Tag Archives: youth athletes

Developing Athleticism in Youth Athletes

5 Feb

Athleticism is much more than just being an athlete.  According to Rick Howard, CSCS,*D, “Athleticism refers more to the ability to execute fundamental movements, in either a specific or unpredictable movement pattern at optimum speed with precision, with applicability across sports and physical activities.”

So, how can the development of athleticism be incorporated into youth development?  Howard offers the following suggestions:

Focus on Movement Patterns

The development of movement patterns in youth athletes should be fundamental in nature, and not necessarily sport-specific.  Additionally, the development of physical capacities — balance, coordination, flexibility, agility, control, precision, strength, power, and endurance — should be incorporated into activities from a young age until the athlete reaches physical maturity, at which time the context can shift toward sport-specific physical attributes and long-term athletic development.

Provide Opportunities

All youth should be encouraged to reach the recommended daily amount of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.  Therefore, it is necessary to introduce them to a wide variety of movements in multiple settings, in a combination of structured and unstructured settings.  Encourage participation.

Recognize Achievement

Recognition is encouraging.  Explain and demonstrate appropriately, correct when necessary, and praise generously.

Coaching is the Key

Coaching awareness and education is a critical component of the process.  Coaches need to understand how specific training methodologies fit into the development of physical attributes and fundamental skills.

Create the Proper Environment

It is important to create the proper environment for youth to develop athleticism while continuing to have fun, for both physical and psychosocial well-being.  Positive youth development has been shown to lead to positive adult development.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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Youth Athletes More Likely to Be Dehydrated

23 Aug

Dehydration is the number one cause of fatigue-related performance decline in athletes, including youth athletes.  Hydration — during activity (practices, games, etc.) — doesn’t seem to be adequate or effective enough to maintain hydration status. Therefore, it is imperative for coaches and parents to encourage hydration throughout the day — before, during (especially), and after activity.

The body is about 70% water, and small fluctuations in that percentage can make an impact, quickly. As water levels decline, so do the levels of nutrients needed to keep the body functioning effectively, such as salt and potassium.

Fatigue can occur when the volume of blood in the body is reduced as dehydration gets worse. That causes the heart to pump less efficiently. As dehydration progresses, the body has a more difficult time diffusing internal heat, and tension is created through the body in muscles, joints, and organs. That tension often manifests itself as fatigue.

Here’s an article from Health and Fitness News, based on a Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study, titled, Youth Athletes More Likely to Be Dehydrated.  Thanks to my friend, Niki, for sharing this resource.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Strength Training Reduces Injury Rate in Young Athletes

13 May

youth_big[1]Participation in sports can induce several beneficial effects in youth athletes, including improvements in cardiovascular risk profiles and bone health.

In contrast to the beneficial effects, participation in sports may also induce an inherent risk of injuries, especially in high-intensity sports with frequent changes in movement, velocity, and direction with high impacts and contacts between players.

Obviously, injury prevention is important, and it’s necessary to implement preventative measures to reduce the risk of injury and support the health benefits associated with playing sports.

“Strengthening muscles through resistance training will increase the forces they are capable of sustaining, making them more resistant to injury,” according to a recent study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (Zouita, S., et.al.)

“These effects include strength enhancement of supporting connective tissues and passive joint stability, and also increased bone density and tensile strength.”

“… regular participation in an appropriately designed (and supervised) exercise program inclusive of resistance training can (strengthen muscles and connective tissues, and) enhance bone mineral density and improve skeletal health and likely reduce injury risk in young athletes.”

When incorporated with sport-specific skill training, strength training can improve physical performance and reduce injuries.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

What is the Goal of Youth Sports?

27 Oct

DSC_0035[1]Recently, I was talking with an old friend of mine, whose daughter is a high school freshman preparing for her first high school basketball season.  She is also a talented pitcher, and aspires to play high school softball.

He continued to tell me how the high school basketball coach is encouraging his daughter to play both sports, while the softball coach is pressuring her to quit basketball and concentrate only on softball.  Keep in mind, this young lady has not yet set foot on a high school basketball court or softball field.

Last month, I posted a blog titled, Are Parents Ruining Youth Sports?  While this is not meant to be an indictment of all youth sports coaches, I guess — in some cases — you can probably add coaches to that list.

For years, I’ve watched youth sports coaches play a limited group of players — leaving several players on the bench for most/all of the game — in the interest of winning.  It seems to me that the goal should be player development, especially at the lower levels.  That and encouraging young players’ love for the game.  The best youth leagues are the ones that mandate fair (and not necessarily equal) playing time for every child.  Kids grow and develop differently, and there’s no guarantee that the best 9 or 10 year-old athletes will grow up to be capable high school players.  Even in high school, how does it benefit a basketball program when the freshman coach only plays 6 or 7 kids?  What does it really mean if the middle school team goes undefeated?

Some youth coaches put a lot of pressure on kids to specialize in one sport — and play it year-round — at a very young age.  They try to sell the athlete and the parents on the value of concentrating on one sport in the interest of high school stardom and a college scholarship.  In reality, only a portion of youth athletes go on to become “elite” high school athletes, and only a fraction of those players eventually earn athletic scholarships (see The Race to Nowhere In Youth Sports).

Ultimately, Youth Sports Should Focus on FUNdamentals and Developing Athleticism in Youth Athletes.  Too often, parents and coaches are chasing their own aspirations and dreams instead of helping their children and players explore their interests and passions.

Youth sports coaches and programs should focus not only on creating better athletes, but also better people.  There are lots of valuable life lessons that can be learned through participation in sports.

Do your “homework” when it comes to choosing a sports coach, team, or organization for your child.  You can’t always be selective, especially as it relates to in-school sports, but you have much more latitude when selecting the appropriate club or travel team for your child.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Are Parents Ruining Youth Sports?

12 Sep

6de7b653395b255e431287bfe42fa7a2[2]It’s important for parents to support and encourage their children’s interest and participation in sports (or any other endeavor).  Sit in the stands and cheer for your kid(s).  Provide the means — within your means — for their participation based on their interest.  Be a conduit to their learning and having fun playing the game.

And, while most parents (and coaches) “get it,” there’s a growing vocal minority whose behavior is ruining athletics for everyone involved.  These obsessive, over-involved adults have unrealistic expectations of their children’s ability and potential, operating under the misguided notion that their kids’ games are a miniature version of grown-up competitions, where the goal is to win.

Some families are overly preoccupied with finding a private batting instructor, a summer hockey program, an expensive soccer camp, or that special coach who can help their pre-pubescent child improve their jump shot.  This is often an ill-advised attempt to accelerate a process that may not even be occurring, since most young athletes will never reach the elite level.  The fact is, only about 1% of high school athletes will receive a Division 1 scholarship.

You can hire private coaches, but you can’t buy love.  Kids who passionately love their sport are children who won’t have to be nagged to practice. They’ll go out and shoot basket after basket, simply because they want to. That can’t be bought or forced.

Some parents “volunteer” to help their child’s team — keeping stats for the team, spotting for announcers, etc. — in a thinly veiled attempt to gain closer access so they can yell instructions to their child, which usually conflict with the coach’s.  They call, text, and email coaches about their child’s playing time and blame everyone else if their child fails.

Part of the problem is that these parents are living vicariously through their children and their expectations are unrealistic.  They also may feel entitled because of the investment they’ve made in their kid’s sport participation.  And, of course, they think their child is better than they actually are.  They become so emotionally invested in their child that their own identity is linked with their children’s athletic endeavors.

Ultimately, the biggest contributing factor is the financial and emotional over-investment some parents have with their children.

Because youth sports have become about everyone getting an orange slice and a participation ribbon, parents aren’t used to seeing their child on the bench. They expect them to start because a parent usually thinks their kid is better than they really are. They see another player getting a scholarship to a college and think their kid should too.

Youth sports are expensive.  When participation becomes year-round, they’re even more expensive.  When parents invest a considerable amount of their disposable income in their kid’s athletics —  and expect a certain return on that investment (playing time or scholarship) — they’re setting themselves up for disappointment.

The emotional over-investment is a big problem.  Since youth sports have become this year-round “industry,” parents spend years shuttling their kids to practices, games, and tournaments.  All of their free time is consumed by their child’s sport. Their identity is linked with the child, and they spend most of their time with parents in the same situation. They live in a bubble with blinders on. So when their child is benched or cut it’s the coaches fault. It’s impossible for them to believe that their child has athletic shortcomings.

As parents. we all want the best for our children. But there are ways to do that other than making everyone else’s life miserable. If most of these players knew how their parents were acting, they’d be embarrassed.

A child gains nothing if they’re playing because of their parent’s influence.  They benefit more if they’ve earned it. In fact, perhaps they could gain even more if they don’t start. Life is that way. It’s unfair at times. It doesn’t always reward hard work. It doesn’t entitle anyone to anything. You don’t always get what you want.

To exert your influence and prevent your kids from experiencing this early in their lives will almost certainly handicap them in the real world where, more often than not, it doesn’t matter who your parents are.

If you don’t allow your child to fall, how will they ever learn to stand on their own two feet?

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Developing Athleticism in Youth Athletes

4 Jun

youth-basketball[1]Athleticism is much more than just being an athlete.  According to Rick Howard, CSCS,*D, “Athleticism refers more to the ability to execute fundamental movements, in either a specific or unpredictable movement pattern at optimum speed with precision, with applicability across sports and physical activities.”

So, how can the development of athleticism be incorporated into youth development?  Howard offers the following suggestions:

Focus on Movement Patterns

The development of movement patterns in youth athletes should be fundamental in nature, and not necessarily sport-specific.  Additionally, the development of physical capacities — balance, coordination, flexibility, agility, control, precision, strength, power, and endurance — should be incorporated into activities from a young age until the athlete reaches physical maturity, at which time the context can shift toward sport-specific physical attributes and long-term athletic development.

Provide Opportunities

All youth should be encouraged to reach the recommended daily amount of 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.  Therefore, it is necessary to introduce them to a wide variety of movements in multiple settings, in a combination of structured and unstructured settings.  Encourage participation.

Recognize Achievement

Recognition is encouraging.  Explain and demonstrate appropriately, correct when necessary, and praise generously.

Coaching is the Key

Coaching awareness and education is a critical component of the process.  Coaches need to understand how specific training methodologies fit into the development of physical attributes and fundamental skills.

Create the Proper Environment

It is important to create the proper environment for youth to develop athleticism while continuing to have fun, for both physical and psychosocial well-being.  Positive youth development has been shown to lead to positive adult development.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

Youth Athletes More Likely to Be Dehydrated

4 Apr

boy drinking waterDehydration is the number one cause of fatigue-related performance decline in athletes, including youth athletes.  Hydration — during activity (practices, games, etc.) — doesn’t seem to be adequate or effective enough to maintain hydration status. Therefore, it is imperative for coaches and parents to encourage hydration throughout the day — before, during (especially), and after activity.

The body is about 70% water, and small fluctuations in that percentage can make an impact, quickly. As water levels decline, so do the levels of nutrients needed to keep the body functioning effectively, such as salt and potassium.

Fatigue can occur when the volume of blood in the body is reduced as dehydration gets worse. That causes the heart to pump less efficiently. As dehydration progresses, the body has a more difficult time diffusing internal heat, and tension is created through the body in muscles, joints, and organs. That tension often manifests itself as fatigue.

Here’s an article from Health and Fitness News, based on a Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research study, titled, Youth Athletes More Likely to Be Dehydrated.  Thanks to my friend, Niki Pearce, for sharing this resource.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

Your thoughts?

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