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How Youth Athletes Can Recover Hard

How Youth Athletes Can Recover Hard

There are two types of people in this world: those who understand the Law of Diminishing Returns, and those who don’t.

Okay, sorry to get economical on you. I get not everyone who follows this blog is a macroeconomic nerd like myself, but hey, if you are, here’s a virtual *high five*. I promise this all relates to recovery, too, so bear with me.

In today’s day and age, it seems athletes are pushed to be and do more. With the growing rigorous schedules of youth sports, there’s never a moment for kids to catch their breaths.

Here’s what I have observed:

Signing up for more skills camps.
Training every day.
Buying that college recruiting service.
Attending every ID camp.
Signing up for camps every week of summer.
Attending extra technical trainings.
Guest playing an additional five games…in one day.
Hiring a speed coach.
Hiring a strength coach.
Hiring a skills coach.
Hiring a shooting coach.

It becomes an unending pursuit of more, more, more , leaving the youth athlete feeling overwhelmed, confused, and curious as to if this all will pay off. Perhaps they burn out under the pressure. Perhaps they suffer an overuse injury due to fatigue and lack of strength. Or perhaps, they quit sport altogether because they failed to live the joy of being a kid.

Taking the conversation back to the Law of Diminishing Returns, athletic development is weirdly similar: the more input someone puts in over time, eventually wanes into less productivity.

The truth is, kids aren’t recovering enough. And I’d argue, with youth athletic development, less is more.

And if I could choose just three things a kid needs for magical, superhuman development, they would be:
– A travel team with a knowledgeable coach who addresses sound technical and tactical training.
– A strength and conditioning coach to make them faster and resilient and able to recover properly under a periodization program. 
– A secondary sport to expose them to new environments and fun.

That’s about it. The rest is just fluff.

And I get your neighbor doing more with their kid makes you want to do more, too, but yo…

Let me ask you this: when was the last time your child went to the zoo? To an amusement park? To the playground?

Or how about: when was the last time they plopped on the couch and chilled the heck out? Or shut off their phone and the burden of external stimulus? Or dare I ask, STATIC STRETCHED post-game?


If it has been a hot minute since any of this has happened, who even are you? Unless you’re Beyonce touring the world, go chill for once in your life.

Let’s get into how athletes can recover hard. As a former college and international athlete, I look back fondly on my recovery days, especially when my Buddhism professor held meditations on Sunday mornings on campus. After these sessions, I felt like a new woman – refreshed, invigorated and ready to train harder that week.

Here are some actionable steps for you to take when it comes to recovery:

1. Take time away from stimulus.

This one I’ll keep short and sweet.

Get off Instagram. In fact, stop stalking that Instagram model’s beach photos.

Get off SnapChat. In fact, stop sending your boyfriend snaps of your face at different angles.

Get off group text messages. In fact, put those on mute and say, “peace!”

I get I’m sounding like a mom nagging her kid about screen time, but look: nothing is worse for the nervous system than external stimulus from glowing screens, and constantly being in contact with the world. 

In order for athletes to truly recover, they need to be able to sit with themselves. For at least a day.

So cut off the noise, and give your mind a break for once. Go listen to classical music. Perform yoga. Cuddle with a husky puppy.

2. Perform mobility movements.

While sitting still has its benefits, recovery days can call for some light movement. Especially if an athlete is tight in certain areas, it bodes well to address mobility work.

Here are a few to try:

Thoracic Spine Mobility

What it does: mobility of the mid back, which is good for athletes who perform rotating movements (shooting in soccer and lacrosse)

How to execute: Perform 2 sets, 8-10 each side

Hip Mobility (Frontal Plane)

What it does: grooves tight and cranky hips through the frontal plane, which is a plane that is overlooked. Frontal plane movements are critical for being able to be agile and move side-to-side better.

How to execute: Perform 2 sets, 8-10 each

 

Hip Mobility (Sagittal)

What it does: grooves tight hips and provides relief to low back tightness.

How to execute: Perform 2 sets, 20 total

 

For an endless library of mobility exercises for every joint, I highly recommend the book Becoming A Supple Leopard.

3. Static stretch.

Kids don’t stretch enough, I know. So let’s help everyone out and leave these here. Oh, and tag me if your players do them:

These are great for post-game. Both stretches can be performed at home and for 2-3 sets 45-60 seconds each side.

For more specific programming considerations and a periodized recovery calendar, Work With Me Online.

4. Fun.

Fun is the most underrated component of recovery. Because sometimes, there’s no better way to relax the nervous system than to simply laugh and enjoy life. An added bonus for you: laughter is FREE.

I can name several expensive recovery methods that aren’t free: cryotherapy doesn’t make you laugh. Dry needling doesn’t make you laugh. Ice baths don’t make you laugh.

So what is your kid doing to enjoy life and kick it with friends? Let’s hope they’re getting outside, performing recreational activities and hobbies, or diving into creative work like writing or playing a musical instrument. Anything but their primary sport will help.

For me, snowboarding is a form of recovery because it takes me away from a loud gym with barbells clanking, into a serene environment with fresh air and powder.

 

It’s paramount to step into new environments when recovering, and have some fun.

And I’d argue this isn’t just true for youth sports, but for life. The brain develops based on new experiences, not from mundane experiences that happen over, and over, and over again.

Team practices. Games. Team practices. Games. Tournaments. Rinse and repeat.

What are you doing to escape at times?

Ponder that, I urge you.

I mean come on: do you want your kid to be living the hardcore, mechanical life of youth sports, or do you want them to explore, enjoy, and relax as well?

*exits stage right*

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