Youth Fitness Industry Problems: I Need Your Input




What’s the biggest problem you see in youth fitness and sports training?


I want to know.


Your perspective will help shape the IYCA Mission.


So please, leave a comment below and share with me your thoughts on the state of youth fitness


95 Responses

  1. Rob says:

    My biggest peeve is with parents and coaches wanting a quick fix. Kids take years to developement good writing, reading and cognitive skills. Why in the world does our society think that kids will pick up athletic development in a few weeks.

  2. Cherie says:

    The biggest problems I see are that very few coaches are interested in the development of the children. They want to win and they train in a sport specific manner that is appropriate for a college-aged athlete. They see what I do as “calesthenics”. The thing that bothers me the most is that most of these “coaches” are parents who volunteer. They have no coaching background and may have never even played the sport they are trying to teach the kids!

  3. Joyce says:

    One of the biggest problems I have are the parents. I believe that those of us who train youth athletes have the opportunity to change health and fitness in the future by educating these young people. Teaching them proper form in exercise, as well as teaching them good eating habits. What we teach will go on with them throughout life whether they continue to play a sport or not. I don’t get much support from the parents on either of these. Most parents don’t understand why I don’t run the kids more. “Back when I trained…” Well, you know the rest of that story. And…on the nutrition front, I get “but they are just kids” or “I know a guy who ate 15 pancakes for breakfast and still played well.” The killer though is when they don’t play well they are sure to put some blame on the coaching!

  4. Dr. Hubel says:

    In reviewing the posts made this far, it’s interesting that we each bring a perspective to the discussion based upon our own experiences. I appreciate Leo Deering’s comment regarding a study by the U of Michigan (reference?). Since the exact reference is not provided, I cannot comment on the study; however, I have “heard” about similar outcomes of studies in which kids provide similar results.

    The biggest problem – the parents – either as a coach or as a spectator. Parents need to be educated about the psychological implications of the demands they are making on their kids by pushing them in sports. It does depend upon the kid but in some instances, the kids are not having fun, they are simply living out the parent’s sports fantasy. When the kid fails, the parent takes it out on the kid and/or the other players.

    As for coaches who are coaching their own kids at the expense of other kids, this is completely unacceptable as well. If a coach is hired to coach/teach these young athletes and their child happens to be one of the kids, they either should treat all the kids the same or recuse themselves from their coaching position until the child is out of their realm. The favoritism a coach demonstrates for his/her own child can damage other young athletes who are trying to find their place in sports.

  5. John Caarter says:

    The biggest problem I see is poor coaching, or uneducated coaches/trainers.Trying to train our kids like adults and using “blanket workouts” for all the kids reguardless of age, ability or fitness level.
    We all work with a great bunch of kids and I think I can speak for all of us involved with the “oustanding” group at the IYCA we would never allow anyone to hurt our kids. so we should try to work with the coaches and trainers in our area to help them better understand how to train our kids

  6. Brad Chapman says:

    Getting the children’s parents to bring their children to seminars and classes.

  7. Lisa Martin says:

    The biggest problem I see is that we are teaching our kids the wrong things about fitness and sports conditioning. With regard to sports, overtraining and pushing too much results in the opposite. When it comes to general fitness, we emphasize weight and the external benefits instead of teaching them about respecting their bodies and health. Research points to these kids not outliving their parents.

    We all work with some phenomenal kids and if we can teach them about self respect and taking responsibility this world will truly be an awesome place!

  8. vince james says:

    Brian excellent question!! I have been coaching youth sports sense Iwas a senior in hs. I had to learn the hard way about coaching youth sports. Played/coached and directed you programs for many years and what I have found is that education (show me how)is the best way to teach/coach both youth parents and coaches. Coaches must understand that they are a teacher first!!! They are their for all kids simply put (they must have the HEART OF A TEACHER)self agendas and personal biases have no place in youth sports,teaching/coaching/conditioning or training!! You as a Teacher/Coach/Trainer will be first judged on your honesty,sincerity and the desire that every kid you come in contact w/you want to make them better!! Parents see and sense this, then and only then will you have their full attention and respect. Then your light can shine on all of them. Rember, some know it can’t teach. If their heart is in the right place they will learn to teach it, then the results will show.

  9. Rodney says:

    Coaches who feel they know how to train because of the way they were trained, and not continuing to learn new and grow as a coach.

  10. I coach soccer (football) and the greatest problem is the perception of parents and the industry as a wholes as to what it takes to create champions from young kids.

    This perception has kids as young as 6 in adult like ‘skills and technique sessions’ with the purpose to develop little superstars is a great concern. Is seems that the more the parent thinks they know about a sport the more they push the kids to emulate the best players without regard for present age, maturation etc..

    Therefore the biggest problem and the biggest challenge is to communicate and educate the parents to the benefit of an holistic approach to development. I can see this keeping us busy for quite some time!

  11. Jim Pickford says:

    There are not any qualified trainers to deal with the youth where we live in the central Alberta area. Though many claim to be. That is why I signed up with the IYCA and am learning a ton and I will make a difference! Thank you Brian and the IYCA!

  12. Barrie Jennings says:

    The biggest problem I believe is that the game(whatever sport) must be given back to the kids.

    Too much sport training is based on the game that is formulated in the heads of coaches.

    Kids see it differently. In fact even late adolescents also see it differntly.

    It is the unpredictable, the uncertainty of the game’s outcome that engages the athlete to produce more. We should therefore teach our athletes to learn on the field of play and equip them with the skills that will help them to play the game as it unfolds.

  13. Barrie Jennings says:

    Society’s perception of fitness is; lots of running, lots of sweating, lots of gut busting exercises.

    How do we (IYCA movement) change this perception.

  14. kuldip Singh says:

    Coaches need to regularly update their knowledge.

  15. Paul Clarke says:

    Major problem as i see it is coaches that advocate and live the mantra of working harder instead of smarter. Invariably this leads to a quantity over quality approach. Also, the level of informed coaching is quite low in terms of laying the foundations first in terms of ensuring that kids are functionally sound before they are introduced to demanding sport specific practices.

  16. I think that children are taught to specialize much too early for sports. It is possible for a few things to happen. First, kids are missing out on a greater variety of movement patterns than early specialization provides. Second, they may be subject to overuse injuries much earlier than previos generations. Third, is the possibility of psychological burn out

  17. Anthony says:

    I teach 30 minute fitness classes to teen tennis kids. They have 2 hours of tennis, 1 hour of strategy and then they want me to push the kids hard with their sprinting, ladder drills, etc… I try to just have some fun with these kids because they are too over programed with their school and activiites. Everything is so serious. During the winter, they do not get out of the facility until 9pm. Then they have their homework to do.
    It’s really a challenge to undo this way of thinking in all types of facilities like this. The parents and coaches want all these kids to be the next Nadal or Serena Williams. I encourage them to do their best with the skills introduced, and to slow down a bit, insrtead of rush through a drill with bad form.
    Our local High School football coach, will not even let the strength and conditoning coach in the weight room. She is only allowed to run the field conditioning and she tells me that he has the kids doing a program from the Carolina Panthers with lots of plyometrics, everyday and high volume. The kids come compalining to her with sore backs. It’s incredible that this kind of stuff still goes on with all the info and science out their.

  18. Frederick Smith says:

    One of the main prolem I see with youth training is that too many people involve with youth training who doesnt know enough aboutit.And its causing a big problem out there in the world of Training.

  19. SoCal Brian says:

    The number one problem with youth training is the lack of communication to the parent and young athlete. They both need to know what phases of training your going to implement. If the parent is just a grand-stander they are going to question the process naturally. I keep going on about when we were young how we didn’t have specialized training, at least I didn’t and I went on to be an elite sports athlete. Parents expect us to teach their kids how to play a sport, I’ve done that and that’s not what we do totally. We are here to help them perform their sports better. Their coach will make them better at their sport, we make them better overall athletes . . . . and kids in general!

  20. Leigh Ashton says:

    This is a great thread and show’s that a) there are many common issues worldwide with youth sports and fitness training, and b) Brian and the IYCA are doing a fantastic job at calling these issues to our attention.
    I think the next issue for all of us commenting here is what we are going to do about it?
    My husband and I have been friends of Brian’s since 2005 and have just opened New Zealand’s first youth-only fitness centre.
    The issue we feel strongly about (in addition to those outlined above) is for those of us who have this knowledge to go beyond just talking about the issues and have the courage to take action!!

  21. James Cook says:

    To emphasis on winning.The game sould be fun for the kids.

  22. Colin Fannon says:

    In my experience the hardest thing to do can be teaching kids strong and positive values on and off the field. In my opinion the biggest battle for any person child or adult is in the mind. So kids that I have dealt with just lack the ability to focus, some suffer from burn-out, or lack of positive attitude during practice or in sport situation. Some kids even adult have this mindset of learned helplessness. If they can’t succeed they just give up. Trying to break through that sort of mindset has been the hardest thing for me. So to anwser the question, I think that the hardest thing is getting through to a child who has learned helplessness. But on the positive side I believe there is hope, because if we (IYCA) can get to these kids before they learn these lies and we teach them faith instead; I believe we will start seeing kids move mountains!

  23. Howard Granger says:

    In Australia things are no better. I agree with virtually everything above. My son is 11 and shows a talent for running longer distances on the track and cross country. We see much inappropriate endurance training and racing, even starting from 8 and 9yo. Sadly, overuse injuries and burnout are common. Stress fractures at 11 is not an acceptable outcome. Parents get excited that their kid can run fast (and hence even faster with more training). Some of the times are spectacular eg 10yo boy 2:19 and 12yo girl 2:11 for 800m. There are certainly coaches who should know better. Lip service is paid to “not training kids like adults”, but those 200m reps x20 at 800m race pace keep on being hammered out. However, and in response to the challenge from Leigh #72, I suggest a revolution needs to occur. In Australia, what ultimately fosters this madness is the intense level of competition set up at ludicrously young ages. For example, from the age of 10 there are national comps in cross country and T&F. In XC 10yo run 2km which some genius raised arbitrarily to 3km at 11yo. That’s a long way for a youngster, especially when they do it flat out in a race. Try running it yourself at pace! In T&F the same kids are usually good at 800m (another arbitrarily picked distance from 10 to 12yo which just happens to be a tough anaerobic event totally unsuited to kids).Kids can’t help themselves-they don’t believe it’s just a fun run when you set it up within the context of intense competition. If your kid is very talented, this forum fosters exactly what we don’t want-intense pressure to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ and make sure he/she is putting in enough to succeed. It is not only athletic bodies but also the Schools system which runs these events. We need to launch campaigns trying to convince the people who run this stuff that it is harmful, and trashes way more athletic talent than it eventually fosters. Until this happens, it is hard to see how the problem will be resolved. Unfortunately, the School Sport group regard these as flagship events and will be reluctant to give up the prestige associated with them, along with their misguided conviction that they are helping keep kids fit and healthy (not!).

  24. Adam Spring says:

    Thers’s not enough fun in adolescent sport. It’s becomming big business to find talented ‘atheletes’ at a young age. With this comes overtraining, boredom and ongoing injuries at an age when overuse injuries should not be present. I believe talent and skill should be developed in a fun, non- competive envionment. Coaching is important but structured programs should be set to a minium. Let them enjoy their sport first and the results that we as coaches look for will follow. It’s funny but when was the last time you, as an adult had a good game of golf, for example, that you weren’t enjoying? They go hand in hand!

  25. Cindy Kye says:

    PT teachers doesn’t want to learn how to be a better coach and teacher.

    Coaches and teachers are focusing short term results of the youth athletes.

    Many times it’s due to the short sighted

  26. Sue DeFeo says:

    One of the biggest problems I see is kids who are coached in multiple sports by volunteer parents who really don’t know anything about physically training kids outside of conducting sport specific drills and scrimmages. I’m not knocking these parents, they are volunteering their time but the information just isn’t available to them.

  27. Frank says:

    The biggest problem I have experienced is sport specific coaches trying to take on the role as a S & C coach as well, when they (the soccer coaches) have very little experience in that field. Of course they know how to run and lift weights, who doesn’t. Like I told the AD at the high school I work at as an S & C coach when he told me the soccer coaches will be working with their team in the weight room over the summer’s off-season, I responded, hey I coached youth soccer for a few years, and I know how to kick a ball, can I run the soccer teams practice once or twice a week during the season? dah?

  28. Tony Simmons says:

    Biggest issue I see is parents are pushing their kids into sports and they really don’t want to do that sports. The kids are not interested and the parents keep pushing. What happened to the fun in sports, it is like a job for the kids and they are not professional in any case. Bringing back the old exeercises for lifting and agility works with my kids and adults they are having fun. So where is the fun in kids sports?

  29. Francois Nel says:

    Have to agree with almost everything above. I think all the problems mentioned, coaches coaching the wrong aspects, parents influence, etc. is due to one single aspect : WINNING.
    I personally believe that people(adults) see winning as success and nothing else.
    A 15 year old player of mine gave the following definition for success :
    To do something in such a manner that even if you could do it over you couldn’t do it better.
    I believe if we can get this definition of success to be accepted then a lot of the issues like focusing on movement and coaching kids with age appropriate techniques will become non-issues.

  30. Katie Fifer says:

    Single sport focus…..PERIOD!
    Ignoring the fat kid….teach the kids to love to move and accept their bodies as they grow into who they are and what they can do….The childhood obesity epidemic may just become extinct!

  31. Bob O'Neil says:

    This insanity of travel teams starting as young as 10 years of age!!
    While I am a personal trainer, I am also an retired Navy Chaplain who serves a 6A High School Football team as their chaplain.
    It is amazing to me the amount of time these young men have to put in throughout the entire year. I loved playing High School Football but to have my time taken up from 0630 to 1800 at night during the season. When could I have ever been a student or been involved in church or civic organizations? Okay, that’s one thing but to have a schedule where I spend nearly 20 hrs a week year round? It’s almost worse than college.

  32. Duane says:

    Young atheletes are just that, and need to be treated as such. They are not professional atheletes and only spend an hour or possibly two a day, 3 days a week, in a particular sport. Too much pressure is applied to children to be the best, not their best. I dont know when this happened,but I do know it neeeds to change.

  33. Daphne Rowe says:

    I have been in the fitness industry for 20 some odd years. I have watched trends come and go but they were always directed to adults. That needs to change. I see that happening now as a proud member of this amazing organization.
    As a parent of two athletic kids, I have found myself enjoying coaching youth (3 sports) which I have done for 6 years now.
    I found that parents, both coaches as well as spectators, are truly a tough issue. They need education about what is the proper way to “teach” athletics. They ruin the fun! They have no regard for other team’s experiences, such as when they allow games scores to run up. Winning is great but annihilation is unnecessary. Sportsmanship needs to be the emphasis.
    I think that a most useful tool would be to help these parents with some guidelines, clinics, and simple reminders. Kids need to be kids. Teaching sports is easy. We as an organization can and should help them do it better and safer.

  34. Rob says:

    More hands on , practical, ready to use information in regards to working with youth fitness and athletic development without always having to pay an arm and a leg to get it. A critique of some of the best Youth Fitness and Athletic Development materials available so that we could wisely spend our hard earned money on excellent information.A mentoring program for those of us who desire to learn one on one from the best.

  35. Tony Lelack says:

    The biggest problem i face is the coaches not letting go of the condition aspect. They train these kids like it was 1980 and they are all body builders. Head coaches need to let it go, take care of the X’s and O’s, and let qualified people make their kids better all-around athletes.

  36. Carmel says:

    The main reason me is that kids are been pushed too hard too young and not enough emphasis on the basic skills.

  37. Martin Roy says:

    Hi Brian,

    What’s the biggest problem you see in youth fitness and sports training?

    From my standpoint, being involved in coaches’ education in Quebec and Canada, the problems are as follows :

    Coaching is «cheap labour» for many. Most of the coaches are volunteers. Because of that matter, it’s not realistic that they will invest much in their education, and quite often, education is limited to attend lectures instead of sharing thoughts, participating to communities of practice, and being supervised systematically.

    If coaches want to reach the higher levels, and to make a decent salary, they want to win! And winning, for them, means to score more points than the opponents… the «W» column. Their mind set is « Peaking by Friday » instead of developing great athletes first and specialising afterward. Then, they will be acknowledged by their sport communities. They don’t care about the athletes’ profile and background, their short term and long term goals. They are not interested to work with other coaches or specialists for the benefits of the young athletes. They want to receive the full benefit of winning… or to stay in their comfort zone, doing the same thing over and over to perpetuate the culture of their sport!

    “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – Albert Einstein



  38. David Sampson says:

    Volume and that Sports Coaches believe that they are Sports Performance Coaches. Our 11-14 year olds only train twice a week and see tremendous results because of regeneration and rest. Our 15-18 year olds 3 times per week max and again are seeing tremendous results. Volume is the key, rest and regeneration are the foundation for developmental athletes. Coaches and parents believe that “more is better”, we say “better is better”. I am so tired of talking to parents that tell me that they ran 4-5 miles today at practice and had 2 water breaks in a 2-3 hour practice. That they were jumping to boxes, and no one showed them how to land correctly or taught them the technical aspect of plyometrics. We are working hard here in Pittsburgh to change the mindset and educate the area. Brian please come to our center in Pittsburgh and help us get the word out!

  39. Gwen Larsen says:

    I believe one of the biggest problems in sports training is that it isn’t fun for them. Youth get treated like they are pro athletes and most kids want to go out to get some socialization and to have fun. By the time they get to be a senior in high school they are burned out and don’t care about the sport anymore. They are also pushed by coaches who honestly don’t keep updated on what to do for training. They use what they learned in college no matter how long ago that was.

  40. Alicia Huddleson says:

    I studied Sport Psych in college but am currently working as a specialist in a youth residential treatment facility. This opportunity has opened my eyes to a lot that the public needs while also enlightening me to tools and tips that professionals could benefit from.

    1. Keeping it simple.
    One individual is trying to wear too many hats. I see a couple notes in the responses with either the kids or the coaches or even the professional trying to “do it all”. Remembering there are natural limits for everyon. Limits are a good thing, they detract from the quality of an individual, instead they are like benchmarks letting us know the progress made.

    2. Accessiblity.
    Either activities or education for anyone at any level. Specialized training doesn’t always happen in rural areas or isn’t as common as it may be in metropolitan areas. Which is why the internet is such a valuable tool in expanding knowledge and providing excellent opportunities.

    3. Education.
    Helping parents understand, taking the time and showing the compassion. Parents are the greatest resource for a coach and, yes, they can sometimes be a big headache.
    On a different note, in some states acquiring a coaching certification only takes a college transcript and a fee. Such as in Iowa where you have to prove you have taken the appropriate courses for the knowledge base and paying about $100. After that it is all about attending clinics and maintianing the certification just as you would a First Aid/CPR certification.

    4. Economy.
    The economy really did a number on thinking patterns of everyone the world over. When once I was told to be sure I specialized in one area to optimize my professional worth, I’m also told now that being diverse is even more beneficial. Be realistic. The goal is to be aware of what is available, but to know the most you can in one area. This way you achieve both goals because a) you have a wealth of knowledge in what you like/do best and b) if you don’t know it, you can at least find the right resource or point parents in the right direction.

    On a personal note, my sister is a teenager going through the public school system as a full time athlete. She has a sport for every season and maybe one in between. She’s also required to participate in PE in her class schedule either everyday or every other day. Here’s HER complaint. She has seen one specific individual come in with doctor’s note after doctor’s note after parents note to excuse this individual from participating in PE. The individual also happens to be slightly overweight and, with no intention to be cruel, my sister stated that the individual needed the PE program more than she did. My sister cannot understand how she is being forced into public physical education when she already participates in physical activities outside of school.

    It is not just health professionals that need help with training, health, or fitness. It is reaching out to other professionals as well.

    As a kid I did what I did because I enjoyed it, mainly the sports and physical activity. I did it because that’s where my friends were. Adults are the ones who screwed that whole system up by organizing it and making it competitive. Sometimes it’s good to have a weekly “fun” community event for kids. No competition, trophies, daily workouts, practices, etc.

    A time to get out the kickball and laugh.

  41. Dean says:

    Hey Brian,
    This is a great question and I see that there are two main issues here. Firstly, I find there are too many team coaches that are trying to do everything themselves. It has been my experience that too many coaches, whether by design or a lack of help try to control all aspects of the team’s or individual’s training. What is meant by this is that regardless of the child’s age, individuals (hopefully professionals) with the knowledge of physical fitness training should be involved in the youngsters’ physical development. For example if you’re a baseball coach you should be teaching baseball, simple enough. What happens quite often is that coaches try to implement their own type of the fitness, agility or conditioning drills. All too often what occurs is that the child is just pushed beyond their own physical capacity. Being able to run a kid into the ground does not mean it is a successful conditioning program. Also what seems to happen is that you get former so-called athletes trying to make quick money by professing themselves as coaches and trainers. Just because you may have been involved in the sport at a high-level does not make you a coach for that sport. The other point that I would like to make is that all too often you have certified strength and conditioning specialists that implement the same type of programs they would for adults. What they tend to forget is that children are not miniature versions of the adults. Progression is of the essence and exercises must be taught how to be done properly. I would like to emphasize the point that proper form of all exercises must be demonstrated. Most injuries are a result of bad form or a lack of supervision.

    It is my opinion that the only way to combat this is with an organization like the IYCA, which can help educate coaches on how to properly and safely develop kids while having fun.

  42. The biggest issue that is faced with youth training is that child athletes operate with a total different mental aspect then adults. In their developmental stages they have no fear and want to have fun. We, as adults, tend to forget that they are not adults and can not be pushed mentally as one. Children when encouraged with positive reinforcement will respond quicker to a faulty movement pattern or skill. They will naturally learn how hard to push themselves when they believe mentally how much potential they have. Coaches and parents commonly put limits on children and that is when the mind defeats the body. We must remember that the human organism is always intertwined. When one portion is not optimally performing then the whole system will not.

  43. Karen Wells, Director The First Step says:

    The challenge is the nervous system and that no one is addressing that part of the child. I can help with that area. Alll the sports and exercises are needed and the relaxation, breathing, upright body position instead of slumped shoulders and heavy pack packs needs to be addressed as well. Attention span, poor eating habits, lack of hydration can all be imporved so that the whole child can play ball with more ease and comfort in the body to improve the health and fitness of the child….and why has everyone forgotten about flexibility? It takes more than just stretching….the nervous system and the connective tissue are the answer!

  44. Lee Elkins says:

    Brian, need your help. Our company provides PT for a large company in Indy & they are going to have a health fair in May. It is for the employees & family. Well, guess what booth I will be handling. Youth fitness & nutrition. They want me to set up a fun fitness test for the kids. I already know of an excellent web site to send them to, IYCA. Any ideas ?

    Lee Elkins

  45. Landon says:

    Over protective parents living vicariously through their kids, underutilized overstructured phys ed classes, sports that have national and world champions at pre-pubesent ages (I am a figure skating coach), kids who have never failed at anything so their parents try and buy their success on the playing surface and finally uneducated NGB’s trying to educate their uneducated coaches. Those are just some of the issues I have as a coach involved in youth sports. I am stuck between trying to develop the next “national figure skating champion” before she hits puberty because its my livlihood and the fact that there are training options out there that could just as easily squash those dreams. I own a College Station personal training company and I am constantly standing up to the pressures of turning away youthful athletes. It’s ashame.

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