3. Why are you passionate and committed to serving this specific population?
  4. What are the needs outside of exercise that could be addressed with these kids/parents?
  5. What key organizations could you create a relationship with that could act as a referral or endorsement for your program?
  6. Who are others that have created programs for this specific demographic?

The answers to these questions can help you and your business increase your success and positive impact within your community.


Brett Klika is a youth performance expert and a regular contributor to the IYCA who is passionate about coaching young athletes.  He is the creator of the SPIDERfit Kids youth training program and has run successful youth fitness programs all over the country.  Brett is an international speaker whose passion for youth fitness has helped thousands of people learn how to create exceptional training experiences for young athletes.


If you want to be better at coaching young athletes, the IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist certification is the industry gold-standard for youth fitness and sports performance.  Click on the image below to learn more about the YFS1 certification program.