The Youth Athlete - When To Get Started!
For the adults reading this, I want you to think back to your childhood.
Think back to your favorite childhood game,
That tree in your yard that you loved to climb,
How hanging all over the playscape at school was the best part of the day,
Chasing your friends across the blacktop at full speed!
Now I want you think about proper running mechanics,
Adding resistance training and a weight vest to make the activities more challenging.
Adding time intervals to the game of tag so you hit the correct work to rest ratio.
Which one sounds more enjoyable?
This is a simple answer! Clearly the one with smiles and laughter is the correct answer!
By allowing kids to be kids and think creatively in their play, you are allowing them to develop a way that will benefit them the most!
There is a term, Long-Term Athletic Development, that many people are just now becoming familiar with, but is CRITICAL for parents who want their kids to enjoy a lifetime of sports! I am going to talk about two critical ages, 5 to 9 and 10 to 13, in today's post because these are age groups where I have been getting a lot of questions on what is right for them.
So the question is "How Soon is Too Soon?"
Lets make this super simple to start off.
If you have a child at home and they can't tie their own shoes or zip their own jacket, then they should not be participating in any weight training or technique specific training at all!
Now that does not mean they can't get coaching. If anything, it means they should absolutely get coaching, but a very SPECIFIC type of coaching. The type of coaching that promotes games, play and laughter!
Typically this is for kids ages 5-9.
You may think your kid is the next Odell Beckham Jr or Sydney McLaughlin (for my track peeps), but I can tell you this much, if kids don't want to be coached or actually want to participate then you are just throwing money away.
This age does not need to be on 3 premier teams all year long. They don't need fancy technology to help enhance their development.
Training for this age group should be based on these 5 Key Factors:
1) IT IS FUN
2) IT IS FUN
3) IT IS FUN
4) IT IS FUN
5) IT IS FUN
Are we getting the picture yet?
Now in all honesty, you may have a child that is advanced and can hang with the older kids, which is fine. Everyone is unique and ultimately requires their own set of circumstances to help push them in the right direction.
Things that can be done and require NO EQUIPMENT!
Kids will find a way to make the best out of any situation, so use this time to let them create a fun world they can play in.
Now lets talk about 10 to 13 years old. This is a GREAT age!
This age is when you can get things moving! By that I, of course, mean they can continue to do the exact same type of workouts that a 9 year old is doing, but now since they are experienced with a strong foundation you can start to make some changes!
Before we dive into the nitty gritty of what this age group can start to utilize, I want you to read this and really think about it.
"If your child can't do one to five body weight push ups with good form, then why on earth should they be lifting weights? This is the equivalent of you lifting a 5 rep max in the bench press."
So what does this mean? Why did I write it? Well, this thought comes from Youth Coaching Expert Jim Kielbaso. He is the president of International Youth Conditioning Association and is the go to person when it comes to how to get your kids excited for sports! I mention this because in a world that is always interested in the next best thing, we need resources that will help guide us in the right direction.
Moral of the story is that if your son or daughter can't control their bodyweight, then they most likely will have trouble moving anything on top of that. So, now you put a bat in their hand or a racket and expect them to be able to reach their top potential? It just isn't going to happen.
Progression is key!
Slow and steady is THE way to get the ultimate results you are looking for, and it starts with teaching the student-athlete how to create tension, stabilize joints, and move well through ranges of motion.
So what does that mean?
Controlled Eccentric and Concentric motion
Light Dumbbells or Kettlebells
This is when more structure can come into play, but still should be enjoyable for the student. If they are not interested in getting faster or stronger then odds are they won't. This is the job of the coach to create an environment that allows for enjoyment, progression, and, of course, rewards for new personal bests!
Now does your student-athlete need a running coach?
Do they want one?
When your child is playing and moving, they don't focus on form. They just move.
So when they are actually old enough, form can take the focus. The ultimate focus should be teaching them how to coordinate their limbs, learn to push into the ground, and just stay relaxed. Far too often, kids get so much information thrown at them that they skip over the basics. They get right into making the next level of their premier program or traveling across the country to showcase their talents. This is fine and an exciting part of the sport but the older they get, the less likely they are to go back and develop those primary skills. So lets take the time now to really accomplish something!
Now everyone is entitled to their own opinion and can obviously do whatever they would like with their family, but when you think back to your time as a young athlete, wouldn't you want someone who focuses on developing the student-athlete from the ground up!
Here are some great resources for you and your son/daughter!
Written by Connor Green M.Ed
Owner and Lead Coach of Green Light Sports Performance
Certified Speed and Agility Coach