Archive for “athletes” Tag

Retaining HS Athletes from Sport Season to Sport Season

Keeping HS Athletes from Season to Season

RAW and UNCUT with Jim Kielbaso (seriously…if you want to laugh, you need to watch this video in its entirety…in this video, Jim and Julie get taken by surprise…and it was really worth leaving in)

In this video, Jim Kielbaso talks about an all-too-common issue that High School Strength & Conditioning professionals deal with daily! Retaining athletes from season to season.

High School Strength & Conditioning professionals have the power to educate and coordinate one of the most important programs in a kids athletic career, their Strength & Conditioning Program.

It isn’t always easy, but it IS the best thing for the athlete.

Take the time to talk to other coaches and parents of your athletes to provide a program that is the most conducive to their success. WATCH the video above to learn more about retaining athletes from sport season to sport season.

Want to Help Your Athletes Get Prepared to Perform?


5 Injury Myths You Need to Know

Injury Myths: What You Need to Know

football-619243_640Does it just seem that some people are more injury prone than others? I know this from personal experience, I was one of them.

Perhaps that’s what drove me to become a physical therapist—a yearning to understand what was wrong with me.

Along the way I learned a few things and with that, I now share with you my favorite 5 Injury Myths.

5 Injury Myths

Injury Myth #1: “A Torn Rotator Cuff is a Torn Rotator Cuff. Doesn’t Matter How It Happened.”

The cause of injury is just as important as the injury itself.

I remember once having a 45-year-old male construction worker and an 18-year-old baseball pitcher both in rehab at the same time for reconstructed rotator cuffs.

What stood out in that moment was the athlete saying, “Oh, he has the same thing as me.” Not even close.

The construction worker was carrying a ladder over his shoulder and turned a corner, hit a wall, and it jerked his arm backward causing a forceful twisting of the shoulder, shredding the rotator cuff.

The baseball pitcher was the result of throwing 150+ pitches a game, back-to-back days for several years. These two injuries are not the same.

The construction worker’s injury was the result of instantaneous load that exceeded his ability to control motion. The baseball player’s injury was from years of microtrauma. The former was an accident, and the later was more deliberate.

These two are not rehabilitated the same way or for the same purpose due to age, cause, and desired return to a specific activity.

Injury Myth #2: “Kids heal faster than adults. You don’t need to worry about them as much.”

Oh contraire! Adults have fully formed, constructed body parts that when damaged, a blueprint exists to reform the broken parts.

It sure won’t occur as fast as children but the body’s healing mechanisms have an idea of where everything is supposed to go.

Children, particularly athletes, are in the process of writing the blueprints.

There is a pre-determined set of instructions that is being edited daily by the forces of physics. With enough beating and breaking, even the most resilient athlete may result in having these blueprints messed up.

I am not talking about legs and arms that are 3 inches shorter or longer. I am referring to subtler things such as lower legs that are prone to shin splints or bony formations in the shoulder from inappropriate friction. This stuff shows up later.

It is imperative that the body tissues get to the finish line, fully completed, and ready for the decades of life to come.

Injury Myth #3: “The more it hurts the worse the injury is.”

Pain is not input, it is output. Past experiences, desire, experience with handling injury, mood, environment, and education are just a few of the things that cause pain.

In our multi-billion dollar youth sports world that is high competition and high volume (both of which need a bit of balancing but that is for another blog post) this idea of pain is tricky.

Pro Tip: If there are concerns, it is best to leave it to the professionals. When your car starts making funny noise, unless you are a mechanic, you don’t open up the hood and start moving things around. Same with your young athlete—take them to the shop for a diagnostic and tune up.

Injury Myth #4: “Swelling is not a big deal as long as the body part is wrapped.”

Swelling does something funny to body parts, particularly joints: it makes them work pretty crappy.

Swelling is the body’s natural response to damage—starting an inflammation process to get rid of damaged tissue and restore parts to normal working order. It also shuts down muscle activity to help facilitate this regeneration.

Pro Example: Clinically, if I have an athlete recovering from an ACL surgery and during the course of sports conditioning the knee gets really swollen, I will shut everything down. Why? Because I know that thigh muscle is going to fire as fast or as strong due to the joint swelling. That could impact the stability of the joint, putting the ACL at risk. This could also be true that the same swelling makes the knee less responsive, sluggish if you will.

Fluid is not compressible, which is why we have hydraulic systems in our cars. It helps transfer energy from one area to the other because fluid cannot compress.

Everything else in your body, including nerves, ligaments, muscles, even bones are compressible and that fluid pressure wreaks havoc on all the parts affected.

Injury Myth #5: “If it hurts, just take some anti-inflammatories and it will be fine.”

I would like a few doctors to give their two-cents on this one but I am happy to stick with this simple statement: Stop it.

Children are not adults. If you have an athlete that is taking fifteen 200mg tablets of ibuprofen every day to get him through hockey season, just sit down and ask yourself, why?

bandage-1235337_640If your doctor made this suggestion then follow orders.

There is a reason for this, but if it’s because this OTC, cheap treatment gets your athlete through the day and without it they are miserable, limping blobs of pain, then there is no understanding of “the why”.

Almost every serious overuse injury that resulted in missing whole seasons or having surgery before the age of 20 has a similar backstory.

Many times parents and athletes do not report this to the doctor. They weren’t hiding anything, they just thought this was the norm and wasn’t worth mentioning. THIS IS NOT NORMAL!

A drug that has interactions on the body should not be taken lightly just because the athletic world has been eating them like Skittles for decades.

Dr. Keith Cronin, DPT

Get Your Prepared to Perform Free Gift Today

Learn how to leverage the Long Term Athletic Development Model to ensure your athletes are prepared to perform. In expert Wil Fleming’s free 7-minute video and PDF checklist, he covers how to create a training system that prepares young athletes to move better, get stronger and enhance their performance.

Learn More

About the Author: Keith J. Cronin

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

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


The Difference Monitoring Can Make: Part 3

Top Two Ways Monitoring Can Make a Positive Impact

In part 1 and part 2 of this blog, I discussed three things: why we monitor, considerations for monitoring and how we monitor at the high school level.

In this blog, I am going to outline the top 2 ways in which monitoring can be applied to make a positive impact in your program.

#1: Relationships

FootballRelationships are paramount at any level, but especially at the high school level. High school age athletes are very impressionable, and it is a great time to have a major impact on their lives.

Different monitoring methods present the opportunity to ask questions and develop deeper relationships with your athletes.

Here are some example question scenarios:

  • I see you slept 4 hours? Is there something going on I can help with?
  • Your academic stress was rated high yesterday? Is school pretty tough right now?
  • I see you rated practice hard yesterday. Are you feeling sore?

Simple questions like this give great insight into where your athletes are physically, mentally and emotionally.

Pro Tip: Using these techniques have always allowed me to get to know my athletes on a deeper level, and help meet them where they are from a training standpoint.

These interactions with your athletes should be a daily ritual for you as a coach.

#2: Training Adjustments (Off the Script)

Monitoring allows the coach to make educated decisions on what the training day should look like.

There is a time and a place to push through adversity, but it is not every time you train. There must be an ebb and flow to your training.

We use an APRE/RPE method to account for readiness that I detailed in the blog Monitoring Part 2 – Monitoring Tools that Every Coach Needs.

Volume, intensity and exercise manipulation can also be used to help reduce stress in a session.

Pro Tip: Here is an example on how we adjust training volume that would be used to account for the fatigue of the athlete.

Original Workout

Power Clean 6×3
Front Squat 5×5
DB Bench Press 5×10

Adjustment (Off the Script) Workout

Clean Pull 4×3
Front Squat 3×5
DB Bench Press 3×10

Pro Tip: Here is an example on how we adjust training intensity that would be used to account for the fatigue of the athlete.

Lift Volume Original % Adjusted %
Power Clean 6×3 60, 65, 75, 80, 85, 90 60, 65, 75, 75, 80, 80
Front Squat 5×5 60, 65, 70, 75, 80 50, 55, 60, 65, 70


Monitoring is only valuable if you apply the information that is collected to benefit your athletes in a useful manner.

The takeaway for monitoring is to make the data you collect work for you in order to make a positive impact on your athletes on a personal as well as physiological level.

I have outlined two ways in which monitoring is extremely beneficial in a fast-paced high school environment. Frequent personal interactions with your athletes will yield large results in the long run, and monitoring presents regular opportunities to make these interactions happen.

Training adjustments that were outlined can be applied to any facet of training including the weight room, speed development or your conditioning program to meet your athletes where they are on any given training day.

About the Author: Fred Eaves

Fred EavesFred Eaves
– BIOFORCE Conditioning Coach Certified
– 2015 NSCA H.S. Strength Coach of the Year
– 2013 Samson Equipment & AFM H.S. Strength Coach of The Year

3 Ways to Optimize Performance of the Mind

Optimizing Performance of the Mind

Get three case-study examples and mental toughness tips from Sport Psychology Expert, Dr. Haley Perlus…for FREE!

Who else wouldn’t want the ability to help athletes develop the mental side of their game and eliminate the fears and roadblocks that may be preventing them from their true potential?

Mental toughness training is becoming more prevalent in the youth fitness and performance arena. With the pressure to “be your best”, coaches, trainers and parents are looking for the edge.

Packaging physical and mental toughness into one athlete is a rare thing, but the athletes that have this are certainly among the ones that stand out. The good news is you have the ability to train athletes to use their brain in any game.

3 Things that will Improve Your Athlete’s Mental Toughness

Below are three things that you can start talking about today that will improve your athlete’s mentality and mental toughness.

#1: Practice Being Present

BrainPresence of mind is important in all training. We may channel this into focus in some cases. In their younger years, kids are familiar with what focus means, but don’t realize that practicing it can improve effort and outcomes.

To be truly present, no matter the age, an athlete can channel their thoughts into one bucket or one area. This could be a focal point or an idea.

Practice having your athlete focus on one thing. For example, a single leg hold is a great tool to demonstrate the importance of being present. If their eyes are wandering and mouths are chattering, it’s likely they will not be able to accomplish the hold.

Identify this as an example of being present and focused. This skill will be integral as they grow into their bodies and future movements.

Pro Tip: Use this exercise with older athletes as well. Take it one step further and relate it back to their sport or training. Adjust the amount of time that you require focus, depending on their age and abilities.

Question for Your Athlete(s): When will you need to use this kind of presence/focus during a game or during training?

#2: Retrain Your Brain

MindsetPatterns and habits are all shaped and molded by experience. Often, athletes think that “what is” is “what has to be”.

It is possible to retrain your brain, and as a performance coach you need to recognize when and how to help your athletes do that.

Reframing thoughts can be challenging, and it takes patience and practice. It’s about turning “I CAN’T do that” into “I CAN do that”.

Eliminate certain vocabulary that negatively impacts the athlete’s mind.

Words like can’t, won’t and don’t can trigger negative responses. Think in terms of can, will and do. Here is an example:

WHAT YOU HEAR: I can’t hit the ball.

REFRAMED: I can hit the ball when I focus on seeing the ball into the zone.

Pro Tip: Focus on the can’s, will’s and do’s of training.

Question for Your Athlete(s): How can you turn that statement into a statement that is positive?

#3: No Thinking Allowed

stupidOverthinking leads to underperforming. Parents and coaches fill the brains of athletes with things they need to think about and instructions like “do this” and “do that”.

It’s time to put the brakes on.

Pro Tip: Create cue words that elicit a response that you want, but doesn’t overcomplicate the process.

Athletes should know that they don’t need to think about things all the time. Sometimes they need to stop thinking in order to let the real magic happen.

Recognize the athletes that overthink innately, and be tactful in your approach to teaching. Overcoaching leads to underperforming too…which is just another way of saying, stop filling their heads with useless information.

When the outcome is there, let it be. If it isn’t, and you aren’t getting there…let it go for the day and say “no thinking allowed.”


There are many practical and applicable ways to help your athletes achieve mental toughness. Get free access on how to discover ways to help your athletes overcome their greatest fears and conquer obstacles.

Julie Hatfield

The Power of Pulling

A Complete Progression for All Athletes Who Want Power and Success

If you have been following the IYCA and those that contribute to their content, you have probably heard the training philosophy: 2 pulls for every 1 push.

Tug of WarWhile I agree that pulling strength is incredibly important, I think it’s necessary to step back and understand what a stronger backside can do for an athlete.

First and foremost, just like their adult “desk jockey” counterparts, young athletes sit ALL DAY LONG. Combine that with heavy backpacks, phones and tabletswe know that their posture sucks!

Activating and strengthening the over-lengthened posterior chain muscles (lats, glutes, hamstrings, etc.) via pulling exercises will counteract the effects of teenage living, at least briefly.

Pro Tip: A much more important reason for an athlete to train the posterior chain, is the ability to push. Yes, you read that correctly, PUSH!

Look at most of the texts with a training program for athletes. You are much more likely to find Bench, Squat, Deadlift, Military Press or Strict Overhead Press than you will Chin-ups or Rows.

First of all, the Press, Overhead or Bench tends to elicit more total body activation.

Since pushing or pressing is much more common athletically than pulling is, pulling movements take an accessory role compared to pressing movements.

If you have ever taken a group of young athletes through the shoulder mobility screen via FMS, you will see a majority that have fantastic mobility but massive winging and an overextended rib cage. These factors, if ignored, could have terrible consequences for an athlete that is thrown directly into overhead pressing.

Given the proper progressions for vertical pulling and building the musculature around the scapula, an athlete will be set up for success in overhead pressing patterns.

To develop a strong, athletic press for athletes, they need to progress through vertical pulling progressions!


Half Kneeling Single Arm Resistance Band Rows

This is usually the most confusing exercise for our athletes when they see their first program because we don’t have a cool or creative name for it. Therefore, it looks like this:

HK SA RB Rows…Yikes!

Two things are happening here:

  1. The athlete is learning half kneeling, thereby, glute activation/hip flexor lengthening tied into a rowing patternreversing postures experienced all day in a classroom.
  2. By doing a single arm row, the athlete can “feel” what it is like to actually move the scapula around the rib cage rather than shooting it straight back.

Notice this is NOT a vertical pull. Oftentimes, starting an athlete with a vertical pull will end in overextending the ribs, and never activate musculature to develop strength for more advanced progressions.

Pro Tip: The best cues here are simply ribs down, reach, then pull the blade into the opposite back pocket. Sometimes, it’s helpful to kinesthetically guide the athlete’s scapula through the movement after they have tried a few times themselves.

Jungle Gym Rows

We call them Jungle Gym Rows because that is the brand of suspension straps we have. Obviously most people know them as TRX rows. This is my favorite progression for upper body pulling and will likely be revisited throughout an athlete’s annual training program.

However, throughout my 10+ years as a coach/trainer, I have seen this exercise butchered much more than I have seen it done correctly.

It starts by having the athlete plank their body (legs, butt, & core active to make a straight board with their body—a plank!). Then, they need to “reach”, followed by bringing their elbows behind them.

One mistake we see is the athlete shrugging their shoulders up to make up for a weak upper back. The cue we use to eliminate that is, “shoulders away from the ears.”

The movement ends when the chest is broad and the back is extremely active.

Early on, correct athletes and have them stop short of what they think is end range. If you don’t, they will keep pulling—since it gets easier—and roll their shoulders forward, losing the upper back engagement.

Seated Lat Pulldown

Here is the first exposure our athletes have to a vertical pulling pattern. They must establish great positioning before moving on to the most demanding progressions, which is why using the seated version is the first choice.

Pro Tip: Our gym does not have a cable machine so we use resistance bands. However, if you do have a cable machine, I would still suggest having your athletes use it while sitting on the floor straight legged.

If necessary, you can put something under their pelvis, like a yoga block, to create neutral positioning of the spine during the movement.

Once they are in position, the cues are the same: “ribs down, reach, then pull the blades into the back pockets.”

This should result in a very vertical movement. The hands should come down right on top of the medial shoulder. The tendency is to overuse the anterior delts and pecs, and bring the shoulders together to achieve full range under fatigue.

Coach the athlete to keep the chest and shoulders broad, and stop before the upper body rounds to try and finish the set. The end range position looks and feels quite similar to the Jungle Gym Row, except the hands are on top of the shoulders rather than closer to the armpits.

Quality always trumps quantity here, so educate your athletes that it’s not worth it to grind out reps when their form stinks.

Recover and finish the set correctly.


Our athletes love their chin-up/pull-up days…sarcasm is hard to convey in text, but they usually don’t like chin-up/pull-up days.

That is, of course, until about junior or senior year of high school. Once they have developed the strength and worked through all the progressions, they notice that they have a stronger back and shoulders than all their friends. Then, chin-ups are the BEST! 🙂

Start teaching the pattern to athletes early. Despite a lack of strength, it develops potential for massive back, arm and grip strength. These are traits that assist greatly in the ability to press, and also make a better transition from middle school to high school sports or JV to Varsity.

Grip strength, is an undervalued asset that comes in handy when everyone is bigger than you and thinks they are stronger than you. If you can hold onto the ball or the stick and handle yourself, you gain respect from your older teammates and develop confidence.

Pro Tip: Start athletes using a band for assistance to learn a proper, vertical path for the chin-up or pull-up.

Form checks are critical early on as they often have done body weight movements like this before.

If we don’t correct them right away, we will have to backtrack later on. The same thing goes for push-ups, which you can read more about in my Pushing Power in Athletics Blog.

Don’t let an athlete do 6 chin-ups the wrong way and then correct their form only to achieve 3 the next time. That kills their confidence.

Focus the cues on pulling the blades into the back pockets and keeping the chest/shoulders broad, reinforcing the carry over from the lat pulldown to the chin-ups. It’s great to break a set up into increments early on.

Pro Example: If we want 24 reps of work, instead of doing 3 sets of 8 reps, we would write it in their program as 3 sets of 2 reps 4x. When we coach it, we would explain it as, “do 2 reps perfectly and aggressively, then rest 20 seconds and repeat with the same perfection and aggression.”

They won’t always achieve perfect reps but the quality of the entire set and the 24 total reps they do will improve dramatically.

Wrapping it up

Pulling exercises for an athlete are incredibly important.

I hope you now have a better understanding of WHY they are so important for young, developing athletes and how you can better utilize these progressions in your own training programs!

ADAPT and Conquer,
Coach Jared

About the Author: Jared Markiewicz

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

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

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

Career Highlights

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

Generate Power in your Athletes with
Power Evolution

Discover, step-by-step, how to develop the most coveted trait possessed by the world’s most successful athletes.

Power Evolution

5 Reasons Your Athlete is Slow

Reasons for Slow Athletes

Speed kills in nearly every sport.

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

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

Here Are 5 Reasons Your Athlete may be Slow

Reason #1: Getting Taller

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

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

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

This is not a coincidence.

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

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

Reason #2: Asymmetry

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reason #3: Poorly Rehabilitated Injuries

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

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

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

Reason #4: Sport Selection

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reason #5: Weak Core and Hip Flexors

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

Weak Core = Slower Athlete

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Home Message

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

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

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

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


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

Dr. Keith Cronin, DPT

About the Author: Keith J. Cronin

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

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

Additional noteworthy items about Keith:

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

Easy Games with Resistance Bands

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

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

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

3 Benefits of Game Play

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


Game Play Benefit #1:

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

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

Game Play Benefit #2:

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

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

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

Game Play Benefit #3:

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

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

Play Games!

Check out these Resistance Band Games from Dave Schmitz:


Want additional games to help develop better athletes?

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

Learn More

About the Author: Julie Hatfield

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

Know What’s In Their Backpack

By Joseph Hartigan, CSCS, YFS

We as coaches have a bigger responsibility to our athletes than to simply deliver a great training session. We are in a unique profession that gives us a platform to influence children for a lifetime and not only groom athletes but build great character.

One of the easiest ways to have an influence over these impressionable minds is to coach with empathy or what we call know what’s in their backpack. Now I’m sure that plenty of your athletes drag their backpacks from school into your facility but that’s not what we’re talking about. What you want to do every time your athletes walk in the door is take a mental inventory of their body language, check their facial expressions, talk to them and check their tone. Are they as engaged and excited as usual or are they withdrawn?

The fact is we as coaches only see our athletes for maybe 3 hours a week and we have no idea what is going on for the other 165 hours. Kids these days have jam packed schedules and they are expected to excel in every aspect of their life with extreme pressure from parents and year round travel teams/coaches. A typical kid may have to wake up at 6:30 a.m. go to school get straight A’s, come train at your facility and expect to perform at the highest level possible, go to travel team practice and be a star for 2 hours, go home and study and do homework for 3 hours so they can get A’s then go to bed at 11:00 and do it all over again the next day. Couple the performance requirements from parents, teachers, and coaches with peer pressure and the ever present bullying epidemic and you can empathize with how stressed kids are these days.

athletes backpack

Picture courtesy of o5com

Knowing what’s in your athletes backpack will allow you to connect with a child and make him or her feel cared about. It is your job as a coach to realize the daily state of your athlete and tailor your coaching style to his/her present need. We must realize that the IYCA’s athlete profile can change on a daily basis both in motivation levels and skill levels, the constant stress and pressure may change the athlete’s daily readiness. So don’t generalize athletes into each category take a daily inventory and coach them as needed.

One of my athletes recently walked into the facility with a scowl on his face at 8:30 p.m. When I and another coach greeted him at the door he just walked past us completely ignoring us. We tried to greet him again and he screamed back at us “What do YOU want! In front of other clients in the lobby.” Now we as coaches had a choice as to how to react. Many coaches would be embarrassed by this and, motivated by their own pride, scream back at the kid and exert their authority position. We just started the other clients as normal ignoring the outburst. During the warm up I pulled the athlete aside and talked to him in a private room. The sophomore broke down into tears, voicing the stress of competitive high school academics, 3 hour long baseball practices, and pressure from his parents. The ensuing talk made this athlete feel cared about, someone empathized with his problems and did not simply pass them off as over dramatic teenage drama. He had the best workout of his life and at the end of the session shook my hand with a smile and looked me right in the eyes and said, “Thank You for your help.”

This athlete was in emotional distress. What would have happened if I screamed back or crushed him in a workout to avenge his attack on my pride? How would this athlete have left my training session? It certainly wouldn’t be a positive experience, he would probably label me as a terrible coach and person, and he might not show up for the next few workouts. Instead the athlete left feeling better than when he came in, he felt cared about, and he felt that no matter how stressed he is or if he can’t perform well on a given day he still has inherent value as a person.

Greet and talk to each athlete as they enter the door. Observe their body language and tone. Realize that their problems are real problems. Don’t bypass a B on a test as not a huge deal, or missing last night’s soccer goal as a non-issue. Again you have no idea how the child’s parents or coaches or teachers react to those situation’s, if the child is upset about it he has most likely already been berated and belittled or preparing him/herself for the coming storm. Know the social pressures of school, the constant and ever present bullying, the exploration of relationships, and the effect it has on these children. Do you remember your first breakup? It is not up to us as coaches to determine what is and isn’t a big deal. Empathize with your athlete, offer some advice if it is wanted, let them know you’re there to help if they need it, then direct your coaching style toward their daily need. Knowing what’s in your athletes backpack will allow you to utilize the platform you have as a coach, build and maintain quality relationships with your athletes and their parents, and help you influence the character of a generation to come.

Joe Hartigan (CSCS, IYCA) is Director of athletic performance and fitness training at Gabriele Fitness and Performance in Berkeley Heights, NJ. Joe has developed his training philosophy through years of practice training athletes ranging from 4th grade to D1 and blended it with his personal experiences while playing high school and Division 1 sports. Joe is currently writing his thesis for an MS in exercise physiology. Contact Joe at joe@gabrielefitness.com

13 Tips for Training Young Athletes

Important Differences between Training Young Athletes and Adults

By Michael Mejia

training young athletes

When training young athletes, the coach must take a different approach from one who works primarily with adults. Simply put, young athletes are different from adults and have different needs. Don’t get me wrong: Adults have their own problems, but there are a few that are much more important to keep in mind when training young athletes.

The following is a list of 13 tips that you can share with your young athletes as you prepare them for games, competitions, or simply an injury-free, athletic life. The more you can instill these principles in your athletes, the more success they will see on a regular basis.

Don’t forget: even though this is tailored for coaches training young athletes, adults can benefit from many of these principles, too!

13 Tips for Successfully Training Young Athletes

1. Drink more water

Training Young Athletes

By now, this one should go without saying. Over 70% of your body is water, and it is the number one thing your body needs for survival-not soda or Red Bull! How can you possibly expect to perform at a high level if you’re not drinking enough? How much is enough? Check out the new BASE Resource Page to find out.

2. Form is everything!

Nothing irritates me more than watching motivated athletes throw weights around with reckless abandon. I get that these athletes are young and feel invincible. I also get that many of them will do whatever is physically necessary to realize their athletic goals. That said, slinging weights all over the place is neither necessary nor is it particularly smart. Take the time to teach the proper form for lifts like squats, deadlifts, Olympic lifts and overhead presses. Once your athletes have the basic mechanics down, gradually start increasing the weight.

3. Posture is more important than you realize

Besides looking unattractive, poor posture can adversely affect your breathing, your digestion, and your risk of injury by promoting widespread muscular imbalance. This can lead to impaired performance on the field and even in the classroom!

There are a number of ways to correct poor posture. First of all, an appropriate training regimen will promote mobility and stability in the right areas, and it can strengthen key postural muscles. But by simply trying to stand and sit up a little bit straighter several times throughout the day, your athletes can help undue some of effects of all that constant texting and gaming.

4. Eat more fruits and vegetables

Here’s another area where the average kid’s diet falls woefully short. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that are lacking in many of the other foods kids tend to favor. They’re also a great way to improve immune system function, lowering their risk for developing all sorts of diseases.

Having a conversation with your athletes about the importance of eating these foods is a good start. Make sure you relate the benefits to their athletic development, academic performance, and overall growth. Then ask them if they know how to get these fruits and veggies. Most of the time, young athletes have little control over what’s in their refrigerators, so involving Mom and Dad is a great next step.

5. Want to get faster? Get stronger!

This is another fundamental of proper programming. Doing endless speed and agility drills is not always the best way to get faster. If you’re not also working to increase strength through the lower body and core, as well develop good ankle and hip mobility, then those drills are of limited value.

Instead, getting faster requires imparting force into the ground through a full range of motion. This results from strength-building, lower-body (and especially posterior-chain) exercises more so than endless drills.

6. Don’t rely on supplements

Training young athletes 5

Supplements are something you add to an already sound nutritional program; they’re not some magic elixir. Unfortunately, some athletes think that something with a nice, shiny label full of ridiculous claims can make up for a steady diet of McDonald’s and easy mac and cheese.

Again, the solution here is to start the conversation with your athletes. Some of them don’t know any better and want to get that edge over the competition. If you educate them on the value of proper nutrition—and the dangers and potential future loss-of-eligibility concerns with certain supplements—they will have a better understanding of what they need to do.

7. Change your internal dialogue

A bit of a change-up from my usual advice, but lately I’ve noticed more and more athletes engaging in negative self-talk. When they constantly say things like “I stink,” or “I’m never going to (insert athletic goal here),” how do they ever expect to succeed?

If you hear your athletes saying, “I’m a lousy free throw shooter,” stop them and get them to say, “I’m getting better and better at making free throws.” Or, if you hear them say something along the lines of “I’m not fast enough,” have them focus on saying, “My speed is improving every day.” Even if it isn’t true right away, it will start getting them in the proper frame of mind to make those changes a reality.

8. If you can’t see it in the mirror, train it!

Training Young Athletes 6

Athletes love focusing on their “mirror muscles” with lots of bench presses, crunches, and biceps curls. However, the real key to athletic success (and longevity) lies in training everything on the backside of the body.

As their coach, when training young athletes, make sure you are strengthening their upper and lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves to give their bodies much more balance and stability.

9. Sweat the small stuff

Athletes who don’t make time to warm-up thoroughly, stretch, and foam roll on a regular basis are making a huge mistake. Though frequently glossed over, these three areas represent some of the best ways for athletes to improve performance and reduce injury risk. I for one consider them every bit as important (if not more) than strength training, plyomterics, and speed and agility work.

If you don’t already do so, make warming up a priority. Go beyond this and give athletes a routine they can do on their own before practices and games. The more an athlete can prepare him or herself for athletic performance, the fewer injuries they will see and the more athletic success they will enjoy.

10. Choose whole grains whenever possible

Training Young Athletes 7

Most young athletes don’t understand the differences between refined and whole grains, so educate them on the importance of minimizing their intake of foods made with white flour such as white breads, bagels, white pasta, and even white rice. These foods bring about rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, leading to subsequent energy crashes. Instead, encourage them to opt for whole grain breads and cereals, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, and sweet potatoes.

11. Give “camp” the boot

Count me amongst those who are not big fans of boot camp training for young athletes. While great workouts for more experienced trainees who are looking to test the limits of their strength and endurance, boot camp workouts are seldom a good option for developing bodies. Contrary to popular belief, young athletes tend to do better with lower reps, especially when doing more technically proficient exercises like cleans, plyometrics, and other compound exercises. Boot camps tend to feature way too much volume, which only invites fatigue and increases injury risk.

12. Be prepared!

Whether it’s forgetting to bring enough water along to practice or not having any healthy snacks on hand, a lack of preparation can be the difference between success and disappointment. Remind your athletes to be prepared, and empower them to become self-sufficient at looking after themselves.

One good place to start is to encourage your athletes to take some time each evening to set up some nutritious meals and snacks for the next day. You might have to help them understand what is nutritious, but once you do, they will be fueled and ready to go for school and training.

13. There are no short cuts

Training Young Athletes 8

Although we sometimes have a hard time believing it, this process takes time. In fact, some say it lasts an entire lifetime!

That’s exactly why I’ve presented all of this to you in list fashion, so you can chunk things down and encourage gradual, consistent change in your athletes towards achieving their goals. I know all about the impatience of youth. Like it or not, though, if you really want these changes to stick in your athletes, it’s going to take some time. Have patience and work on each item one at a time until they become habits. With perseverance and a caring approach, your athletes will eventually respond positively.

There you have it: 13 tips for getting the most out of your athletes. The next time you run into a roadblock training young athletes, consult this list and see if one of these principles can help you break new ground.

If you want to take your game to the next level when it comes to training young athletes make sure that you start your IYCA Youth Fitness Certification today! The best of the best in the industry know that the IYCA is the ‘go-to’ resource for info on training young athletes. Get certified today!

Youth Fitness Training



Sports Skill Acquisition – 5 Tips for Young Athletes

by Dr. Toby Brooks

Sports Skill Acquisition


As a lover of all things sport since a child, my entire life has been shaped by decisions motivated primarily by how I might continue to play or be involved in competitive athletics.  It might come as little surprise, then, that my most recent (and with any luck final) professional relocation to work at Texas Tech University was at least partially motivated by a desire to provide additional athletic opportunities for my children should they choose to play sports, too.  Compared to my family’s previous home, west Texas provides significantly better opportunities, coaching, and facilities for most team sports, and Lubbock also affords access to other potential athletic exposures simply not possible where we lived before.  Simply put, should my kids decide to play or compete in just about anything short of surfing, Lubbock offers them a better chance to maximize their abilities.  And so far, they have both taken a liking to softball (daughter Brynnan, age 7) and baseball (son Taye, age 4).

That said, in my role as the IYCA’s Director of Education, as a scholar, and as an athletic trainer and a strength and conditioning specialist, I have staked my reputation behind the simple belief that early sport specialization is detrimental to the long-term success of most developing athletes.  Despite the growing trend of professional level coaching, year round travel and elite teams, and high dollar training centers catered specifically for youth, I believe that the science supports multilateral skill acquisition over early specialization any day.  How can I then espouse such beliefs on one hand yet subject my own children to the very same well intentioned yet subtly misguided behaviors on the others?  The short answer is I don’t.


Coaching Young Athletes – the Power of a Coach




Recently a very humbling thing happened to me that reminded me of the role coaches can play in young people’s lives.


If you didn’t know, earlier in my ‘professional life’ I was a Head Baseball Coach and Strength & Conditioning Coach at a small state University in Ohio.



A few days ago I was speaking with one of my former players (Ted) who is now the Head Coach at the University I coached at and he told me that in the Spring they would be hosting the Pat Rigsby Invitational Tournament – something that he and another player I coached (Brian) who is also a Collegiate Head Coach dreamed up and will have their teams participating in.



Injury Rates in Early Sport Specialization Athletes

Athlete Development vs Sport Specialization

Baby - Injury Rates in Early Sport Specialization AthletesCurrent and emerging research regarding early sport specialization versus long-term athletic development continues to support the IYCA’s stance that the long-term athletic development model, or LTAD, provides the greatest benefit to a developing athlete, in both physical and psychological aspects, over time.

Most recently, researchers at the Loyola University Health System located outside Chicago, Illinois presented the results of their study, "The risks of sports specialization and rapid growth in young athletes," at the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine annual meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Athlete DevelopmentThe results, while consistent with the IYCA’s message since inception, further illustrate the tangible risks young athletes are exposed to when their parents, caregivers, and/or coaches ascribe to the early specialization model.


Details About the Study

Athlete Development 1The study involved 154 participants (92 male, 62 female) with an average age of 13. All participants were scored using a six-point sport specialization score and other factors such as height and weight were recorded.

Athletes who had sustained injuries (85 athletes) completed another survey to further define their specific injury and their particular training habits. Results for injured athletes were compared to the uninjured control group (69 athletes).

The sport specialization score probed at several clues regarding the level of involvement a young athlete had in sports generally or in a specific sport. Questions included the following:

  • Whether athletes trained more than 75% of the time in one sport exclusively
  • Whether participation in other activities was discontinued in order to focus on one sport
  • Whether or not participation involved travel outside the state
  • Whether participation (practices, games, etc.) involved training for more than eight months in a given year
  • Whether the competition season exceeded six months per year in duration

Following data collection and analysis, researchers noted trends toward significance in two relationships:

  1. Injured athletes spent more hours per week playing sports (19.8 hours per week vs. 17 hours per week).
  2. Injured athletes spent more hours per week in organized sports (11 hours per week vs. 8.8 hours per week).

In addition, uninjured athletes average sport specialization score was 2.75. At the same time, injured athletes averaged a sport specialization score of 3.49.

Final Note

Note, the study, supported through funding from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, is considered preliminary. Researchers are currently recruiting additional participants in order to improve statistical power.

The IYCA applauds such efforts to further define the inherent risks associated with early specialization and looks forward to future efforts to better understand both the injury and performance implications associated with this practice.

Toby Brooks, PhD, ATC, CSCS, PES, YFS3

Source: Jayanthi NA, Pinkham C, Luke A. The risks of sports specialization and rapid growth in young athletes. Presented at the 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. April 30-May 4. Salt Lake City, Utah.

About the Author: Toby Brooks

Athlete DevelopmentDr. Toby Brooks is currently an Assistant Professor in the Master of Athletic Training Program at the Texas Tech University Health Science Center in Lubbock. Dr. Brooks has worked with numerous youth, collegiate, and professional athletes and previously owned and operated a youth athletic development business. He is also Co-Founder and Creative Director of NiTROHype Creative in Lubbock.

Become a Certified Youth Fitness Specialist

Learn how you can make an impact on our young athletes with the IYCA’s approach to long-term athlete development by joining thousands of other coaches and trainers as a certified Youth Fitness Specialist. Find out more today.

Youth Fitness Training


Top 5 Offseason Training Tips for Speed and Power Athletes



Offseason Training

If you’re a sprinter or sprints coach who starts getting ready for the indoor season during the fall (or for spring during the winter, etc.), here are my Top 5 Offseason Training Tips. Keep these in the front of your mind and you’ll set yourself up for another season of bringing shame upon the masses.


1. Define Your Expectations


Notice I didn’t say ‘Goals’. I don’t believe in goals. Goals are things that never actually happen. Like the dream you had last night. And tomorrow.


Expectations eliminate wiggle room, excuses and sad stories. Young athletes have lots of these. So I simply don’t allow them in my program. Think about it. Which athlete do you think will win the big race today?


The athlete with a goal: ‘My goal is to win today’.



Movement Patterns & Young Athletes

by Dr. Kwame M. Brown


First, we need to understand how the human body works during movements. In a nutshell, the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) controls the muscles so that they can move efficiently to use energy wisely and to avoid injury. The central nervous system, in turn receives information about what’s happening from the muscles. Because of this process, movement patterns become important.