Youth Sports Injuries Can Be Avoided
Jim Ochse is an athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa. He serves as athletic trainer for the women’s Volleyball, men’s and women’s cross-country, women’s tennis, and baseball.
During the summer, Jim presents SAQ camps for athletes from 10-18 years of age in northeastern PA.
IYCA: What’s your background in youth sports and athletics? Have you worked with young athletes?
JO: I started out as a Health and Physical Education teacher for K- 6 for several years, but was disenchanted in how physical fitness was instituted in the educational system. I then became certified as an athletic trainer and have covered all aspects of youth sports for the past 22 years. I serve as a volunteer coach for soccer, basketball, and baseball for my local youth association. During the regular school year from September to May, my main responsibility is to the college athletes at DeSales University in Pennsylvania ; however, I do talks and clinics whenever possible to youth, and have a few personal training clients that I collaborate with. During the summer months I direct a number of Speed, Agility, and Quickness camps in my local area for youth from ages 10-18. I also do one day seminars on running, and other topics such as how to incorporate stability ball training to their strength programs.
IYCA: There are a lot of coaches, parents, and even trainers who treat young athletes as if they were "little adults." What I mean by that is they will take the training routine of a superstar athlete and use it as a guide when working with youngsters. Why, if at all, should we warn them against that kind of training?
JO: I see this mentality used by both parents and youth coaches, and obviously, this type of mentality is not appropriate for developing athletes. A training routine for youth should be individualized for that particular athlete. A young athlete is not mature enough physically, psychologically, or emotionally to even perform the same type of training as an adult. They do not have the base of aerobic/anaerobic conditioning that a more mature athlete has acquired, nor should they attempt a strength program that is meant or written for an adult. With their growth plate still immature, performing strength exercises for mature athletes may predispose them to unnecessary injuries. Weight training does have its place among young athletes; however, emphasis should be place on light weights, proper form and techniques, an implemented by a well qualified coach or personal trainer.
IYCA: The age old debate is "How old should an athlete be before beginning to lift weights." What’s your view on that controversial topic?
JO: I go along with the NSCA position on weight lifting. I believe that children can even be taught Olympic type weight lifting techniques, but not use extremely heavy weights. In fact, most of my teaching at this level is with either a broomstick or at most a light barbell. I even have my 8-year daughter lifting light dumbbells, and even perform modified pushups on a Swiss Ball, and performing abs curls. Physiologically youth athletes physiologically are not capable of withstanding great weights, due to their anatomical structure and rate of maturity. I use a lot of body weight exercises such as squats, lunges, and step ups. I use upper body exercises such as push-ups, chin-ups, and resistance bands, in place of weights. I want to make sure that the young athletes have the proper techniques down. When they are older, they can worry about increasing their resistance training.
IYCA: Using your ideals, could you define "functional conditioning" for us?