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. Kristy-lee says:

    The biggest problem I see is uneducated coaches, and coaches who care more about skill development rather than technique. In order for kids to advance to a higher level in their chosen sports (safely), they need to be able to perform the basic skills with correct technique first. I see many coaches, especially in the acrobatic sports such as gymnastics, trampoline, and tumbling, trying to push their athletes to perform the more difficult skills, without first having the kids successfully, and consistently, perform the necessary basic skills. In my opinion, this is also why we see many kids ending up with injuries that could easily have been prevented.

  2. The biggest problem I see is over-programming. Many coaches get trapped thinking they are training their kids like adults and think that doing a “fun” drill or game isn’t serious enough to develop their “elite” athletes. Proper program design is critical – but so is letting the kids enjoy themselves. It’s sad that we now have to “program play” for these kids.

    ~ Kim

  3. pat mccloskey says:

    beyond the oft mentioned by IYCA results, victory, achievement influenced training, the biggest problem is creating and providing environments and programs in which:
    1) kids with a smaller or less gifted movement vocabulary can thrive
    2) kids with a more extensive movement vocabulary don’t get jacked up for life (“every injury has it’s first day” says Lenny parracino, and many injuries in adulthood had there first day during some well intended but poorly thought out athletic training as a kid)
    3)all kids can embrace the idea of exercise being an enjoyable part of their life, now and beyond, instead of a short term means to an end…

    Keep uup the good work, Paddymac

  4. Paul Dixon says:

    I think the biggest problem that I have is the lack of anyone in our area that I can take my son to that knows about this method of training. Fort Wayne, Indiana

  5. Jon says:

    I agree…Just last night I had a phone conversation with a father who wants his son to be “pushed harder.” He didn’t like drills in his son’s basketball practice where the athletes had to race after loose balls against one other player. It seemed “too fun.”

    After trying to explain the value in having athletes compete in a fun environment like that while working on valuable skills like reactive acceleration we had this little exchange:

    Me: How old is your son?
    Dad: 12

    I’ve had this nearly identical conversation countless times and I used to always get upset with the parent but clearly they are merely a product of the culture that has been created with competitive sports at a young age.

  6. The biggest problem I see is the coaches get the kids at the begining of a season and start running complicated drills that the kids are in no condition to do. There is no proper conditioning done prior to the sports seasons. Knee and shoulder injuries are among the most common that I see.

  7. Brett Lemire says:

    I spend most of my time coaching swimmmers and treating injured athletes. I agree with Kim, poor Program Design and more specifically coaches teaching strength, power and agility to young athletes with poor posture, motor control and simple mastery of the their own body weight. Influencing young athletes to specialize early without significant saturation of locomotor apparatus from participation in other sports. Young athletes (12-15 y.o.) not having “positive” parent involvement by listening and implementing healthy training and eating habits given by the coach. LTAD model!
    Thanks Brett

  8. Jamie Smith says:

    Although I think these two things feed off of one another, the 2 biggest obstacles I think we face is the mentioned over-programming. But this is fed off of the parents expectations. If they don’t see their child come out of a session drop dead tired and “dripping sweat” then they must not be working or being pushed hard enough. Our work is not only with the kiddos, but even more importantly educating the parents about long term development.

  9. Mike Wright says:

    What I notice the most in my area is parents competing through their kids leading to mistrust among parents. Recently our new high school football coach made a great point to parents when he told them that their kids would not make it to a Div I college in football unless they were freakishly talented and that that was something he was not expecting to see. He told the parents to just enjoy the High School experience for what it was and forget about college. If more coaches set these expectations early with parents it would help parents to enjoyed their kid’ experiences instead of trying to gain an advantage over each other.

  10. Rob says:

    Biggest problem I see from parents and too many coaches is an emphasis on winning and an unrealistic expectation of their kids ability. The kids who I see become elite athletes do so because they love the game and it shows in the way they train. The ones who are pushed rarely make it.

  11. Doug Garner says:

    What I see in you sports is a lack of education among professionals who work with this population. Many of them are “old school”, working with youth the way they did when they were young. The cognitive structure of the training and sports field has changed and many professionals in the field need a change in their perspective. This is especially true in working with youth with disabilities – a field that is virtually ignored in the professional literature and professional development programs that are out there! These students need and deserve educated professionals who can help them reach their potential.

  12. Kris says:

    Great question, Brian; an important one for sure. As I read the question the answer seemingly jumps off the page at me. You ask about the biggest problem in youth fitness AND sports training, which correctly suggests these are separate entities. The problem is that too many parents and decision makers do not realize this difference and thus do not value the importance of both. Oftentimes sports training is thought to adequately address both elements.
    Fitness involves so much more than activity itself; it is a lifestyle. It should focus on unstructured activities; dare I say play! Obviously, with far less green-space these days and limited time, structure becomes a necessary part of activity related to fitness, but hopefully is not the focus. There are an infinite number of elements that combine to create fitness, too many to discuss, but especially as it pertains to youth, it should be something that allows the individual to pursue an experience.
    On the other hand, sports training is relatively more structured and inherently more heavily influenced by external stimuli (i.e. coaching, teammates, rules, etc.). I refer to sports training as non-individual because all sports, even those with the most individual appearance, require others to invest time and effort into the process. Like fitness, there are also an infinite number of elements and lessons that combine to create sports training as well.
    Finally, to get to the point, both youth fitness AND sports training need to be better understood and recognized for the vital roles both play in the development of our youth. The biggest problem we face, which directly impacts our youth and permeates into adulthood, is an overemphasis on one or the other and more tragically the overall de-emphasis of both. Thank you Brian and thanks to the IYCA for providing a singular message that there is a better way and taking action to do something about it.

  13. Carlos says:

    What I see is that nobody cares about basics anymore. Everybody assumes that kids will “get it” sooner or later, so you end up with kids developing all kinds of bad habits, bad mechanics, are more prone to injuries and might never develop their full potential. Parents need to understand that mastering the basics is where everything starts.

  14. luis bracamonte says:

    I enjoyed reading all the great responces. The IYCA truly is packed with quality coaches!.

    My answer to the question is the lack of knowledge in long term athletic development. Coaches often train kids to perform each season and get better fast rather than taking the nessesary steps to produce sound athletic development.

    Brian, you have been raising awareness to this problem and we can only hope that more and more coaches pay attention and begin planning for the long run, even at the cost of the season. It is only fair to the kids that we do what is best for them not us.

  15. Terry Kamerer says:

    Biggest problem I see is a parent pushing a child into a single sport and making them work at that one sport year round and not allowing their child to experience the FUN and relationship building of playing in multiple sports (recreation or competitve). The parent has the misconception that their child must work at one chosen sport if they are to make it to the next level (high school, college, and or professional).
    Did I mention the lost art of having FUN, FUN, AND more FUN. Parents are forcing the FUN out of playing sports.

  16. I echo some of the previous comments. I see it all the time where coaches/trainers/parents feel the need to work their young athletes hard and if they are not hurting or sweating buckets at their end of the session, it was a waste of time and money. Hard does not mean effective. It means injury and burnout. That’s not something I want for the athletes I work with. I want them to learn the how’s and why’s so they can learn lifelong skills that they can take with them no matter where they go. But first and foremost, the sessions have to be fun so they want to keep coming back. The key as I see it is to educate, educate, educate; the coaches, trainers and the parents. It’s an ongoing process that we must all do collectively in our markets in order to affect positive change for the benefit of all youth athletes.

  17. Jamie Carlson says:

    As an ex “JackAss” I think it comes down to education, understanding what the youth need and when it’s appropriate. Parents for the most part have little, mostly, no understanding of motor development. I have lots of letters after my name and I think I slept my way thru that course, so the average adult won’t even consider it. Many of the parents I deal with just want little Johnny to have the best chance for success and that’s judged by how the pro’s do it. Thanks to Brian and Kwame I have redirected my focus from elite pro’s to kids who need some direction for a chance at a successful and healthy lifestyle. Now, if I could just surgically extract my 12 yr. old from the X-Box:)

  18. rajesh padiyar says:

    for me it is lack of hardwork and the will of parents to support their childrens.

  19. Sha Ali says:


    Adult Coaches that don’t want to have anyone else working with their athletes.

    Adult Parents that don’t understand that their kids won’t get faster & stronger just by playing their sport all year round.

  20. Craig Galloway says:

    The biggest problem I see in youth fitness and sports training is the overall disconnect between the two (with coaches and parents alike). Even though the business is growing, the overall number of youth who engage in a formal youth conditioning program is minuscule compared to the number who participate in some manner of organized sport. When the volume is the highest in terms of participation (generally at the bottom of the pyramid when almost all kids are first entering organized athletics – perhaps 7 or 8) the coaching is provided by well-intentioned volunteer mom’s and dad’s who know little if anything about proper coaching or age appropriate developmental activities. Yet these coaches have the greatest reach and opportunity for impact. Other than reaching parents directly, the greatest opportunity lies with the youth sports organizations and with helping them to educate their volunteer coaches. This way we have a chance to reach the overwhelming majority of kids who will never pay an IYCA certified trainer for private coaching. As the owner and operator of a facility that specializes in training youth athletes, my biggest successes lie in my work with the local leagues and educating coaches, as that is how I have reached the greatest number of kids. If you really want to do something great, create a certification for youth leagues to offer their coaches. I will raise my hand right now and say I will champion that cause right along with you and do anything you need to help make it happen.
    Thanks for asking the question and for giving us a place to have a voice.

  21. Brian Grasso says:

    Love every single one of your comments so far and couldn’t agree more. Please…. Keep posting! BG

  22. Sara says:

    I love the passion & thought you are all bringing to this discussion! You are all the reason that we are having a positive impact on youth training all over the world – Thank you!

    : )

  23. ERIC says:

    the biggest problem as i see it is an aweful lot of so called coaches with a total lack of understanding about coaching per sae and youth coaching in particular. I am not trying to be arrogant or insulting but these coaches have come through lower levels of the GB’s cerification process (L1)and progress no further, by design I think they are scared of being found out and wanting, but they do more damage to their charges and to the title ‘COACH’

  24. ERIC says:

    the biggest problem as i see it is an aweful lot of so called coaches with a total lack of understanding about coaching per sae and youth coaching in particular. I am not trying to be arrogant or insulting but these coaches have come through lower levels of the GB’s cerification process (L1)and progress no further, by design. I think they are scared of being found out and wanting, but they do more damage to their charges and to the title ‘COACH’

  25. Angela says:

    I agree with the view parents do not think kids have bee worked hard if they are not ready to drop but also a high number of coaches think the same way.

  26. Al Roth says:

    Brian, I believe one of the biggest problems we have today is People, whether they are coaches, clients,or the athletes you are working with do not listen to the message which is being presented. Most people assume they already know what you are trying to explain. I always explain to everyone it is imperative that you listen to the entire sentence, not part of it. If more Coaches, parents, players would listen to the fullest extent of the exercises being presented and the total benefits of the exercise, the results would speak for themselves. Anyway it is important that everyone be passionate and persistant in their message. The End results will be Awesome.

  27. Michelle Guilfoy says:

    The biggest problem that I see is a lack of education in parents, leading to unrealistic expectations. I am the mother of a 5 yr old, playing in his first year of coach-pitch baseball. I overheard a mother at practice just yesterday commenting that she had heard there were going to be scouts there. And then one of the coaches turned around and said, “You never know, scouts could be in the stands right now.” And both of them were comeletely serious! 5 yr olds! As I look around at the parents of these kids, these people who are now my peers, I see a community that is generally overweight, inactive, and fairly clueless as to how our children should be encouraged and guided in sport. My husband and I have decided that we will have to be involved as coaches in some way in order to protect our son’s best interest and development. Maybe by getting invlved at this “grassroots” level, we can make a difference for some of these kids, but more importantly, their parents.

  28. Randy says:

    In youth soccer …
    – winning as the primary goal vs player development
    – club building vs player development
    – inexperienced parents driving the process because they are paying fees

  29. Dale Speckman says:

    THE PARENTS are the problem. One of two things happen. 1) Either they think little Johnny is already fast or agile enough so he does not need that kind of guidance and they refuse to buy into the fact that they need to learn how to apply and absorb force safely and efficiently or 2) They are just concerned with value. How high will he jump or how much can you shave off his 40 time. Push him till he pukes!

  30. Andrew says:

    Sport Specific Training BS! These kids need to train to become athletes! Variety of movements, increase mobility, increase coordination, increase strength and stability, increase movement familiarity, and teach these kids to me honest, truthful and hard working!

    I know coaches that train the kids like they would college athletes and then talk among them as if they were drinking buddies! What is going on there?

    Keep them injury free and improve their movement patterns in an uplifting and empowering atmosphere and you have done the best you can for them!

    LIVE IT!

  31. Pat Cullen-Carroll says:

    In the area of youth fitness and training,
    I believe:
    …(Anybody a climber?) that we have are at the crux of the climb, if we don’t get over the top soon we are going to do a “granite overload”, if we haven’t already. The obesity and overweight problem is at an all time high. We need to do something quick.
    ….that when adults make decisions and childrem pay the price, something is wrong with the decision. Why is it the the “baby boomer generation” is able to extend it’s life expectancy at the same time we have a generation of children who are now being projected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Adults are supposed to guide children, what are we doing?
    ….that you don’t train children like they are little adults, remember they are children.
    …. that children can do many of the drills and exercises that we do with older athletes as long as we remember they are children and gear down to their level and put a little “fun” into it. Don’t overkill, you are not training a child for a combine, the draft, or a big contract. Let them develope and have some fun doing it.
    …. that there are many sports and activities out there. Let children try different sports and find out what they enjoy and are good at. Don’t specialize at a young age.
    ….that body learns things in sequence. You must learn gross motor skills before fine motor skills, basic movement skills before sport specific skills.

    Last year I read an article in a newspaper about a “training facility for kids”. A father took his 9 year old to the facility so the coach could do more defensive end drills and train him to be a defensive end in football in high school and college. How do you project that at the age of 9 years old? What is wrong with this picture?

  32. Grant Hernden says:

    The biggest problems as I see it are parents that over-schedule their kids and parents that force their kids into one sport (specialization) thinking that they are going to have the next professional athlete. Kids just do not have the time to be just kids anymore. Their lives are so structured that they often do not know how to play and enjoy their friends.
    Another problem as I see it is coaches/organizations (especially hockey) that force their kids into playing one sport (theirs for 12 months of the year). With that comes all kinds of problems the least of which is injuries and burn-out.
    You are doing a great job Brian. We need to get out and educate all of these coaches and sport organizations and also educate our boards of education on the value of play and physical activity,
    If you ever want to bring this show on the road to my neck of the woods, I’m with you.
    Grant Hernden
    Former Physical and Health Education Teacher for 28 years
    Stratford, Ontario

  33. Robbie Bourke says:


    More information on program design, periodization, just more science info, more real life info, just more information!

    Lets gey some videos up on the site iw well!!!!

  34. Jane Gruber says:

    One thing – being COOKED! My young athletes are not specializing early….BUT are trying to balance a number of sports, schools sports, private club sports, and strength/conditioning training. They are being asked by coaches from each group to do something different training wise and do not have a coach with the right knowledge to help them figure it all out. Fatigue, overuse, as well as the psychological stressors. As they get older, athletes who are specializing, volume and technique are ignored by the coaches. Coaches push for results in competition before getting the basics of the sport controlled.

  35. Paul Alexander says:

    #1 – overspecialization, focusing on 1 sport all year round at an early age

    #2 – Bypassing foundational motor skills for more advanced skill training

    #3 – Treating children as adults physically, socially and emotionally

    #4 – Coaches’ misunderstanding of the role of stretching in athletic development

  36. Joel says:

    We try to hyper-specialize the children too young
    We think children are professional when they are clearly not- it’s like teaching calculus to a person that has never seen algebra
    We want our kids to be socially well adjusted but don’t stop to think that they might need to be also physically well adjusted
    We need to be tolerant of the parents-coaches that don’t know any better and take the time to educate and engage them because they are (and I mean this with great sincerity)developmentally stunted themselves. Remember the majority of parents have the best of intentions but lack the tools or the education.

  37. Joe Trinsey says:

    Coaches who put their ego before the best interest of their kids. Or who are lazy and don’t match the effort in their coaching that they expect their kids to put out during the training session/practice/clinic/whatever. Can’t really fault kids and/or parents for being idiots; they aren’t supposed to be the “professionals” in this field.

  38. leo deering says:

    Ask the Kids! Michigan University did several years ago. They interviewed 10,000 kids from 11 cities. MSU simply asked “Why do you play sports?” The Number One Answer – you guessed it “I want to have FUN!” Guess what was number 10 answer – “To Win”. The kids have spoken! Embrace it or Lose it – that’s the choice. Adults do not have enough FUN – Embrace it today!!!!

  39. Ariana Parolini says:

    Program design and early specialization are tied for the top. I work with young athletes from all sports, especially hockey and soccer, and the one thing I see all the time is a lack of the basic fundamentals that are the foundation of athleticism. Across the board these athletes lack proficiency in locomotion skills, body control skills, object control skills, and more. I agree wholeheartedly with Kim’s point on proper program design being critical, but proper program design is about planning and understanding…how can volunteer coaches be expected to plan something they don’t understand?

  40. Ramzi Naim says:

    School/University or Studies!

    Not enough income like basketball or football.

    these are the biggest reasons why youth athletes quit/skip training sessions!

  41. Brian Grasso says:

    Keep them coming, guys! I’m going to look over each of these next week and get back to you with a specific report…. “The Problems in Youth Fitness & Sports” – by IYCA Members Worldwide

  42. Kevin nichols says:

    Lack of collaboration among coaches, parents, and athletes. I was an elementary teacher for five years and when dealing with problems with a student it was of the upmost importance that everyone dealing with this child were all on the same page. This meant using the same language, the same message, etc. Problems were very rarely solved if the parents were not on board. The same applies with teaching children and athletes how to move. Coaches and parents need to be communicating on a consistent basis to maje sure they are passing on the same messages to these kids.

  43. Greg Powell says:

    The biggest problem I have seen is youth football coaches trying to “make men” out of 7 thru 12 year olds,they are not men. I have also seen coaches try to
    “weed out” players of the same age group.
    I continue to stress that we should develope players not weed out!Sometimes it seems an uphill battle. No one knows how the slow ,shy or clumsy 10 year old will develope,it is our job to HELP them.

  44. Moe Brooks-Herr 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 am constantly standing up to the pressures of kicking a 10 year olds butt in off ice rather than developing her coordination and athletic ability.

  45. Chris Marino says:

    The biggest problem in youth sports training has got to be a toss up between coaches training youth like adults (i.e. poor understanding of risk/benefit amongst coaches) and early specialization through strength & conditioning.

  46. Mike Skoflanc says:

    I think we need to start considering some kind of certification for adults who want to coach youth sports.Maybe a simple online course in youth coaching. If you want to coach at the high school level and you aren’t a teacher you have to be certified, a process of attending a class and completing an online test of that material. Yet we keep handing young kids over to coaches (not all of them) who simply don’t have a clue on how they should go about TEACHING young kids during a very crucial time in their young lives. There seems to be a win at all cost attitude going on at this time also. TRAINING instead of TEACHING. Treating children as little adults. Over use injuries. Specialization!!To many problems to even mention. I am a High School track coach and will be running my annual sports camp (SAQ) in a couple of weeks and I can say with utter confidence , that for at least 4 days the group of kids that I will be TEACHING will be in a positive, constructive, and FUN enviroment. That is because of my affiliation with the IYCA and their philosophy. I am proud to say that I am one of the original 50 who was certified at the level 1 youth conditioning clinic. I will soon be going for the level 2 certification.

  47. Enrico Roncancio says:

    Bottom line for me is high school weight training programs. They’re terrible around here! Kids are thrown in the weight room with no idea of what they are doing and put under the suppervision of coaches whose egos won’t allow them to even consider the fact that they don’t know what they are doing either. A year later that kids shoulders will be shot and who knows what other joints.

  48. The biggest problem I see is the lack of training for coaches at the youngest level. Who is the coach for little leagues and t-ball, beginner soccer and all introductory sports? Its parents who either get stuck with the ‘short straw’ or people who feel like if they don’t do it, no one will. They have no idea how to teach, coach, or train and so from the very beginning kids are conditioned to be taught from a “its all about the game” mentality. Its really not all about the game when you are 5, 7 or even 11. I could probably teach anyone how to play rugby and I’ve never attended a game but teaching a child how to be an athlete is where we all win.

  49. Long term commitment. Kids (but more especially, parents) want a quick fix. I find athletes coming for a few weeks, asking for stuff for them to “do at home” and expecting improvement in speed, strength, mobility, agility, coordination…JUST FROM A FEW SESSIONS. They don’t understand the long term commitment and dedication it takes to develope a well-rounded student/athlete. Those that see it takes time, follow thru long term. And it works. But that seems to be the minority…

  50. Larry Edwards says:

    Many problems are present, but the three that I think are my highest priority: Lack of diverse resources for the kids, Parents, coaches, and others not knowing or realizing the difference in teaching and training, and bad eating habits

    As a parent, and a coach, I thinks most communities & households are lacking the proper resources for teaching our kids the basic fundamental, as well as the proper eating habits.

    If these factors aren’t present, then kids will be behind, or never reach their true destiny in sports, fitness, or other events.

Leave a Reply

Comment using: