Training Young Athletes
For the purposes of this article, let me say this:
“Kids” is a term I will use to encompass everyone who inhabits the ages of 6 – 18.
Athletes and Non-Athletes alike.
Miniature superstars, bench-warmers and the overweight, will all be lumped under the same umbrella.
And simply stated, I do this because the development parameters of physical stimulus needed for ALL ‘kids’ is the same – at very least in the beginning phases of training spectrum.
Training stimulus with this demographic is guided, primarily, by physiology.
You train to the organism, not the apparent needs of the young athlete or any potential concerns – for example, increasing the speed of an 8 year old running back or arm strength of a 10 year old pitcher would amount to ‘apparent needs’ when training young athletes. Attacking measures of calorie restriction and ‘fat loss’ protocol would be examples of ‘potential concerns’.
Instead, your focus must be on the organism itself.
What a young organism needs to experience in the way of physical stimulus can largely be deduced by chronological age. Certainly biological age (relative body maturation), emotional age (psychological maturation) and even personality (temperament) can all be factored into the equation, but I have found in my 13 year career that chronological age determents can be successfully applied in 90% of the cases – the remaining 10% can be accounted for through proper coaching and identification.
Having said all that, the following is a brief rundown of the physical needs of ‘kids’ based on chronological age:
6 – 9 Years Old:
:: Guided Discovery – implying that Coaches and Trainers must create games and exercises that involve a variety of movement and guidelines in terms of execution, but allow the ‘kids’ to explore on their own. This phase is terribly critical for establishing ‘Athletic Intelligence’ and sets the seeds for increased complexity of training in the future
:: Outcome-Based Coaching – Coaches and Trainers must restrict their commentary and praise to that of ‘outcome’ oriented verbiage. For example, when asking a 7 year old to pick up a medicine ball and throw it forward using a chest-pass motion, provide praise on that and that alone with respect to successful execution. Comments pertaining to form are not required and can impede the natural development of ‘kids’ with respect to establishing ‘Athletic Intelligence’.
10 – 13 Years Old:
:: Learning Exploration – Not dissimilar to Guided Discovery, ‘kids’ must still be encouraged to discover what proper execution feels like on their own. However, as emotional maturation increases (and while neural plasticity or adaptability is still high) it is also critical to start teaching the essence of primal patterns. Educating ‘kids’ on how to produce and resist force, create angles or accelerate/decelerate becomes an increasingly important part of the training process.
This is a rough overview. I admit it.
But learning exactly how to work with ‘kids’ in a training environment is a process of education unto itself.
Just know this for starters:
It’s not about Sets & Reps – it’s about instructing technique through a developmental process.
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