5 Random Thoughts on Youth Training

5 Random Thoughts on Youth Training

It’s been a while since I’ve done a “Random Thoughts” piece.

For those of you who missed my other articles, do you live in a cave?

With that said, let’s catch you up:

7 Random Thoughts on Girls’ Soccer Training
25 Random Thoughts on Youth Soccer Training
27 Random Thoughts on Soccer Strength and Conditioning

After reading those, feel free to question the state of youth sports. There’s a lot of fluff out there that needs to be addressed, and I’ll do it one article at a time…until my fingers fall off.

But wait…there’s more.

Just when I thought I had nothing more to say about youth training, strength coaches Justin Ochoa and Kevin Warrnen invited me to be on their podcast to speak to the subject.

That conversation went something like this:

Justin: “Yooooo want to be on our show?”
Me: “Hell yeah!”
Kevin: “Word. Let’s do it.”

Then insert copious amount of Bitmojis:

Admittedly, we all had trouble finding the best time to do the podcast. Justin was traveling. Kevin was doing bicep curls and reliving his DJ days. And I was fighting crime.

When we finally came together, we talked about everything in the realm of youth training, and broke the episode down into these parts:

– Problems with youth training
– How to inform coaches and parents about the best methods
– Safe and effective ways to train kids
– What sport specific and female specific training really means
– What it’s like being a woman in an industry of bros
– What pick-up line is best

If you’re ready to listen to two dudes and one chick talking shop, here is the link to the full episode. Enjoy.

Now let’s get into my 10 random thoughts on youth training. I’ll make this quick:

1. Coordination first.

One thing I ask new kids I train is, “do you know how to perform a ladder drill correctly?” And their default answer is yes.

Then they do it and they’re moving in whacky, ipsilateral mechanics.

Cue: Psycho soundtrack.

Coordination is so critical with kids 8-12, and I feel ladder drills performed with contralateral mechanics are a great way to teach it.

So please don’t do ladder drills just to do something.

Do them with precision and coordination.

2. Early specialization isn’t always bad.

What the what?

For someone who has bashed early specialization in the past, I do see a few benefits. Just a few.

First, if a kid is truly passionate about one sport, that’s great. They shouldn’t be forced to do other sports if they don’t want.

Second, kids who specialize early tend to be on high level teams with quality coaches who understand the development process.

Please keep in mind if you’re working with a child who chooses one sport to monitor their training load throughout the year, and ensure they get adequate recovery days, if not, a recovery season.

3. Sideline talk confuses your kid.

Where parents go wrong is well, a lot of times. But one thing that irks me is the sideline talk.

“Johnny, man on! Johnny, cross it! Johnny, run faster! Johnny, shoot! Johnny, stop picking your nose!”

This. Is. Too. Much. Stimulation.

While the intent may be genuine, it ends up being counterproductive and is too much stimulation.

Also, this does not promote an autonomous environment for your kid.

And Abby Wambach couldn’t have said it better: “We think it’s our job to help our children avoid fires, but we need to walk them into the fires to show them they’re fireproof, which to me is everything — teaching kids that they can handle anything life throws at them, the good and the bad. Kids need to learn that they are capable of handling life on life’s terms.”

4. Growth spurts are solved by strength.

Random knee, calf, and ankle pain are the most common injuries I have witnessed in youth sports. The best way to alleviate this pain is to get kids stronger and more durable.

Some drills to try:

5. It’s never too early to get kids moving.

The youngest I’ve “trained” is age 6. I put trained in quotations because for the little ones, it’s not too structured and rather unorganized.

“Play” drills in the form of obstacle course are the best to teach kids to skip, hop, side shuffle, crawl, back pedal, sprint and leap. Shockingly enough, a lot of these kids aren’t getting this in their school gym classes. A great book I read on this is Original Strength, which emphasizes how we were born to move and live life.

There’s so much more to include on this, but if you’re ready for me to dive into youth sports, check out the podcast here.


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