In honor of turning 29 next month, I’m writing a bullet point article outlining 29 tips on youth fitness.
Of course, I could list 2900, but I have a party to attend and shots to take to the face.
On my 29th birthday, I’m going to stay home, snuggle with my cat, and watch Netflix.
That’s about it.
I’m releasing a book as well.
Yep. I’m going to be giving you guys a major gift on my own birthday.
Here’s a sneak peek:
The Total Youth Soccer Fitness eBook will go on sale end of November.
What you’ll get:
– Over 60 drill videos on strength and agility.
– Over 20 drill videos that involve fun and play to inspire kids to move.
– Functional anatomy explanations on how to safely teach kids fitness.
– A programming chapter addressing in-season and off-season workouts.
– Mindset and motivation hacks and the “why” behind youth fitness.
– Nutrition and recovery tips.
– 15,000 words written by the birthday girl.
Yup. 15,000 words.
To say it’s thorough is an understatement.
This body of work has been a year in the making and I couldn’t be more ecstatic.
A year ago, I told my boyfriend at the time, “hey, I think I’m going to write a book.” He responded, “cool, go for it.”
And now, here I am: no longer in a relationship and burnt out. To that end, don’t try writing a book at home, kids.
Oh, and just when I thought I didn’t have enough to say, let’s dive into 29 tips on youth fitness:
1. Planks are half-assed.
More often than not, planks are done wrong.
Here’s a video that will help you teach kids better:
Full disclosure: my girls in the video were shaking. In fact, after I turned the camera off, they exclaimed, “that was the hardest 10 seconds of our lives!”
With that said, try performing a full tension plank for 10 seconds and see if your face melts. Oh, and get back to me.
2. The best balance work is not the shit you see on Instagram.
For someone who is ubiquitous on social media, I fucking HATE social media.
At least, sometimes.
I hate it when coaches and influencers post videos of their clients doing acrobatic movements you’d see in Cirque du Soleil. Balance training, especially.
No, kids do not need to balance on a BOSU while volleying a soccer ball
No, they do not need to balance on an instability pad while playing Fortnite.
Instead, let’s get them comfortable balancing first: barefoot and on a stable surface.
Oh, and mastering the basics of single leg strength training, which is far better for injury reduction and eccentric control to prevent knee blow-outs:
Then maybe, just maybe, we can progress to unstable surfaces. But not really.
3. The best training is not the shit you see on Instagram.
Just because someone has thousands of followers, doesn’t mean they’re credible training youth.
Most of the time, the shit you see on Instagram is all hype.
I mean, come ON. No one wants to see someone teaching the hip hinge:
What they want to see is:
– A kid wearing an oxygen mask while running through ladders.
– A kid strapped to a speed harness while dribbling through cones.
– A kid doing hill sprints wearing a weighted vest.
But sometimes, what makes you go “oooh” and “ahhh” isn’t always best for youth athletes.
It’s all hype.
The basics, to that end, matter.
And this is why, my Instagram is splashed with deadlift, plank, push-up, and pull-up tutorials.
I truly believe behind every athletic AND healthy youth athlete is someone who reinforces the basics.
4. Reinforce coordination.
Speaking of basics, coordination falls under this category.
Coordination does several things:
– Improves contralateral movement for efficient sprinting (opposite arm, opposite leg mechanics)
– Improves connection between left and right hemispheres in the brain for learning and brain function (highly recommend the book Smart Moves)
Here are some awesome coordination drills I feature in my book:
5. Agility isn’t just about fast movement.
Newsflash: there’s more to agility than just quick feet.
I go into depth on this topic in my book, but let’s ask this profound question as a teaser: are your youth athletes fast movers, fast thinkers, or both?
Let’s hope both.
To that end, agility encompasses these things:
– change of direction
Can players react to external stimuli? Can they react and execute movement quickly based off this stimuli?
Here’s one of the many “cognition” agility drills you’ll see in my book:
6. Train hard. Recover harder.
If a youth athlete isn’t training as hard as their neighbor, they’re falling behind.
This seems to be the general consensus amongst coaches and parents in youth sports.
However, I’d argue that recovering hard is just a critical as training hard.
To that end, kids need a day off. They need a day to stretch, play outside with friends, relax, or go to the playground.
I promise this itty bitty day off a week won’t ruin your child’s chances of going pro.
7. Formal conditioning is overrated.
The best conditioning isn’t suicides.
It’s going to the playground. It’s playing tag. It’s climbing trees and running hills. It’s playing Hide and Seek. It’s playing pick-up soccer.
And you know what? Sometimes these fun activities elicit a better conditioning effect than formal conditioning runs.
This bears repeating: let kids be kids.
8. Parents, shut up.
As harsh as this pointer may sound, it comes from a genuine heart space, inspired by my mom and her quiet parenting during my youth soccer career.
Read this viral article I wrote on parents.
9. Parents, be patient, too.
“When will my child get fast?”
“When will my 8-year-old become more aggressive?”
I’m asked these questions ALL THE TIME.
My answer: your child will develop.
Of course, that’s being classy. What I really mean to say is, “shut up and be patient.”
Things like aggression and speed, take time.
Kids either need to 1) get confident in themselves and the game which comes with age or 2) get strong and muscular which also comes with age.
Be patient. They’ll develop nicely.
10. Speed doesn’t happen overnight.
Speaking of patience, speed is not improved overnight.
It’s a process that takes months, if not, YEARS, given a youth athlete’s maturity level.
Here’s a detailed article I wrote on speed development. What’s funny is, this is actually the short version.
11. Bodyweight training isn’t enough.
Bodyweight training is the reason I don’t travel to fields to train youth clubs anymore. It’s all bodyweight shenanigans I don’t want to promote.
I’m fucking done, dude.
Get. In. The. Gym.
Because you know what? Athletes who load not only get stronger and faster, but they’re better able to WITHSTAND LOAD from injury.
12. Injury prevention doesn’t exist.
As much as us strength coaches wish we were Dumbledore and can magically 100% prevent injuries, we can’t.
We do our best to reduce those chances through periodized strength training.
Read more here.
13. The core is not just the six pack.
When we design strength programs for kids, we have to do better of informing them that the core is not just about the abdominals.
It’s the hips. It’s the back. It’s the obliques.
Let’s do better with exercise prescription too:
14. The core can be more than Sit-Ups and Planks.
Expounding further, here are some core drills to help your youth athletes progress, as well as have fun with:
15. You can’t wing it.
Periodization is a thing. And any sharp strength coach, knows this.
Every youth fitness program should have a plan.
What are you working on?
Having a plan in these realms ensures you’re able to track and progress kids accordingly.
We can’t just write on a white board, look at the type of solstice that night, and wing it.
Have a plan.
16. Babying doesn’t work.
Correct kids when they’re wrong.
If something looks like shit, it probably is.
Correct that deadlift.
Correct that whacky ipsilateral running pattern.
Correct that knee valgus landing.
You’re there to coach. Do your job.
This goes without saying.
Enough cheering and “good jobs” and more COACHING.
18. But allow for fun.
Okay, sorry I got so serious.
Certainly, there needs to be a balance of fun.
Here’s one way I incorporate fun into a workout:
19. Oh, and coaches, you shut up, too.
As much as I say parents should shut up, coaches do too.
Here’s an idea: design a drill so well that you don’t need an overload of cues. Instead, the drill brings out the techniques you want to see.
20. Early specialization isn’t the devil.
I wrote an extensive article on this here.
21. Early diversification can hinder performance only when…
Done in the same season.
In fact, this is a major problem as far as injuries and burn-out are concerned.
Don’t do this.
22. Recognize your youth players.
Post them conquering feats of strength on social media. Kids love this. Recognize their hard work.
23. Make drills competitive.
This is simple coaching science: the more competitive a drill is, the more players pick up their intensity.
24. Master the mundane.
Behind every talented youth athlete is someone who practices relentlessly on the basics.
25. Proper warm-up is the first step to injury reduction and competition prep.
Proper warm-up is the best injury reduction program out there. And what’s more is, you DO have time for it.
Takes 10 minutes. <— detailed warm-up featured in my book.
26. Make strength training a priority.
All these coaches and parents worried about overuse injuries and ACL, but what are they doing about it?
Let’s hope their kids are strength training and becoming more resilient.
People need to walk the walk more.
Don’t complain and fear injury. Fucking do something.
27. Strength training should be monitored by a qualified professional.
As much as we think we can do it all, we can’t.
Strength training is a meticulous practice that must be monitored by a qualified professional.
And if you think you can do it, can you answer these questions:
– What exercises are best for eccentric control of the hamstrings?
– What should you do when an athlete is performing a squat with knee valgus?
– What should you do if an athlete is not getting jumping and landing mechanics down?
– What exercises are best for core and hip control in the frontal plane?
– What exercises are best for gluteus maximus maximal strength?
– How do you progress a split squat if an athlete needs more of a challenge?
If you couldn’t answer these without Google, then get the fuck outta here. Hire a strength and conditioning professional. I guarantee they can answer these questions drunk, blindfolded, and in .5 seconds.
28. Strength training should be progressed.
Professionals also know how to periodize strength training programs with great care.
They understand how to tweak volume based on the season.
They understand how to manipulate sets/reps to elicit certain physiological results.
You going to hire a professional or not?
29. Strength training is the best thing youth athletes can do for themselves.
I repeat this deep, underlying theme in my eBook: as much as exercise science, performance enhancement, and injury prevention matter in a kid’s life, they’re just a few pieces to the puzzle.
Being able to fall in love with fitness and movement for a lifetime is far more beneficial for children. Especially in terms of confidence and self-worth and sustainable happiness.
And this is just glossing over the tip of the mindset iceberg.
For someone who just wrote a 15,000-word eBook on youth fitness, I sure had a lot more to say with these 29 pointers.
Still burnt out.
But still, so in love with youth fitness.
Thank you to everyone who stuck with me not just for this article, but over the years of me writing for this blog.
I hope my book propels you to inspire kids to move.
Thank you and stay tuned for the release.