Archive for “Parent Education” Category

The Super Power of Great Coaches and Leaders – Brett Klika

Great coaches know how to connect with their athletes beyond “X’s and O’s”.

We all know brilliant coaches who understand programming and tactics, but when it comes to igniting a fire within their athletes, they can’t seem to make it happen. We also know coaches with an “adequate” level of knowledge and experience that have athletes who will run through a brick wall for them.  Coach in weight room

Research on the world’s most successful coaches and leaders points to the fact that tactical knowledge and experience are only a small part of what makes them successful. Effective coaches must also have the skills required to gain trust, commitment, and buy-in from their athletes.

For years, these skills were considered the “intangibles” of effective leadership that only a few gifted coaches possessed. A rapidly expanding field of research in leadership and performance has now identified these specific skill sets that allow great leaders to create an optimal relationship with those they lead. Together, these skillsets create the critical leadership attribute called emotional intelligence, or EQ.

Coaches with a high level of EQ are able and willing to adjust their communication style to the needs of their athletes. They are aware of their own attitudes and behaviors and how these impact the training environment. Emotionally intelligent coaches reflect on how they can continually improve their ability to communicate and inspire the best performance in their athletes.

Imagine refining your leadership skills to develop an even more effective relationship and communication style with your athletes. Consider how the ability to quickly develop trust, buy-in, and enthusiasm can help you further unlock their potential.

The good news is that emotional intelligence can be developed. Just like a movement skill, it can be broken down into individual components that can improve with training.

The 5 skillsets that comprise emotional intelligence are:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social Skill

Let’s look at how you can add EQ to your coaching IQ by developing the individual skill sets of emotional intelligence.

Self-awareness is the ability to identify your strengths, weaknesses, values, and impact on others honestly and accurately. This awareness can be general or situational.

Developing the skill of self-awareness can be challenging, as it requires you to be vulnerable enough to move past ego and insecurity. When something isn’t working in the coach/athlete relationship, it requires you to honestly reflect on your role in this shortcoming.

To develop this skill set, self-reflection is critical. However, it’s also important to gain feedback from colleagues and mentors while resisting the urge to become defensive. Record yourself coaching and evaluate what you do well from a communication standpoint, and what you can do better.

Identifying a personal weakness doesn’t suggest failure any more than identifying a strength suggests complete mastery. The goal of continual personal assessment isn’t to label, justify, or judge your behavior. It’s merely information. When you are aware of this information, you have the ability to develop and access more effective coaching tools that match the needs of your athletes.

Self-regulation is the ability to consciously control your actions, reactions, and moods.

Gaining control over emotional response can be difficult. Consider, however, how your mood and/or emotional reactions impact your training environment. If you show up to a training session in a bad mood, already agitated, how do you expect your interactions with athletes to go? When this happens frequently, what does this do for your ability to gain trust and buy-in from your athletes?

To develop the skill of self-regulation, consider the situations that bring out your most ineffective emotional responses. In what specific ways do these emotional responses impact the training environment? Is this the training culture you aim to create? Now, identify and write down more effective ways to deal with these situations. As you are coaching, look for opportunities to exercise these more effective emotional responses.

Motivation is a measure of your drive to succeed.

It could be assumed that all coaches are motivated to create success with their athletes. However, notoriety, promotion, financial gain, and other self-serving aspects of motivation can come into play. While pursuing success for your athletes can result in all the above, the most effective coaches are motivated by achievement for the sake of achievement.

What motivates you as a coach? Consider the aspects of coaching that have made you voluntarily go above and beyond. What gets you excited? What pulls you to give everything you have to your athletes?

Do you get just as excited when a young athlete improves at a skill as when a high-profile professional athlete does? Why or why not? There’s no wrong or “bad” answer when you reflect on your personal sources of motivation. Just be aware that when athletes trust that your core motivations are in line with theirs, you have the greatest opportunity at positive impact.

Empathy is your ability to understand and acknowledge others’ emotions and how these emotions impact their performance.

An empathetic coach tries to put themselves in their athletes’ shoes and considers their emotional makeup. A struggling athlete may be having problems at home or in the classroom, impacting their on-field performance. Acknowledging these struggles and offering words of encouragement while still holding high standards for this athlete is more effective than continually rebuking their performance.

The age, ability level, and background of our athletes can impact their emotional make-up on a daily basis. Consider the person you were when you were in middle or high school. How about college? What were the different challenges you dealt with? How would you want a coach to help you manage these challenges while helping you improve your athletic ability?

Empathy is not merely justifying and/or accepting any and all athlete behavior. It’s merely acknowledging that your athletes come from diverse backgrounds and experiences that impact their emotional makeup. Developing awareness and effective strategies to manage various emotional states shows you care about the athlete as a person.

Social Skill
Social Skill is the ability to develop rapport with others. As a coach, it’s critical for your athletes to know you have their best interests in mind. This goes beyond the tactics of training.

A coach with great social skill can quickly relate to and gain athletes’ trust by connecting on a “human” level. This can be as easy as asking an athlete how they are feeling, or what they did over the weekend. It could be demonstrated by actively listening and asking questions when an athlete shares something about their life. Either way, this demonstrates that the coach/athlete relationship isn’t merely transactional.

When you demonstrate a genuine interest in your athletes as people, they learn to trust that you have their best interests in mind.

Great coaches are always looking for opportunities to become more effective in leading their athletes to excellence. Consider the skill set of emotional intelligence and your own improvement with these skills could significantly impact young lives.


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.



Thank you for reading this article our gift to you is a FREE Training Video on Developing Athletes from Start to Finish, from IYCA CEO, Jim Kielbaso: Get your FREE TRAINING TODAY!


Are you ready to really take your knowledge to the next level?

The IYCA Certified Athletic Development Specialist is the gold-standard certification for anyone working with athletes 6-18 years old.  The course materials were created by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the industry, and the content is indisputably the most comprehensive of any certification related to athletic development.  Learn more about the CADS certification here:

The Right Time for Youth Athletes to Start Training – Brett Bartholomew

When is the right time for youth athletes to start training?  This is a question parents ask all the time, and it’s something that athletic develop specialists need to be able to address in great detail.  The key to the entire process of long term athlete development is to expose athletes to as many different activities as possible and not rush the process.

Of course, it’s not that simple.  The IYCA’s flagship certification, the Certified Athletic Development Specialist, is an entire course dedicated to this process, so there are many things to take into consideration.  We need to understand how to teach exercises adequately, choose exercises appropriately, create a proper training schedule, change exercises/programming when necessary and more.

Long-time friend of the IYCA, Brett Bartholomew, spends a lot of time addressing coaching & communication issues, and he has become one of the industry’s foremost experts in that area.  But, because Brett has had such a wealth of experiences, he often addresses other important topics.  In this video, Brett gives an amazingly concise answer to the question of when athletes should begin training:

To be clear, Brett’s does not go into detail on the specifics of developing athletes, but his explanation almost perfectly mirrors the views of the IYCA – give kids lots of different activities, avoid specialization, understand training age, don’t focus on competition, and “slow cook” the process.

Often, experienced coaches know a lot about athletic development, but have a difficult time putting all of their knowledge into words.  This is the kind of video you can share with other parents and coaches to help them understand the process without going into too much detail.

We hope Brett’s video helps you verbalize the importance of the LTAD model, and gives you ammunition to continue doing what’s best for young athletes.


Brett Bartholomew is a strength and conditioning coach, author, consultant, and Founder of Art of Coaching™. His experience includes working with athletes both in the team environment and private sector along with members of the United States Special Forces and members of Fortune 500 companies.

Taken together, Brett has coached a diverse range of athletes from across 23 sports world-wide, at levels ranging from youth athletes to Olympians. He’s supported numerous Super Bowl and World Series Champions, along with several professional fighters in both professional boxing as well as the UFC.  Visit ArtofCoaching.com for more information or follow Brett on all social media platforms for daily updates.


For more information on developing athletes, the IYCA Certified Athletic Development Specialist is the gold-standard certification for anyone working with athletes 6-18 years old.  The course materials were created by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the industry, and the content is indisputably the most comprehensive of any certification related to athletic development.  Learn more about the CADS certification here:

Keeping Young Athletes Training – Brett Klika

Few things will help a young athlete develop physical skills at a higher level than consistent training. As youth strength and conditioning coaches, much of what we know from the legendary Bompa’s, Balyi’s, Drabik’s, and Verkhoshanskys of the world has been based on their observations working with kids daily, in a completely immersive institutionalized setting, for a long period of time.

We are faced with a very different model of consistency here in the United States. If you are working as a youth strength and conditioning coach in the private sector, young athletes’ participation in your program is treated more like an “additional activity” than a necessary aspect of their long-term development. 

When mom and dad’s time, money, and energy aren’t too constrained, their child gets to participate in your program. At the first sign of any scarcity of these resources, parents will find a reason to discontinue.   

To create more consistency, measurable results, and business sustainability, it’s important to evaluate how to create a business model and training environment that keeps kids and parents engaged for the long-term with our programs. 

In my over 15 years of creating youth fitness programs of all sizes, in addition to SPIDERfit Kids’ current consultation with youth sports and fitness organizations around the world, this is one of the challenges I’ve set out to tackle. 

Taking into account my own experiences in addition to parent questionnaires, market research, and other “experiments” done by the coaches we consult with, we’ve been able to identify some critical aspects of creating a business model and training experience that increases long term retention for 5–12 year-old athletes. 

While not all coaches have the ability to impact their employer’s business model, below are some simple aspects of the training environment that we’ve found to increase program adherence.

  1. Coach and athlete name recognition
  2. Parent communication
  3. Incentives for progression  

Coach and Athlete Name Recognition

One of the fastest and easiest ways to create a community where young athletes feel like they belong is for coaches and other athletes to know and use their names as soon as possible. Likewise, young athletes should know their coaches and other program participant’s names. If a young athlete doesn’t know their coach’s name after their first day of training, it’s a missed opportunity that trivializes the coach’s engagement. 

This isn’t something that happens passively for most so I encourage coaches to make it a pillar of their program. It should immediately become obvious to everyone involved that knowing everyone’s names is a critical aspect of your program. 

When a child feels like they belong, they feel a sense of accountability and community. This is relayed when they’re talking to their parents about their experience with your program.  It is more difficult for parents and young athletes to leave a program where they feel like they are part of a community. 

Parent Communication

Remember, most parents of young athletes pay for a program that they don’t’ stick around to watch.  Somewhere between when parents drop their young athletes off and when they pick them up, you’re most likely doing some cool stuff to enrich their child’s life. How do parents know that? 

I’ve learned that coaches can’t assume parents have any idea what’s happening with their child between drop off and pick up.  Young kids aren’t exactly forthcoming in sharing the details of a day of training either. 

This makes it critical for coaches to connect with parents either in person, on the phone, via email, or by text at least once per week.  Once a child is old enough to drive themselves to training, communication doesn’t have to be as frequent. 

To keep this communication concise and effective, I recommend the “4 Sentence Conversation”:  

  1. Tell the parent something their child did well that day/week.
  2. Share a unique personality trait that their child has that allows them to be successful (“Logan is really using her arms well when she runs. She’s such a good listener, she really takes coaching well.”)
  3. Share one thing you are working on.
  4. Share how this skill contributes to one of the long-term goals shared by the parent or athlete.

This level of consistent feedback brings parents into the process. It leaves no question as to where their investment of time, money, and energy in your program is going. They are less likely to discontinue participation when they understand where their child is in the developmental process. It doesn’t hurt that they get to know you better either. 

These conversations are also a very personalized forum to encourage sign-ups for future programs in addition to soliciting testimonials and referrals. 

Another step you can take to bring parents into the process is to regularly text a picture or video of their child in action. Obviously, be sensitive to parent concerns about pictures of their child, but I can honestly say I’ve never had an issue sending a parent a picture of their child in action when they are not there to see them. 

The above steps provide a consistent answer to “what am I paying for?” This increases the value of your program so it becomes a higher priority on the endless list of things kids are doing or could be doing.   

When looking at the different interventions we have taken with coaches in order to help them improve their program adherence with 5-12 year-olds, frequent 1-1 parent interaction has emerged as one of the most important factors. 

Incentives for Progression

Another way to keep kids and parents excited and engaged with a long-term developmental program is to clearly define developmental benchmarks for skills and recognize kids for accomplishing these benchmarks. 

Consider the success of the “belt” system in martial arts for keeping kids and parents engaged with the program. A young martial artist and their parents are aware of universal criteria for progression. To get the next belt, they have to do “X”.  Once they do “X”, they earn a public symbol of accomplishment and acumen; a colored belt.   

In terms of youth strength and conditioning, picture creating levels designated by a colored wrist band, t-shirt, or other designation. To earn a certain color of wristband, a young athlete has to display competency with a list of skills and accomplishments.

For example, for a “Level 1” wristband, youth athletes would need to:

  1. Identify relevant gym equipment by name
  2. Identify specific anatomy
  3. Recite a gym mantra or ethos by memory in front of a group
  4. Perform 1-3 fundamental movement patterns with developmentally appropriate criteria
  5. Perform an at-home chore, activity, etc. a certain number of times with parent signature 

Once the athlete accomplishes these criteria, they receive an appropriately colored wristband or other awards. They are immediately aware of what they must do to accomplish the next level.

Notice the criteria for progression involve skills beyond exercise. This allows a coach to reinforce the expectation, culture, and positive external influence of their program. 

The coaches I have worked with that have implemented this type of system report that:

  1. Kids become more engaged in the learning process. They want to master skills so they can get to the next defined level. 
  2. Parents are more aware of specific skills and why they are important to the process of development. They also value the at-home progression criteria that compels their kids to do things they usually wouldn’t do; like making their bed, clearing their dinner dishes, etc. 
  3. Assessments have become more relevant to the needs of young athletes. The focus shifts to the quality of a movement vs. merely the magnitude. This ensures that the focus of progression at young ages is skill proficiency. 
  4. Coaches are able to expand their expectations for things outside of exercise. They are seeing more at-home adherence in addition to increased attention to other aspects of their program they deem important. Imagine how much more efficient coaching becomes when athletes are expected to understand basic anatomy, equipment vocabulary, and other important aspects of training.  
  5. Kids are staying in their programs longer. 

The more I’ve worked with coaches from different organizations and programs, it’s become more and more clear that when it comes to creating a program that maximizes engagement with kids and parents, it’s not so much what we do, but how we do it. These concepts seem so simple, yet we as coaches often forget their importance. 

The best training program in the world in a disengaged, disconnected environment fails to deliver results for anyone involved. 

There are also quite a few factors associated with the business model, like how payments are collected (EFT!), how frequently programs are run (no “gaps” between programs!), and others that impact program adherence. However, not every coach in an organization has influence over these factors. 

Whether you own a youth fitness facility or work for one, remember to take the above steps to create a training environment that gets parents and kids excited to be committed for the long haul.  

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.


The IYCA Certified Athletic Development Specialist is the gold-standard certification for anyone working with athletes 6-18 years old.  The course materials were created by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the industry, and the content is indisputably the most comprehensive of any certification related to athletic development.  Learn more about the CADS certification here:

10 Ways to Improve Athleticism in Young Athletes – Jeremy Frisch

Like King Arthur searched for the legendary Holy Grail, many coaches, parents, and sports performance experts are on a quest to find the perfect way to improve athleticism and develop young athletes into world champions.  So far, no perfect formula has been created.  There are simply too many variables involved for anyone to create a magical pathway that can be replicated over and over again to churn our world class athletes like a factory.improve athleticism

Instead, science and experience have taught us a lot about athletic development so that we can apply fundamental principles and methods throughout an athlete’s life, sort of like an artist painting a picture.

Jeremy Frisch has come up with a list of 10 ways to improve athleticism in young athletes that draw on many of the fundamental principles taught in all IYCA materials.  As you read this list, you should appreciate the simplicity of what is being shared.  As many people look for new, sexy, and innovative ways to developing athleticism, Jeremy has drawn on his experiences working with thousands of young athletes to boil things down into simple tasks that need to be repeated and varied throughout a child’s life.

Enjoy Jeremy’s list and be sure to comment below:

1. Jumping: Jumping is the secret weapon to develop explosiveness… there is no such thing as jumping slow. Jump for height, jump for distance, jump over, sideways, side-to-side, one foot, two feet and with twists and turns. The more variety the better the coordination developed.

2. Sprinting: The best age to develop the foundation for speed is ages 7-11. Kids need not worry about technique and should only be concerned with effort. Max effort will help self organize technique. Simply challenge them to give their best effort by using racing, chasing and relay races.

3. Calisthenics: The simple stuff like we did back in P. E. Remember jumping jacks? How about the lost art of jumping rope? Calisthenics are a fantastic tool for warming up and coordination activities. Simple? Yes… but much more effective than jogging around a soccer field if the goal is to improve athleticism.

4. Gymnastics: Gymnastic activities develop body awareness, landing/falling skills, static and dynamic positions, balance, body toughness. You don’t need Olympic routines to get benefits, simply learning how to roll, cartwheel and various static holds can go a long way to improve athleticism.

5. Strength: Strength training is not just lifting weights. For children it can come in other forms like tug of war, monkey bars, rope climbing, play, parkour and ninja warrior. The key is using activities that require the athlete to create muscular tension.

6. Pick-up games: Any sports game like flag football, baseball, basketball, wiffleball, etc. or made up classic games like capture the flag, dodgeball and pickle. The key is minimal adult intervention. Let the kids decide the rules, winners and losers.improve athleticism through pick up games

7. Tag: (the athlete maker) The game of tag develops all around agility. Sprinting, stopping, starting, spatial awareness… mixed in with a whole bunch of decision making and, of course, all-around fun. Tag carries over to almost every sport. Play in different size spaces or make up different rules for variety.

8. Stop playing one sport all year around: Multiple sports develop multiple skills…the more skills the better the all-around athlete…skills transfer! Physically, the body gets a rest from repetitive stress and mentally, the athlete stays fresh from new activities.

9. Screen time: Limit screen time as much as possible. Eyes get fixed in a two dimensional landscape, and sitting for long periods is not good for anyone. Sensory overload without a physical outlet creates stress, anxiety and angry outbursts.

10. Have Fun: If young athletes have fun they are 90% there. When kids have fun, they come back and the more
consistency they have the more skills they develop over time without even realizing it.


Jeremy Frisch is the owner and director of Achieve Performance Training in Clinton, Massachusetts. Although he trains people of all ages and abilities, his main focus is to improve athleticism in young athletes, physical education, and physical literacy.

Jeremy is the former assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Holy Cross athletic department. Prior to joining Holy Cross, Frisch served as the sports performance director at Competitive Athlete Training Zone in Acton, Massachusetts. In 2004, he did a strength and conditioning internship at Stanford University. Frisch is a 2007 graduate of Worcester State College, with a bachelor’s degree in health science and physical education.

The IYCA Certified Athletic Development Specialist is the gold-standard certification for anyone working with athletes 6-18 years old.  The course materials were created by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the industry, and the content is indisputably the most comprehensive of any certification related to athletic development.  Learn more about the CADS certification here:

The Basis of All Training Programs – Joe Powell

When the human body receives a stimulus, it adapts to it in preparation to receive that stimulus again. The next time, you make that stimulus slightly stronger to continue the adaptation process. That’s progressive overload!Dumbbells

While it’s way more complicated that that, this process should be top-of-mind when choosing ANY exercise and implementing ANY strength program.  Of course, there are thousands of ways to implement progressive overload – periodized programs, linear progression, multiple-set schemes, HIT training, etc. – but the principle of progressive overload should be taught to every athlete so they understand how small improvements made over time will produce great results.

Listen briefly to what Michigan State Strength & Conditioning Coach, Joe Powell, has to say about the importance of making this a priority.


To learn more about progressive overload from 20 of the top coaches in the profession, check out the IYCA book Principles of Athletic Strength & Conditioning.  Chapter 5 by Arizona Cardinals Strength & Conditioning Coach, Mark Naylor, explores this topic in great depth and goes into detail on how to most effectively use this principle in training programs.

Overcoming the Awkwardness of the Pre-puberty Growth Spurt – Brett Klika

Imagine spending years learning how to drive a race car, then, nearly overnight, someone changes the dimensions, transmission, and engine power in that car. In order to get back into racing condition, it’s going to take some time learning how to use the new equipment.  This is very similar to the scenario many young athletes find themselves in as they experience rapid growth at the onset of puberty.

As most young athletes begin the transition into puberty sometime between the 6th-8th grade, they will undoubtedly experience limitations in mobility, stability, and coordination that result from the rapid growth of their limbs and an increase in body mass.   

This “peak height velocity” usually happens between age 12 and 14 for most young athletes, girls peaking before boys. As bones grow rabidly, proprioceptors in the muscles, joints, and tendons have to recalibrate. During this recalibration period, coaches often witness previously mobile, fluid athletes become stiff and slightly awkward. They may experience difficulty and pain during activities that never bothered them before. 

To minimize frustration and keep these young athletes progressing, it’s important for coaches to look at training progression differently as their athletes are adjusting to their “new” bodies. 

This doesn’t suggest a complete overhaul of a young athlete’s training progress. It may merely mean assessing where limitations exist and integrating some pro-active strategies into warm- ups, specific skill work, and even general conditioning in order to minimize pain and frustration while maximizing progress. 

When working with athletes at the onset of puberty, I have found three easy-to-integrate strategies to be effective in overcoming many of the limitations introduced by the pubertal “growth spurt”. 

Strategy #1:  Go Primal

Primal, fundamental movements like crawling, climbing, skipping, carrying, and others are often the first to be introduced to children because they are highly effective in “wiring” the proprioceptive system to accommodate effective mobility, strength, and overall coordination. 

For athletes in the throes of their pubescent growth spurt, these movements can help maintain or even reestablish this proprioceptive wiring. Ingrate more crawls, pushes, pulls, carries, get-ups, step-over/under, etc. as part of a general or specific warm up. Better yet, utilize these movements in your core programming as conditioning or skill work. 

“Cheetah Crawl”

Strategy #2: Highlight Isometric Work

Isometric training is one of the most under-utilized forms of training for both children and adults. By removing complex variables like joint velocity and limb precision, isometric training allows for the basic levels of mobility, stability, and strength to be established.  This can be just what that doctor ordered for young athletes growing into their new pubescent bodies. 

Isometric hangs, wall pushes, squat and lunge holds, and other movements are great program additions either during warm- ups, skill work, or during other strategic times during training for growing athletes. I have found that by directly preceding a movement like the squat or lunge with a static version (i.e. hold a lunge position for 10 seconds then do 5 controlled cadence repetitions), these athletes can do the movement with fewer limitations. 

In addition to static work, controlling the cadence of a movement can help coaches identify where the most common range of motion limitations exist and address them appropriately. A simple example would be the coach prompting the “down” and “up” of a bodyweight squat or lunge. 

It’s important to note the goal of isometrics and controlled cadence isn’t just “making it burn” and creating painful fatigue. Monitor your athlete’s ability to execute an isometric or controlled cadence movement effectively without excessive fatigue.  If an athlete has experienced rapid growth in limb length or body mass, even static versions of an exercise may prove to be too challenging from a mobility or strength standpoint.  In this case, don’t’ be afraid to integrate movement regressions that decrease the impact of body mass. For example, the athlete can hold onto a suspended band while holding a lunge position. 

Example of Band Assisted Work (Split Squat)

Strategy #3 Movement Transitions

New limb length, body mass, and a change in force production can make a growing athlete appear awkward when they move.  This is highlighted when transitioning from one movement pattern or pathway to another. For example, an athlete does a linear movement like a sprint, then must decelerate, re-orient, and execute a lateral shuffle. 

Taking this into account, it’s important to not only double down on reinforcing the body mechanics associated with acceleration, deceleration, and direction change, but facilitate activities that require a transition from one movement to another. 

Spending more training time with tactical (sport-related) movement transitions like linear to lateral, forward to backward, etc. in addition to more generalized transitions like crawling or jumping to running and similar movement patterns will pay dividends in re-establishing smoother, more efficient movement for athletes at the onset of puberty.  Integrate multi-movement transition circuits into conditioning activities, even if they aren’t specific to the tactical needs of a specific sport. 

Movement Transition “Obstacle Course”

When working with athletes at the peak of their growth velocity, keep these strategies in your tool- box.  Similar to extremely young children, these athletes are re-learning how to navigate their new developmental hardware. Integrating the basics listed above is not a “step back” in training progression. It can actually become a powerful step forward in ensuring your young athletes have the mobility, stability, and coordination they need as the progress through puberty and beyond. 

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.


The IYCA Certified Athletic Development Specialist is the gold-standard certification for anyone working with athletes 6-18 years old.  The course materials were created by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the industry, and the content is indisputably the most comprehensive of any certification related to athletic development.  Learn more about the CADS certification here:

Politics and Athletic Development? – Jim Kielbaso

This election season has really gotten me to think about things in a way that relates to athletic development and the business of strength & conditioning. Now, before you get upset thinking I’m gonna talk about politics, I’m not!  Instead, I’ve noticed that the way we consume politics is very similar to the way we consume information about strength and conditioning, and it’s probably not the best way for us to make decisions.

In my opinion, one of the most important traits we can have is the ability to keep an open mind, research facts, and not get swept up in feelings, half-truths, and people saying whatever they feel like.

I’m talking about strength and conditioning right now, not politics!

I’m talking about understanding complex training concepts and knowing the facts.  But, the only way you’re going to know the facts is by digging deep and finding out what actually works, not what people SAY works or what you FEEL works.

A lot of people make programming decisions based on things like “well, so and so said this” or “I’m doing this program because this other coach or sports figure does it” or “I really think this looks cool.”  I also hear A LOT of people say things like “in my experience….” Well, experience certainly matters, but if you haven’t been in coaching for years, trusting your limited experience could be a mistake. You may want to count on the experiences of people who have been doing it for 20, 30, 40 years.

And, saying you read something doesn’t automatically make it a fact. If you read it in a magazine, on a blog, or on Twitter, that is NOT the same as reading it in a scientific journal, taking a course, or learning from a coach who has been in the trenches for 20 years. These are big differences and the election cycle kind of got me thinking about this because I’m noticing a lot of people also making both their political AND training decisions based on small bits of information without getting more details.

We see something on Instagram from someone with a bunch of followers, and we instantly think it must be the truth instead of digging deeper, doing our own research and getting the whole story.  So, whether it’s politics or strength & conditioning, it’s important to get the whole story before you make a decision.

I think we need to think about foundational concepts and ignore too much hype or what “everybody else is doing.” We don’t need to pick sides and follow people blindly based on who your friends like.  Do you really decide who to vote for by seeing signs on the road? Or do you make up your mind based on facts and digging in and actually learning about what’s going on?

Are you able to sift through the garbage on the internet? In both cases, politics and strength and conditioning, we are on absolute overload with garbage.  In politics, they call it fake news.  In S & C, it’s called bro-science.  There’s too much out there and it’s hard to sift through it all. How can we sift through it all? We can’t. It’s impossible. But you can’t check social media and call that education. It’s not. It’s just social media where there are no fact-checkers, and there’s just too much out there to keep track of everything.

It has really become a challenge for many professionals to dive deep into a topic because we’ve gotten so used to short blips of information. Many coaches make training decisions based on a YouTube video or Instagram post. If you see something on social media, that should prompt you to dig deeper into what you’re doing, what you’re thinking about, and how you’re making your decisions. It shouldn’t be your only source of information.

Unfortunately, I don’t really have a perfect way of telling you to sift through the garbage other than explaining what I do. First, I find lots of different sources of information. Of course, I use social media, but I also go to scientific journals, I take courses, I have multiple degrees, I read lots of books, I attend conferences, and I go to people who have many years of experience in the industry who put out quality information and who are in the trenches daily.  These people have been doing it for years, documenting the results, analyzing their experiences and their programs, and then making decisions based on those analytics.

I try hard to determine what the actual training effect is going to be from any exercise or stimulus.  You need at least a basic background in anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology to understand how the body might adapt to a particular stimulus, but this is very, very important.  You also need to have an understanding of HOW MUCH of a stimulus is necessary in order to elicit an adaptation.  We also know that our nervous system can learn new skills, but if we don’t know a little about motor learning, we may not understand exactly how to get the nervous system to learn quicker.

Yes, you actually need to understand the processes involved in adaptation. Otherwise, you’ll watch a cool looking exercise on Instagram and decide to use it just because it’s new.  New might look cool, but it is not always good or useful.  There may be a reason that no one has ever seen this exercise.  Maybe it’s fluff.

Along with the effectiveness of a training stimulus, you have to weigh the risk vs. benefit to help determine whether it’s the right choice to include in a program.  For example, when I see kids standing on stability balls or doing circus tricks, I feel like the training benefit is incredibly small while the risk is fairly high.  Or, I’ll see kids stacking a bunch of plates up on top of boxes to see how high they can jump.  Again, the training benefit of jumping onto a box is no greater than jumping in the air as high as you can and landing on the ground, but the risk is MUCH greater.  So, I personally don’t feel like the risk outweighs the benefit.

I will also try to determine if something is economical.  Basically, is this new exercise or training method worth the time an athlete will have to put into it?  Does it give you a good “bang for the buck” or is the potential benefit so small that it’s basically wasting time.  And, every time you choose to do an exercise, you are simultaneously deciding to NOT do every other exercise in the world.  So, it better be worthwhile.

Finally, I have to decide if a particular method is right for every athlete or just for certain athletes.

I like to find multiple people or sources to discuss training so I can understand several angles. I try to take in as much as I can and keep an open mind while I’m doing it.

It is okay to change your mind. It’s certainly good to question the validity of new things, but it’s also OK to learn something new and admit that you’re either wrong or didn’t know something.  Mike Boyle is one of the most respected coaches in the profession, and he has changed his mind many times.  In politics, it would be called a flip-flop.  In training, it’s called learning and evolving….which is good!

So, I hope you can see that this wasn’t supposed to be political at all, but the way we consume politics has many parallels to the way we have been consuming training information.  I think it’s time to take a step back, slow down, and dig deeper into topics.  We should have a thorough understanding of training methods before we use them with athletes.  If we don’t, we are walking blindly through the forest, hoping to find a path home.

And, I think we can all agree that we can be better than anything happening in politics.


Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and owner of Impact Sports Performance in Novi, Michigan.  He has authored multiple books, articles and training products and has spoken at events around the world.  He holds a BS in Exercise Science, an MS in Kinesiology and has gone through multiple certifications through the IYCA, NSCA, NASM and more.  Jim is a former college strength & conditioning coach and has trained thousands of athletes at every level of competition.  He runs a successful NFL Combine training program in Michigan and has been hired as a consultant for major sports programs like the University of Michigan Football Program and the University of Kentucky Basketball Program.

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.

5 “Non-crunching” Core Exercises for Kids – Brett Klika

It’s hard to have a discussion about athletic performance and injury prevention without mentioning the “core”. Despite what many have been lead to believe, the core is not so much a handful of specific muscles as it is a relationship of muscles involving the upper and lower body that work together to properly transfer energy and maintain the integrity of the spine.

When coaches are able to help young athletes properly develop this relationship of muscles involving both the anterior and posterior hips, shoulders, and torso, it creates a strong foundation for athleticism.

This requires much more than doing crunches.

It’s important to understand that in order for the core to do its job, the involved muscles must coordinate to stabilize and mobilize properly. The more we can facilitate this coordination with young athletes, the better.

Isolation-type exercises (think crunches and back extensions) do have a place when it comes to activating muscles involved with the core. However, movements that force kids’ brains and bodies to “figure out” how to coordinate the mobilization/stabilization actions of the core have a lot more ROI when it comes to athletic development.

The five exercises below are examples of movements that require young athletes to coordinate the muscles involved with their core as they move in different planes of motion and orientations with gravity.

Bear, Crab, Butterfly
This movement series not only challenges aspects of reaction and coordination, it provides a 360-degree challenge for the muscles involved with the core relationship.

Instruct athletes as to the following movement cues:

  • “Bear”: Athletes hold a crawl position with the knees off the ground
  • “Crab”: Athletes turn over into an inverted quadruped position with hips parallel to the ground
  • “Butterfly”: Athletes support their body weight in a “standing side plank” position with their legs apart

Alternate between the 3 cues in random order for 20-30 seconds.

Crab Rolls
In addition to providing a 360-degree core stability challenge, Crab rolls challenge and activate a young athletes vestibular system. This helps in improving balance and body orientation.

  • Begin in a “bear crawl” position with the knees of the ground.
  • Without letting their hips touch the ground, the athlete turns their entire body over so their hips are now facing the sky in a reverse quadruped position.
  • The athlete then continues to roll back to the “bear crawl” position without letting the hips touch the ground.
  • Continue for 15-20 yards
  • As the athlete rolls to change body orientation, cue them to keep their hips as high as possible

Proper movement of the scapula is often neglected in regards to its contribution to the core relationship. Many kids struggle with proper protraction, retraction, elevation, and depression of the scapula due to poor posture and thoracic muscle tone. This makes it difficult to stabilize the thoracic portion of the torso effectively, decreasing the amount of power than can be translated through the core.

This exercise engages the muscles of the scapula and thoracic area, both important components of posture and core strength/stability.

  • Begin with the athlete lying prone on the ground with arms out perpendicular to the upper body. Thumbs should be facing upward. The chin should be “packed” as if to be holding a large orange or small grapefruit between the chin and throat
  • Keeping their feet on the ground, cue the athlete to raise their thumbs towards the sky
  • After holding for 2 seconds, return to the bottom position
  • Repeat for 10-15 repetitions

Weighted Spelling Bee
The muscles involved with a young athlete’s core must be able to initiate and control movement in a variety of planes of motion. This exercise challenges core stability and strength in a variety of constantly changing planes of motion.

  • Provide a weighted implement (appropriately weighted Sandbell®, medicine ball, weight plate, etc.)
  • Instruct the athlete to begin in an athletic position with feet even with or slightly wider than shoulder width. The narrower the stance, the more challenging the exercise becomes
  • The weight should be held out away from their body
  • Cue the athlete with letters, numbers, shapes, and/or words that they must “spell” with the weight, using a range of motion from the ground to above their head
  • Repeat for about 30 seconds, or when you witness fatigue

Bird Dog Rodeo
This exercise is a dynamic, advanced version of the standard Bird Dog exercise.

  • Begin with athlete in a quadruped “all 4’s” position
  • Cue the athlete to extend their opposite leg and arm until they are parallel to the ground.
  • While the athlete attempts to hold this position, alternate pushing on their outreached arm and leg, attempting to knock them off balance
  • If there hand or foot touches the ground, the coach receives a “point”
  • Repeat for 20 seconds each arm/leg
  • If the coach cannot score any points, they do 20 push-ups after the activity is over

Consider these core movements and others that go beyond crunches to help your young athletes develop the tools they need to perform 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.


The IYCA Certified Athletic Development Specialist is the gold-standard certification for anyone working with athletes 6-18 years old.  The course materials were created by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the industry, and the content is indisputably the most comprehensive of any certification related to athletic development.  Learn more about the CADS certification here:

An Open Letter to Student-Athletes: Who Are You Without Sports? – Jill Kochanek

My name is Jill, but everyone calls me Jake. No one ever called me Jake, however, until I joined the Amherst College Women’s Soccer Team.  As a timid freshman, I was eager to prove myself and determined to play the sport that I love. With an upperclassman named Jill already on the team, during preseason my coaches asked me if I went by another name. I hesitated; I had always been Jill. Shortly after though, in the chaos of competition, my teammates’ commanding calls blended my initials, “J-K” into “Jake.”  

In the beginning, I accepted Jake but did not fully embrace the nickname.  I recall a teammate commenting that her brother’s name was Jake and another teammate telling me that her dog was named Jake. Great— I thought—there goes the cool first impression I was trying to make. Over the course of four seasons though, I would answer to Jake more than Jill on the field, in the classroom, and even at home. Eight years later, the name has stuck. My parents, siblings, old friends from Amherst and new friends extending from those Amherst ties all call me Jake.

Jake would stick with me in more ways than one: just as Jake grew on me, so did I as a player, teammate, and person. As Jake, an inexorable force outside of me but inseparably linked to me pushed me. It kept me tirelessly attacking and defending, following and leading, in formation with twenty other women in Amherst purple. As number 26, I felt that force drive me across the darkening grass—six and back, eighteen and back, half field and back, full field and back.  At the end of each practice as the sun set on Hitchcock field, sweat poured down our necks leaving our bodies as we set ourselves on the line to sprint again. Nourishing the field below our tired feet, sweat was the one thing we all agreed to sacrifice. In my senior season, that sacrifice would prove worthwhile and culminate in a league championship, NCAA Elite Eight match, and a record of 20-0-1. These tangible gains were just the beginning.  

On the field with my teammates, I learned how to be selfless; how to trust and be trusted; how to embrace my strengths and fearlessly confront my weaknesses; how to commit, be patient, and own my/our process: the next achievable step. I learned that what you communicate matters but “how” (you say something) given the “who” (you say something to) makes all the difference. And, I learned how important it is to control life’s controllables. My teammates challenged me to be a leader—a servant: someone who does not stop with bringing out the best in themselves but lifts others up. Inspired by their sacrifice, I grew to be a better player, teammate, and person. I grew to be Jake.

My student-athlete story seems to have a happy ending. It does. And—not but—and, it’s not without some unexpected challenge. In the last 10 minutes of our NCAA Elite Eight match against Messiah College, we were down 0-1. I was physically and mentally drained. I awkwardly, stretched out my right leg across my body to go for a loose ball. Off-balance, I tore my ACL and meniscus. I hobbled off the field and knew something was wrong but didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t want to concede. I asked our athletic trainer to try and tape my knee up to give me support and go back in. But I couldn’t walk. I was done.

Tears rushed down my cheeks and fell to the grass like the collective sweat that rushed down our necks. I wanted to be inside the lines again. I yearned to still be a part of our sacrifice. To be living the collective commitment we made to one another. To be on the field playing the game that we loved. In those final moments, I was flooded with a sense of loss. 

I am fortunate to have played injury-free for most of my high school and college career. We were fortunate to have made such a deep run into the NCAA playoffs alongside teammates and coaches who I’d do anything for. In those final moments and months to follow during my recovery process I felt a range of strong emotions. I felt gratitude for my experience, for the protected time I’d have to fully recover rather than rush back to play at the start of the next season. I felt relief that my body had held out. And, I also felt loss. I felt lost. 

I knew our season and my soccer career were soon coming to an end. But, I was not prepared for when it actually did. When the final whistle blew. 

I share my student-athlete story with you because at some point for all of us, sports will stop. There will be a day when the final whistle blows for all of us. A day when we all play our last game, when we are—like I was—left asking: Who am I?

For all student-athletes, not just our graduating seniors, this shutdown presents us with a unique opportunity to pause. To reflect and remember: why do you love sports? 

Maybe it’s the power of movement—the sense of freedom and empowerment you feel moving your body and seeing what you can do. 

Maybe it’s a love of competition—of the process, of challenge, of taking risks and testing your limits, of learning new skills and game strategies. 

Maybe it’s being a part of a team. Working together through adversity—making lasting friendships, building trust and having fun through all the little moments: the team dinners, bus rides, and locker room dance parties.

If it helps, we have 3 basic psychological needs as humans, the need to: 

(A) feel a sense of autonomy (“I have choice, control and agency”). 

(B) feel a sense of belonging (“I am valued and supported”), and 

(C) feel competent (“I am capable”), 

If you look down this list of “maybes”, you’ll notice that these reasons highlight all 3 of our basic needs. What we can call our ABCs—Autonomy, Belonging, and Competence. Meeting these needs supports our inner motivation and overall health and well-being.

So, what are your ABCs? Why do you play your sport/sports? Maybe you’ve got reasons outside the ABCs. Even better. The point is to take this time during the quarantine to reflect and be honest with ourselves. What’s your “why”?

During this shutdown it’s also important for student-athletes (at any age or stage) to ask: who am I without sports? It’s a both-and. Not an either-or.

You can be both an athlete/teammate/competitor and be a:





Tell me (and— coaches and parents if you’re reading this ask your student-athletes to tell YOU):

What energizes and excites you? What would get you out of bed at 5:30 AM for/to do?

What are you curious to know more about? 

What do you want to spend more time doing? What do you want to try? 

How do you want to connect with people? 

What larger purpose do you want to serve? How do you want to contribute? 

For the high school and college seniors graduating this spring, the COVID-19 shutdown has cut your season short and brought your career to an abrupt end. You are likely feeling a bitter sting: our harsh reality has replaced celebration and closure with COVID-19 restrictions. The senior year you thought you’d have, the special end-of-year events that would seamlessly, properly close this chapter of your life and open a new one may have instead been filled with uncertainty, loss, and sadness. Senior student-athletes I feel with you. And, I am here to tell you that you are not alone. Whatever emotions you are experiencing are valid and understandable. Allow yourself the time and space to acknowledge what you’re thinking and feeling. What you are going through is hard.

When you reflect on why you play and what/who you are grateful for, know that you will always carry with you your reasons for playing, valuable lessons you learned, and memories you made. It took me time after I played my last game to realize that:

My student-athlete experience was a process of discovery. Soccer was a meaningful setting that helped me discover aspects of who I am—a trusted teammate, lifelong learner, and performer who loves to commit to a big-picture vision and goal and to work the small actionable steps needed to get there. Soccer was a context that brought these aspects of “me” into focus. Soccer gave me a supportive, challenging space—and opportunity— to work towards being my best self: to embrace my inner-Jake.

I found so much meaning in, I drew so much of my self-worth from sports. And while I found so much of myself through sports, and—not but—and, I now know that sports are not ALL of me. Sports are not ALL of you. 

Identity is who you are. It’s a word with a paradox at its core (Stryker, 2017). It means that two things that are not exactly the same can be substituted for one another as if they are the same.

When we say “I am a student-athlete” the “am” is like an equals sign. Your individual sense of being something, a category (e.g., student-athlete, musician) that you consider yourself belonging to. You and the category, however, are not the same exactly the same.

You are a student-athlete.

You are also more than a student-athlete. 

Human beings we are weird. Don’t read the term “weird” in the negative sense: we are unique, dynamic, complex, and multi-dimensional.

Know that so many of the reasons you played sports, the lessons that you learned, memories that you made will stick with you. These are forever a part of you. Also know that your life, your identity, and your “why” do not end here. They don’t end with athletics. You might find that an activity, experience, or context fulfills you like sports do or did. You might also find that these different pursuits excite and inspire you in unique ways that sports did/do not offer you. 

You have so many gifts to share with us beyond what you do on the court, field, track, diamond, and pitch. There is a whole world out there with people, place, and opportunities beyond sports to explore. 

This open letter is not a “how-to”—with specific steps on what I think you should do. Only you can determine the steps that are best for you. Only you can chart your course: Be brave. Be curious. Be true to your whole self. Share that whole person with us. Your whole self is your best self, and when we know the true you, we will all be better. 

My name is Jill but everyone calls me Jake; I embrace when they do and I know now that there’s so much more to Jill than Jake. 

Jill Kochanek is a doctoral student at the Institute for the Study of Youth Sport at Michigan State University. She is also a high school soccer coach. As a coach-scholar, Jill is passionate about bridging the research-practice gap to make sport a more inclusive, empowering context. Her research and applied work centers on helping athletes (and coaches) take charge of their own developmental process and social progress. If you enjoyed this article, feel free to visit her youth sport coaching blog, bothandcoaching.blog, for posts that address other topics related to sport psychology and sociology and follow her on Twitter @bothandcoaching.


The IYCA Certified Athletic Development Specialist is the gold-standard certification for anyone working with athletes 6-18 years old.  The course materials were created by some of the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the industry, and the content is indisputably the most comprehensive of any certification related to athletic development.  Learn more about the CADS certification here:

Helping Your Kids Cope With the COVID-19 Pandemic – Phil Hueston

The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19 has taken over the news. For adults, the news is frightening. For children, it can be terrifying and may leave real scars. Parents can ease kids’ fears and help them cope with this pandemic, if they have the tools.

How can we, as parents and caregivers, help children understand this pandemic without living in constant fear of it? How can we support their developmental needs while helping them understand the COVID-19 coronavirus and the news surrounding it?

How can we share the hope of a bright future when the present seems so dark and scary?

Some very smart people have been thinking about these questions. I’ve been thinking about them, too.

I’m around children ages 6 and up in my facility daily. They see the world differently than adults and can often get overwhelmed by the onslaught of news, information and disinformation they are exposed to daily.

Here are some thoughts on how to help them through this challenging time.

Clear up the terminonlogy

Some of the terminology thrown around by the news media sounds terrifying, if you don’t understand it. Spend some time with your kids and ask them what they think some of those terms mean. Try questions like these. “What do you think COVID-19 is?” “What do you think the word ‘quarantine’ means?” “Do you know what ‘social distancing’ means?” The answers will help you understand what your child knows, what they don’t know and how they think about the disease.

Jennifer Rodemeyer, manager of the Child Life Program at Mayo Clinic, suggests clearly defining the terminology around COVID-19 coronavirus. There are key phrases and terms that, when clearly defined, will help your children cope better with what they are hearing.

COVID-19 – Your kids should know that this is a virus that can make them sick and cause them to feel sick. The symptoms include a cough, fever, chills and body aches. While they should know that these aren’t exclusive to COVID-19, it is important to tell you if they feel them, especially during this pandemic.

COVID-19 is so tiny that children can’t see it and won’t know it’s on their hands or on surfaces they touch. Since it can enter the body when we touch something that it’s on and then touch our faces, mouths or eyes, hand washing is really important. Keeping surfaces clean is also very important. Both of these practices are simple ways to give your children a measure, and a sense, of control over something that might hurt them.

COVID-19 can also enter the body through tiny droplets expelled when we cough or sneeze. So by covering their sneezes and coughs with a tissue or by coughing or sneezing into their elbow (called the “Vampire sneeze,”) they can help to limit the spread of the virus. Again, offering a technique for gaining control over a scary thing offers a sense of power they otherwise don’t have.

Explain that the reason this virus is everywhere in the news and on social media is because it’s new, or “novel.” Everyone on earth, including doctors, nurses and other health and medical professionals, are learning about it together. As they learn more, we’ll have more ways to limit its’ spread and how to treat it. Let your kids know that some of the smartest experts around the world are working as hard as they can to learn about the virus and keep us all safe.

Social Distancing – This is a fairly new term that is being talked about everywhere. Medical and public health professionals are asking people to practice this in an effort to slow or stop the spread of the virus. It means avoiding close contact with other people when outside the home. It doesn’t mean avoiding contact with family members inside the home, unless they are ill. 

Rodemeyer suggests telling children to use the imaginary length of a bicycle as a means of understanding how far to stay from others in public. Instead of high fives, fist bumps or hugs, a simple wave may be better. What we also want our kids to know is that if the six-foot rule of social distancing is accidentally “violated,” they shouldn’t panic. It’s a guideline, not an iron-clad rule whose violation is cause for punishment or self-loathing.

Quarantine – This is just a scary word for anyone, but especially kids. Sub-conscious fears of isolation and abandonment go hand-in-hand with this one. Explain to your kids that quarantine may be as simple as staying in your house for a period of time up to 14 days. Let them know that only if they come in contact with someone who definitely has COVID-19 would they possibly need to be concerned about this. They also need to know it doesn’t mean they’d be separated from their family.

Build some new home routines to support your kids.

Giving kids the ability to predict what’s next gives them a sense of control and direction over the unknown. Post your family schedules and what, if any, different rules or guidelines need to be followed. If staying in the house is called for, make that clear, along with a clear explanation of why. Same thing for social distancing.

Help your kids feel accomplished by identifying clear expectations and acknowledging them when they meet those expectations. Include all important aspects of your children’s lives when establishing a schedule. What time is bedtime? When do they wake? Include meal times, household chores and responsibilities, outdoor play and exercise times, other play times and anything else that impacts their lives.

Stuck at home more? Play a little, or a lot!

Play is a great tool for teaching. It’s also a great tool for stress management and improving cognitive ability. Play will give your child the tools to help understand the nature of the COVID-19 situation and what they can expect for themselves. It will also give you time to interact with your kids and communicate with them in a low-pressure atmosphere. You may learn quite a bit about how they’re feeling!

Reading together, playing games, doing puzzles, exercising together, listening and playing music together and working on projects together will all provide great bonding and relaxation opportunities for the whole family. Try creating some theme nights like movie night, karaoke night, game night or indoor camping night. You have an opportunity to create some positive memories in the midst of a difficult time.

Use technology to connect with friends and loved ones

Your kids are most likely more tech-savvy than any other generation, maybe even more tech-savvy than you. Use that to help them connect and talk with grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends. Include the people they normally interact with, too. Using connectivity apps will allow your kids to keep and build relationships and avoid feeling isolated by talking to loved ones and people who matter to them.

Social games can also help. Many games and game systems have the capacity for children to play together even when they are far apart. Virtual play dates are a possibility. There are a myriad of ways that virtual connections can support your kids’ social development.

Cut off the constant stream of news 

While we want our children to understand the COVID-19 virus and what it means for them, they don’t need 24/7 access to every news source. Explain to them that you are going to help them understand the realities of the virus by helping them find a small number of reliable news sources and then helping them absorb and understand what is being reported by them. The Centers for Disease Control, the Mayo Clinic, state and federal health agencies, Johns Hopkins University and a handful of others are examples of reliable, evidence-based news sources for the COVID-19 outbreak.

Cover the basics – and handle the unexpected

Teach your kids how to wash their hands. Give them fun tools to make sure they wash long enough. Singing the “ABC’s” or “Happy Birthday” twice while soaping up will ensure about 20 seconds worth of scrubbing.

Hang signs in your home that say things like “Welcome home! Don’t forget to wash your hands first thing!” Tell them the times they should wash their hands: before meals, after using the toilet, after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing and after being out of the house.

When an event your child was to attend gets cancelled, take the time to explain how that unhappy event will help stem the spread of COVID-19. Children will tend to see and appreciate an event from their own perspective. Letting them understand that this is a temporary way to help others will give them a fresh way to look at it. Let them know that when the COVID-19 virus is under control, those events will be safe to attend once again.

Who’s the boss?

Let your children know that when they are in someone else’s care, they should listen to that person. When a teacher, grandparent, caregiver, day care provider, etc. asks them to wash their hands or gives other hygiene instructions those instructions should be followed.

If the virus strikes, reassure them

If your child gets sick, remind them that they are being cared for by someone to whom they are infinitely important. Let them know you will be watching them and caring for them until they have recovered and that the best doctors are also caring for them.

If a friend or loved one gets sick, let your kids know that they are getting medical advice and care and are getting the best instructions on how to beat the virus and get better. Encourage your kids to send the afflicted person a note in the mail. Explain that receiving such a note will let the person know that others care for and are thinking about them and looking forward to when all of them can be together again.

Don’t lie

Parents often feel that a “little white lie” is okay when the truth my hurt or frighten your child, especially a younger child. While this may be true in some cases, be honest with your children about COVID-19. Letting your kids know that you’ll be honest with them and that being honest is important to you will build their trust. While your honesty may cause some worry or anxiety, the same truth-telling will make it easier to allay those fears or anxieties.

Have daily conversations with your kids about this. Let them know you’ll keep them up to date on changes regarding the virus. Let them know that you are the one to come to for new information and that they can ask you anything about the COVID-19 virus.

Share your own feelings about all that’s happening. Let them know that you have questions about COVID-19 and the situation. Share those questions with them, if appropriate. Let them know you are following the advice of some of the smartest medical and public health experts in the world and that their advice is going to help us all stay safe.

You are the authority in your children’s lives. In uncertain times, your kids need certainty, love, strength and a sense of control. I hope these ideas help you deliver those things for your children. I hope that you all stay safe, healthy and happy.

Keep the faith and keep after it!

Bio: Coach Phil Hueston is not just another pretty trainer. With over 18 years of in-the-trenches experience with athletes ages 6 to 60, he brings a unique skill-set to the improvement of his athletes. The author of the Amazon best-seller “Alchemy; Where the Art and Science Collide in Youth Fitness,” his client list includes professional athletes, collegiate athletes as well as thousands of youth athletes. Phil has been the co-owner of All-Star Sports Academy in Toms River, NJ, one of the largest and most successful youth and family fitness centers in New Jersey since 2008. He was named “Coach of the Year” by the IYCA for 2012-2013.  A contributor to IYCA.org and coach to other coaches, Phil provides unique insights and ideas that can help other coaches accelerate their clients’ progress and performance. Phil is married to the woman responsible for his entry into the fitness profession, MaryJo. Between them they have 2 grown children, Nate and Andrew, and 99 problems.  Phil’s personal website is coachphilhueston.com, and he can be contacted at phil.hueston@hotmail.com


The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Specialist is the only certification created specifically for coaches training high school athletes, and it was recently updated to include even more information than ever.  The course includes several hours of video instruction 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.

Letter to Parents – From Jim Kielbaso: Handling Sports Injuries

Sports Injuries

Dear Parent of a Young Athlete,


Your kid got hurt playing sports.  It happens. Now, what should you do about it?

While it’s true that sports injuries are common, there are two things I’d like you to consider:

  1. How did it happen?  
  2. How is it being handled?

Some sports injuries are pretty much unavoidable if your kid is playing sports.  Kids will fall, run into each other, or have a fluke accident occur. You take certain risks in sports, and this is one of them.  If an injury occurs that you feel was simply part of the game, just move on to the second question and handle it in the best way possible.  

Other sports injuries occur from overtraining, improper training/practice, or compensations that your child develops in order to keep up with the demands of the sport.  These injuries need to be investigated differently.

If your child is suffering from repeated injuries that don’t seem like “accidents” or “part-of-the-game” things, there’s probably something else going on that needs to be addressed.  It could seem like something relatively straightforward like an overuse injury, but simply resting until it feels better, then going right back to the same routine is a set up for re-injury.  The volume of training might just be too high, but it could also be that your child’s mechanics (running, throwing, kicking, etc.) aren’t correct, which can cause all sorts of problems.  

In these cases, mechanics should be addressed by a professional, or you run the risk of these injuries plaguing a child for a long time.  

Sometimes, kids simply aren’t ready for the mechanics or demands of a sport.  For example, most kids under 11 simply don’t have the ability to adequately control the pelvis during rapid spinal rotation.  This is just part of the maturation process, and it kind of seems like a built-in governor, that keeps growing bodies from performing crazy athletic feats too early.  Unfortunately, when kids are taught how to throw or kick really hard at a young age, they can develop issues at the shoulder, elbow, knee, and hip stemming from the inability to perform these actions efficiently. Because they can’t control that spinal/hip rotation, they figure out other ways to compensate in order to throw or kick really hard, and other areas of the body take the brunt of these forces.  

That’s why we see things like 12-year-olds getting Tommy John surgery or 13-year-old soccer players with hip dysplasia.  These things are typically a result of athletes being pushed too hard, too early. They “appear” to be able to do things that they simply shouldn’t be doing yet, like throwing 80 MPH at 12 years old.  

There can be all sorts of reasons for overuse sports injuries.  Just be sure to look into what may have caused the injury, and try to address it before it happens again.  

You should also know that “different” injuries are often “related.”  What I mean is that it’s possible for a kid to start out with hip pain.  He rests, it gets better, and he goes back to playing. A few weeks later, he has back pain.  He rests, it gets better, he goes back. A few weeks later, he rolls his ankle. Something is going on here.  It appears as though the injuries are unrelated, but there’s a good chance they are. A good therapist, doctor, or experienced strength coach may be able to figure out what’s happening through a comprehensive evaluation, and it’s important to address it before it becomes worse.

Sometimes, you’ll have to talk to a coach about what’s going on with your child.  A coach who says it’s “my way or the highway” may not be a great partner when it comes to your child’s health.  Now you’re dealing with politics, and you might have to tip-toe around things to ensure you’re prioritizing your child’s well-being.  Most coaches know sports and care about kids, but very few are also medical professionals who know exactly how to handle injuries. It’s very important to work with coaches when possible and defer to their judgment on certain things.  It’s also important to recognize when your child is in a dangerous situation, and you may have to step in to do what’s best for your child. This can get really tricky (and should probably be a separate letter), so let’s just hope your coach cares about your child’s well-being.  

The second part of this injury equation is how the injuries are handled.  Far too often, I see parents take kids to their pediatrician for orthopedic issues that the pediatrician simply isn’t trained to treat.  This is NOT the pediatrician’s fault. They are amazing doctors, but their training probably wasn’t in orthopedic injuries. It’s the same reason you wouldn’t go to a podiatrist for a heart issue.  Or you wouldn’t ask a basketball coach to correct your golf swing.

Find the expert for the specific issue you’re dealing with.

How do you find the right person?  It’s important that you take charge of these situations by doing some research.  Find someone in your area that knows a lot of other health care professionals, and ask for some guidance.  Physical therapists and athletic trainers often know the experts in their area, so they are a great resource.  Some strength coaches and primary care physicians are also great resources.  

Just explain what the issue is, and ask if they know who the experts are.  You can walk into any physical therapy clinic to ask questions like this, and they should be happy to help if they can.  You can also call or stop into a doctor’s office. You might not see the doctor, but they’ll get a message and someone will offer help.  

Don’t be scared to ask questions and find the right person.  Too many people say things to me like “my neighbor is a ______, so I go to him/her for every issue.”  Well, MY neighbor is an outstanding ER doc, but I didn’t go to him for my thumb surgery. Find the right person.  

There are so many different injuries associated with sports, and they are definitely going to happen.  When they do, just make sure you are covering all of your bases by looking into why the injury occurred and finding the right professional to address it. 

I hope this helps keep your kids safe.



Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and Director of the Total Performance Training Center in Wixom, MI.  He has authored multiple books, articles and training products and has spoken at events around the world.  He holds a BS in Exercise Science, an MS in Kinesiology and has gone through multiple certifications through the IYCA, NSCA, NASM and more.  Jim is a former college strength & conditioning coach and has trained thousands of athletes at every level of competition.  He runs a successful NFL Combine training program in Michigan and has been hired as a consultant for major sports programs like the University of Michigan Football Program and the University of Kentucky Basketball Program.


To learn more from Jim, check out the IYCA Certified Speed & Agility Specialist course.  The CSAS is the most comprehensive and scientifically sound speed certification in the athletic development profession.  It truly prepares you to teach and develop speed.  Click on the image below to learn more.

speed & agility certification

Letter to Parents: From Jim Kielbaso – Let Them Struggle

Dear Parents of Young Athletes,

One of the most important skills your child can learn from sports and training is how to struggle with something and eventually overcome it. 

Unfortunately, it can be pretty difficult for us to watch our kids struggle, and our natural instinct is to help them so they don’t have to experience that pain.  Trust me, I have a hard time with this as a dad, too, so I understand. It’s hard to watch my kids struggle and fail because it breaks my heart. But, kids grow exponentially faster, and become more resilient, when they learn how to work hard and struggle for something they want.  

I recently heard Olympic figure skating champion Mark Hammill talk about the years leading up to his massive success.  He said that all anyone ever wants to talk about are his successes, but he talked about how important it was for him to lose and fail over and over again before that.  He talks about how it developed tenacity and a thirst for success because he hated the feeling of losing. The struggles are what turned him into a champion.

If we rush in to rescue our kids from every obstacle in their way, they’ll never learn how to do it for themselves, and they may never develop the grit it takes to succeed in any endeavor.  We all know that life is full of obstacles, so we better help them learn how to overcome them.  

As hard as it is to watch your child fail, teach them how to turn setbacks into comebacks.  Michael Jordan often talks about how impactful it was for him to get cut from his high school basketball team.  That year, he probably grew more than any other year of his life because he wanted to prove his coaches wrong. That setback helped him develop a mindset, attitude and work ethic that propelled him on to become one of the greatest basketball players of all time.  Had he made that team, it’s possible that he would have never developed that spirit, and we might not even be talking about him.

There is a saying in sports that pretty much sums it all up – “skills from struggles.”  

Growth comes when people are challenged just above their skill level.  This forces us to learn something new, try a little harder, and understand things more thoroughly because we have to keep up with those around us who can already perform the task we’re struggling with.  Of course, putting a child in a situation where they are completely over their head can be demoralizing, so it’s important to give kids appropriate challenges so they can feel a sense of accomplishment as they improve.  

Kids who achieve early successes without having to work hard will often get passed up later in life as others learn how to work hard and overcome setbacks.  Early achievers need larger challenges than others at a young age to keep them constantly improving rather than being satisfied with simply being better than kids on their team.  

I’ve seen this happen many, many times in my career, and I even see it in very talented high school athletes who struggle mightily in college because they have never had to work extremely hard to keep up. They get very discouraged, their confidence drops, and they often end up giving up on the sport they were so good at when they were young.  

I also see the parents of these kids get very frustrated and wonder what happened to their super-talented child.  

The same principle applies to other areas of our lives such as academics, work, and social situations.  We don’t necessarily need to “encourage” mistakes, but we often learn much more from difficult situations than when things are easy.  Let your kids learn that they may fail a test if they don’t study. Let them have friends get angry if they aren’t good friends. Let them get fired from a job for not working hard.  Let them sit on the bench when they don’t practice hard. Let them experience painful feelings.

And, don’t rush to rescue them from these difficult situations.  You don’t have to pile on and ridicule them for making mistakes, but try to look at these struggles as opportunities for your kids to learn valuable skills.  Just try to balance being “there for them” with letting them struggle.  

So, while it may tear your heart out to watch your child struggle, it’s probably exactly what they need once in a while to help them learn how to dig down and figure out how to get better.  This is probably going to hurt you more than them, so good luck with this….and wish me luck too.  



Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and Director of the Total Performance Training Center in Wixom, MI.  He has authored multiple books, articles and training products and has spoken at events around the world.  He holds a BS in Exercise Science, an MS in Kinesiology and has gone through multiple certifications through the IYCA, NSCA, NASM and more.  Jim is a former college strength & conditioning coach and has trained thousands of athletes at every level of competition.  He runs a successful NFL Combine training program in Michigan and has been hired as a consultant for major sports programs like the University of Michigan Football Program and the University of Kentucky Basketball Program.


To learn more from Jim, check out the IYCA Certified Speed & Agility Specialist course.  The CSAS is the most comprehensive and scientifically sound speed certification in the athletic development profession.  It truly prepares you to teach and develop speed.  Click on the image below to learn more.

speed & agility certification

Letter to Parents – From Jim Kielbaso: Balancing Skills & Athleticism

Dear Parents of Young Athletes,

I get it.  You want your kid to be better at sports.  And, taking a lesson this week (hitting, shooting, dribbling, etc.) from a sports skills coach will produce a quick results so your child will experience success this weekend. 

I have three boys who play sports, so I definitely understand where you’re coming from.  We all want our kids to succeed. 

It makes logical sense: work on a skill + use it in a game = success & happy kids.

It seems easy, and it’s not necessarily wrong.  It’s just not a complete equation.  

Make no doubt, working on skills will help.  A good coach will help a soccer player pass, trap, and dribble better.  A good hitting coach will refine your swing and help you get more hits. And, a good volleyball coach will help you serve, bump, and hit better.  

It will definitely help…to a certain extent.

Just remember that improving sports skills does not necessarily mean that their overall athleticism is improving.  These two things are very intertwined, but also very different.

Just so we’re on the same page, “athleticism” refers to things like body control, speed, coordination, balance, quickness, kinesthetic awareness, and the way a person moves. 

Sports skills are all about technical expertise at skills like dribbling, shooting, hitting, etc.  Being more athletic makes it much easier to learn and master sports skills, but being good at sports skills does not necessarily make an athlete more “athletic.”

The traits involved in athleticism lay the foundation for most sports and are typically developed before age 14. They can certainly be improved well beyond age 14, but it becomes much more difficult to change the way an athlete moves as they get older because motor patterns (the way our nervous system organizes firing patterns to create and control movement) are more ingrained at this point.   A young person’s nervous system has much more “plasticity” which is essentially the ability to change, adapt, and learn new skills. This is also why it’s usually easier for young kids to learn a new language.

A highly athletic, low-skilled soccer player can easily get into position to make a play, but may not be able to take full advantage of the opportunity because of the low technical skills.  On the other hand, a highly-skilled, low-athleticism player can control the ball, but won’t be able to get into position where their skills can best be utilized.  

Athletes who have both traits have a very high ceiling.  

Both traits can be improved, but it is much harder to develop athleticism later in life than it is for a good athlete to improve skills.  In fact, many world-class athletes didn’t focus on their “main sport” until after age 14, so there is plenty of evidence showing that “good overall athletes” can develop great skills later (there are certainly exceptions to this, but I’m not trying to cover every aspect of every sport in this short letter).  While good athletes can pick up new skills later, the opposite is not true.  A young, highly skilled, low-athleticism athlete will often get passed up when highly athletic kids start to practice their skills.

Getting passed up is frustrating for everyone, and is often the reason kids stop playing or enjoying sports.  It’s the result of short-term development, and it’s much more difficult to address later in the developmental process.  That’s why it’s so important to spend time on these things with young athletes.

So, I’m not telling you to stop practicing your sport.  Not even close. There is no doubt that practice will pay off.

Just don’t forget to work on overall athleticism, especially at a young age when it’s much easier to develop.  It’s actually pretty easy to insert athletic development activities into sports practices, but coaches have to understand and appreciate the concepts of athletic development rather than focusing exclusively on sports skills.  

The hard part for parents to understand is that you won’t necessarily see the benefits immediately.  Developing coordination and athleticism takes a long time and won’t help your kid make the last second shot this weekend.  Developing an athlete is a long-term proposition that requires patience and balance. Just make sure your child is working on things like speed, balance, and coordination just as much as sports skills at a young age so it’s easier for them to refine their skills later.  



P.S. If you are a parent who likes to further their education, you can learn more about how to Train athletes from Start to Finish in this free resource

Jim Kielbaso is the President of the IYCA and Director of the Total Performance Training Center in Wixom, MI.  He has authored multiple books, articles and training products and has spoken at events around the world.  He holds a BS in Exercise Science, an MS in Kinesiology and has gone through multiple certifications through the IYCA, NSCA, NASM and more.  Jim is a former college strength & conditioning coach and has trained thousands of athletes at every level of competition.  He runs a successful NFL Combine training program in Michigan and has been hired as a consultant for major sports programs like the University of Michigan Football Program and the University of Kentucky Basketball Program.