It is my understanding that most youth are driven by what somebody tells them to do, i.e. their coach, parent, or teacher. This is understandable because youth can be socially and physically immature. However, it is also my understanding the advice that some, if not most coaches are telling their youths regarding physical development is greatly misunderstood and ill-advised. The objective of this article is to promote self-awareness and self-education by both the parent and student athlete, for the prospering of the athlete’s future on and off the field.
I believe that it is important to make the distinction that our youth are kids, not professional athletes. They do not need a super complex training program or sport specific training. This comes way down the line with their progression into becoming a mature athlete. Specialization into one particular sport should only be done once they are biologically mature enough. In general, specialization should not occur until late teenage years, 16-19 years of age, when the body is prepared sufficiently both with strength and neural recruitment.
It takes years, not months, or weeks, or days, but years to develop youth into the athlete they are hoping to become. As they become more and more physically mature with their exposure to physical demands in their sport the amount of time they need to spend on General Physical Preparation (GPP) becomes less and less. There is a pyramid that must be followed in an athletes physical development with GPP being the foundation, followed by General Strength Exercises, Specialized Exercises, and finally to Sport Skill itself. Early specialization in sport is retarding our youth’s ability to reach their potential, and unfortunately their ability to stay injury free. We must look to develop our youth with a extremely wide range of exercises and proper movement skill execution. One of the best ways for our kids to accomplish this is by multiple sport exposure and by simply playing around in the neighborhood.
EXPOSE YOUTH EARLY
Let’s take a step back. One of the best ways to have our youth fall in love with physical activity is getting them involved in sports and play during pre-adolescence years. Physical activity exposure allows them to develop neural and kinesthetic skills while their body is eagerly starving for this coordinative information. As our kids head into adolescent age, their window of information uptake gets smaller and smaller. So the question remains, how effective of an athlete do you want? It is important to realize that 90% of professional athletes are going to be professionals anyways no matter what they do for training, which is God’s gift to them period. It is simply a matter of them realizing the gift they have and using it. The other 10% need to work their tails off and develop skills, all the while being smart in what they are doing in their training. Remember, “If the body stops learning, the body stops growing.” Youth must continue to learn both physically and especially psychologically. This leads me into my next topic.
INGRAIN ATTITUDE AND WORK ETHIC
(Ingrain) – firmly fix or establish (a habit, belief, or attitude) in a person.
Raise your hand if you do not want your youth to have a positive attitude, a habit of hard work, and a belief that they can achieve whatever they sets their sights on? We must ingrain this within them. They need to be working out and getting stronger on their own as well as in the team setting. As a sophomore in high school, I would run sprints down in our flood channel, barbell squat after school, and did pushups until my face turned blue. Nobody told me to do it and I had no idea what I was doing, I just wanted to become a better athlete anyway I could. I attribute this desire to my parents and coaches ingraining in me an attitude of hard work. I simply had the desire to become a better athlete and take on the responsibility of achieving what I wanted to achieve. My goal was to start my junior year on the varsity football team and I did. You as the athlete can achieve what you want to as well. There are no excuses. You pay the price for failure, not success. Jump into training, you’ll find your way.
The internet is laced with tons of information, much is erroneous, so be careful what you read. Learn and read from those who have worked with youth athletes before and start to train with those who are better than you, who work hard, and will encourage you to get better. Avoid those who are naturally gifted athletes that are lazy, have poor attitudes, and yet still produce on the field. These athletes will be stars in middle school and high school but they will surely fizzle come college and bring you down with them. Lift smart, get good grades, and constantly be in shape. Preparation is the making of champion, laziness is the making of a benchwarmer. It is important to realize that you become part of what you are around. Is staying up late playing video games really going to get you better? Is eating Taco Bell really going to have a positive effect on how you feel come practice or workout time? Is telling yourself you can’t beat the player across from you really positive thinking? Everything we say and do has an effect on us in one way or another. “Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”
WHERE TO START?
Anson Dorrance is the head coach for the women’s soccer program at the University of North Carolina. He has one of the most successful coaching records in the history of college athletics. If you did not know already, Mia Hamm attended school there between 1989 and 1993, helping lead Coach Dorrance to 4 consecutive NCAA titles. Durrance wrote Mia Hamm a personal note after seeing her run sprints and cones tirelessly in a park, by herself, before her senior season. In his note he said this;
“The vision of a champion is someone who is bent over, drenched in sweat, at the point of exhaustion, when nobody else is watching.”
If someone as gifted as Mia Hamm found it necessary to be in constant pursuit of excellence, how much more should those who are less talented?
Last I checked, there are plenty of parks around. If you don’t know the way, there is always someone willing to lead you there. Make the time, or time will make you.
Matt Brown is a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Fitness Quest 10. Matt earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Fitness, Nutrition, and Health from San Diego State University. Matt holds a CSCS and NSCA – CPT credential. Matt competed in athletics from a very early age, from soccer to baseball, and eventually to high school football and track where he was a standout athlete in both. After graduating from high school Matt turned his focus from competing in sports to understanding how the body functions both during sports and everyday movement. He believes the body is an amazing organism and his passion ever since high school was to learn how this organism functioned both in high performance and everyday life.