Top 3 Mistakes in Youth Sports Training


Youth Sports Training

It is customary to see young athletes being taught and drilled on how to run as fast as possible in a straight line.


Coaches spend hours teaching the mechanics of ‘linear speed’.  Arm drive, hip drive, ankle push, forward lean – all the usual suspects.  Whether on a high speed treadmill, gymnasium floor or football field, anywhere you go, you’ll likely see Coaches teaching the techniques of running fast in a straight line moving forward.


Now, I don’t really have any fundamental issue with respect to this style of training.  I could (and will) argue that virtually every sport is played in a non-linear format and so spending time on the mechanics of an exercise that a young athlete won’t typically ever need in a sporting situation is paramount to a large waste of time.


But young athletes (as you will read later) need to be exposed to as much training stimulus as possible – in all formats.  In that, no training style should ever be considered ‘not worth the time’ when we’re talking about preadolescent or high school aged athletes.


But the fact that linear speed training is both taught and drilled INSTEAD of more functional and useable styles of speed and agility work is where I draw the concern.


Football, baseball, soccer, basketball, volleyball – you name the sport.  Very seldom does a young athlete need to sprint forward with proper form; and they almost never hit ‘top-end-speed’ for any length of time.  If you look at any of the sports from a positional standpoint, that reality is even less likely.


Sports are multi-directional and varying in speed.  Young athletes must be taught how to move efficiently and quickly at angles (not just forward) and be ingrained with the knowledge and ability of how to decelerate (stop) and shift (change directions) as fast as possible.


Sport speed isn’t about straight lines.  It’s about angular quickness and the ability to re-accelerate.

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5 Responses

  1. Dr. Kwame M Brown says:


    Are you saying that the kids are asking: when are we going to race?

    If so, that’s because they want to play. The surest way to get faster is to desire it. The key for younger kids is to find little “games” that will achieve the desired result.

    Case in point:

    “ok, let’s race, but like jumping beans. Bounce off two feet like a jumping bean (demo)” Now, within the race game, you can coach good “technique” like a cheerleader. “if you pump your knees up and down and bounce off the ground, you’ll go faster!” Then try in different directions, i.e., only facing sideways, backwards. Have them use chalk to draw parallel squiggly lines on the ground and have them race along their lines to build change of direction.

    Progress to single leg hopping with all of the above when they are ready. Eventually (emphasis on eventually), this will translate into better change of direction technique. Technique is not built through instruction only, but for younger children is built mainly through feel and time.

  2. Brendan Murry says:

    Hello Brian, Cad e mar ata tu (how are you).

    I wanted to become a good coach, so I equipped myself with the latest knowledge of drills for improving running technique.
    Just one small problem, especially from the younger ones.
    When are we going to have a race?
    You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink!

  3. Hi Brian I also want to learn some new techniques in football. However I don’t what type stamina training will I have to give for my players. If you have a site please give me one. Thanks

  4. Brendan Murry says:

    Yes, that’s good.

    But also when the children ask “when are we going to have a race”, it is because they find the drills boring, and unlike the coach they don’t see any benefit in doing such drills.

    It is just like recruits in the army marching around a square, they just do it because there is an instructor shouting at them.

  5. Dr. Kwame M. Brown says:


    Yes, I would submit that you are correct about that. Your task as a play guide is to use those clues from the children to make the drill bend to their needs, not bend them to the drill, right? I would also submit to you that if young children don’t see, or more to the point, feel, a benefit of a “drill”, then turn it into a game. Otherwise, it becomes a worthless, mindless, repetition (the worst kind). The whole point is to connect them, mind body and spirit, to what you’re doing. Let them guide you as much as you guide them.

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