The ‘X Factors’ to Training Young Athletes




Training young athletes and kids is so much more than just the
‘x’ and ‘o’ factors.


Of course a strong base of knowledge in pediatric exercise
science, motor skill development and program design is critical for
you to truly create effective training and conditioning
agendas for this specific demographic.


But here’s something that may surprise you…


I find that coaches and trainers who have big personalities and
charismatic styles are often far better with kids than professionals
who really ‘know their science’.


That is not to knock education.


The IYCA has a very involved and complex 4-tiered educational
process that has been created to be a virtual vault of scientific
information for coaches and trainers to learn.


But a great deal of our material also focuses on teaching you
how to effectively communicate with your young clients and
understand their specific learning styles.


Here’s a simple metaphor that will help you truly grasp the
importance of this intangible factor –



It’s not always what you want to say that matters…


… It’s what they want to hear.



That doesn’t mean you need to placate to your athletes or not
say what it is you need to or want to say.


But you have to relay your message in a way that it will be


This is the number one concern I see in youth sports, youth
fitness and even school.


We expect all children and teens to learn the same way and be
open to our messages irrespective of how they are offered.


13 years of working with this demographic has taught me that this
is just not the case.


Creating effective programs is the science…


But implementing them effectively is the art.


And the IYCA wants you to understand that your role as a coach
or trainer working with this demographic is not to be a
scientist, but an artist.


Understand the science.


Use it to create successful and developmentally-sound training young athletes


But BE an artists.


Learn how to implement these successful and developmentally-
sound training programs so that they are optimally received by
your audience.


Our coaching template found in the ‘Level 1 – Youth Fitness
Specialist’ certification offers a very detailed look at how to
understand your individual athletes motivation and learning


And while there is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all
approach’ to coaching, there is one specific ingredient that
you can bank on as a surefire way to make sure all your athletes
are interested in what you have to say…






Do you bring energy to each and every training session?


Are you thrilled to see your young clients – and can they tell?


Do you coach with an enthusiastic nature that is contagious?


These are the questions you must ask yourself when you are training young athletes.


Coaching, learning and communication variances per athlete are
unique and the ‘Level 1’ material certainly gives you a massive
amount of information in terms of understanding it all.


But ‘energy’ is the single factor you can bring to the table
each and every time.


It’s what makes the difference between a good coach and a great


Challenge yourself to bring the energy each time you’re in front
of your athletes.


Better yet – bring it one day and not the next.


See for yourself how much differently your athletes respond to
you and how much more involved they become in your training


More than the ‘x’ and ‘o’ factors, my friend…



8 Responses

  1. Mo Skelton says:

    Great info we tend to forget on the energy spectrum. I get too focused on my goals instead of letting kids enjoy the journey. I am running a sports performance camp this summer. Your info will help.


  2. […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptTraining kids and young athletes is so much more than just the ‘x’ and ‘o’ factors, %$firstname$%. Of course a strong base of knowledge in pediatric exercise science, motor skill development and program design is critical for … […]

  3. Donovan Owens says:

    Brian, this is exactly what we all need to hear. Teaching a youth athlete is not just about, how strong they are or how fast they can be….it’s about tapping in and stimulating the emotion that drives the young athlete to want to be better, their best. An athlete won’t excell just because you want them to….but they will grow and develop, sometimes exceptional level, if you provide the right stimulus, communication and tools.
    It’s not about the “trainer”, it’s about all the youth athletes in the world that need correct and gently guidance from a qualified and engaged “teacher” or “coach”.

    Thanks Brian

  4. peter eno says:


    a great motivational approach when teaching youth fitness and exercise, is to personally make each kid feel at ease and not self concious.
    this is accomplished by initially speaking with the group, explaining to them that the main goal is fun, and that somewhere into the session everyone will need help at some point. tell them you will help them , but also, ask them to help each other. this removes any competitiveness amongst the group, and encourages them to participate, and inspires them to try new and more challenging tasks, movements, exercises, etc. also, personally tell each individual how much fun you had working with them. individual positive reinforcement is the key to whether a kid continues in a program or not. but remember: no program will prevail if it’s not fun!!

    just my thoughts, experience and approach.


  5. Steve Totten says:

    I have been an ice skating/hockey coach for the past 4 yrs. I have found that if the energy is there and positive feedback is there they will enjoy the sport that they are in. Yet I also find there is another aspect that is equally important. In my case it would be the fear of failing or falling. It seems that society has put this stigma out there that in order for you to be successful, in sports or life, you have to be perfect. This gives the athletes still more stress. I find that when I tell my students it is ok to fall/fail because that is the way we learn new skills, they are more egar to try again, and again, and again. If you don’t fail then you can’t learn. It seems to me that if we as coaches take out this fear of failure they are more relaxed and can enjoy what they are doing even more because that pressure isn’t there. This is a minset that we have to instill in them evertime we are with them. Most of society says perfection = success. I say that failure= success. These 3 issues I find are the foundation of coaching our students to not only enjoy their sport but very important life lessons. That’s what we are here for, right?

  6. Brian Grasso says:

    Excellent comments, all – Thank you!

    Steve, I really enjoyed your post.

    Agreed completely. Sports are a conduit for life and life lessons.

    I think your point that we must encourage our young athletes that there is nothing wrong with ‘not performing well’ is essential. My training sessions always start with the same 3 instructions:

    1. Don’t talk because if you’re talking you aren’t listening to me

    2. Have fun

    3. You don’t have to be perfect… all you have to do is try hard

    This ‘releases’ the kids and allows them to just work hard and make valid attempts at everything.

    Critical for the learning experience.

    Thank you for your comment!


  7. Jackie Hibbler says:

    This advice is something I need to hear over and over again! Great stuff! I, myself, focus on creating the “perfect” plans for my summer speed camps…I know there is no such thing! I suffer from information overload and somehow I think I’m going to be able to use ALL of it in a session! Baloney! Your timely message was certainly a reality check for me! Thanks! Jackie

  8. Andy sasimowicz says:

    I would be interested to know just how much if any the young children in the USA recieve regarding parental expectation?Here in the soccer academies in UK many children are not allowed to prosper without some devine parental pressure or over egoistic coaches.I am afraid that for everyone good teacher, we have 10 misinformed who just do not know how to develop children let alone give them the freedom to express and enjoy themselves and win if possible but without fear of failure.

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