I’m going to dive in right away.
The other day, I tweeted this:
It’s a profound question, no doubt.
It ranks up there with questions like “to be or not to be?” or “where’s Waldo?” or “was it Colonel Mustard with the candlestick in the ballroom?”
Not only is it profound, it challenges sports coaches, parents, and players. Perhaps you consider this a zesty call-out. Or perhaps you consider this a kick in the booty to take action once and for all. Or perhaps you consider it offensive.
Great. Let’s offend some people.
With female athlete ACL injuries increasing each year by 3%, more girls are being sidelined from sports and unable to reach their potential due to long rehabilitation times, and increased chance of re-injury.
And still, people involved in youth sports – club owners, parents, coaches, trainers – aren’t doing jack to solve it.
So let’s review one more time…
Problem: ACL injuries on the rise.
Solution: Strength and conditioning prevention programs.
Still, young girls aren’t being encouraged to get strong, namely, in the hips and posterior chain muscles. Still, young girls aren’t being taught how to change direction safely. Still, young girls aren’t being taught how to land with good mechanics. Still, young girls aren’t focusing on their strength and conditioning under a periodized plan in the off-season. Still, young girls aren’t doing strength maintenance programs in-season.
As a soccer strength and conditioning coach, I’m grateful to be able to work with the amount of female athletes I do, and each day I’m excited to train them with great care. Truthfully, I get an adrenaline rush when I have to prepare them for the demands of in-season, and nurture them to maintain their strength during the season.
However, I still hear of hundreds of girls not making strength training a priority, especially in the off-season. And more often than not, some have never tried strength training. Instead, they’re playing in leagues, attending skills camps, and seeing skills trainers all summer.
Now this isn’t to say I’m pointing fingers, but…I’m pointing fingers.
Team coaches, technical trainers, clubs, parents…who is to blame here for this lack of strength training for the female athlete?
But moreover, can we do better at bulletproofing them against ACL injury?
Can we encourage them to enter into strength and conditioning programs?
Can we realize the FIFA 11 Warm-Up isn’t the panacea to ACL injury?
Can we stop googling workouts and instead, send our players to qualified strength coaches who can understand biomechanics, exercise physiology, periodization, and who can coach the crap out of exercise technique?
Sure, we can make the argument, “strength and conditioning programs aren’t free. They’re expensive and just an added cost to already expensive team dues.”
Don’t even with me, especially if your kid works with 3 technical trainers, signs up for 10 skills camps every summer, plays on a futsal team, two travel teams, attends private school, and owns 5 pairs of cleats.
Everything in life operates under a cost-benefit ratio. It’s up to you to decide if you want your child healthy for the length of their career and to evade the immense cost of surgery, the expense of physical therapy, and the tremendous duress on your kid’s mental confidence.
Okay, maybe I’m fired up but hear me out: this stuff ignites my soul.
And a plethora of strength and conditioning coaches worldwide feel the same.
Put simply, we’re eager to help kids stay healthy and reach their potential.
We’re good people, yo.
Personally, my mission is to blast out as much content on the subject that I can. Don’t believe me? I’m equipped with over 500 articles, 600 YouTube videos, 20 podcasts, and 10,000 tweets on the topic. All for free. Go dive in.
But, I will say nothing beats a comprehensive, periodized strength and conditioning program with a qualified coach in your area.
Oh, and team coaches: it’s not your place to teach change of direction because 99.9% of the time, ya’ll are going to say change direction with the outside leg.
And it’s not your place to wing periodization, set/reps schemes, progressions/regressions, and load percentages.
And it’s not your place to tell kids to drive their knee high during a crossover step. Hips low, knees low = more efficient, more speed.
I don’t care if you’re good at googling exercises. The ACL is a layered topic that must be attacked with more than a cluster of workouts on the web.
Oh, and don’t get me started on the nervous system, load monitoring, sleep quality, and stress management. Those are the scope of a totally different article.
Let’s start with this: refer your players to a qualified strength coach who can teach all the facets of ACL injury prevention: strength training, core control/posture, landing mechanics, load monitoring, hydration and nutrition, sleep and stress techniques, warm-up, mobility/stability, and change of direction.
Once and for all, let’s get these athletes in strength and conditioning programs, and maybe we’ll all stop having panic attacks over the ACL.
It doesn’t have to be me you hire, but find someone. ANYONE.
Let’s solve this epidemic as a collective power.
I mean, we’re all in this world of youth development together, aren’t we?