01 Sep Youth Advice: Written By Not A Parent
I get I’m not a parent.
But I feel I’m totally capable of giving gems of advice on youth fitness after training kids for 7 years.
At this point, I’m a mom of over 400 youth athletes, who have come in and out of my facility doors and who have stepped on the field to work with me.
Sure, I can’t toss out advice on breast feeding. Or schooling. Or potty training. Or giving out monthly allowance. Or grounding rules due to too much Fortnite.
I’d feel as guilty as a single person shelling out relationship advice.
Not my place.
What I can provide insights on, though, is youth fitness training. Is having a Master’s degree in Performance and Strength and Conditioning enough? Is having a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification enough? Is cuddling with the book Soccer Anatomy every night enough?
So yeah. I’m qualified to give advice on this topic.
Just like a rapper in a freestyle battle, I’m going IN.
Let’s do this:
1.) Make sure kids do planks correctly.
“I can hold a plank for 10 minutes!” shouts a youth athlete.
I. Don’t. Care.
More often than not, if kids can hold a plank this long, they’re performing them incorrectly and unsafely.
Oh, so you can plank for 10 minutes. Want to know how much I care?
I care more about Kim Kardashian plastic surgery updates, the Royal Wedding, and coal mining news.
Instead of aiming to hold the world’s longest plank, master full body tension first. Done correctly, planks should be held for 10-30 seconds.
Here is a video tutorial that will help you coach them better to your youth athletes:
2.) Shut up.
Cognitive overload is real when working with youth athletes.
This is when having 2 ears and 1 mouth comes in handy: shut the fuck up.
After all, kids are overloaded with a ton of information during the school day, so the last thing they want to hear is you barking orders.
So I have an idea: perhaps set up the drill or exercise so it elicits the response you want to achieve.
As an example, instead of instructing all the technicalities of the Single Leg Deadlift, perhaps set kids up with a nice external cue like this:
This way, you won’t have to say, “stay straight” “stay long” point your toe” “chest out” “shoulders back” all at once.
This drill should organically get them in the correct position.
I’d argue this can be done with sport specific and agility drills as well.
Need a player to dribble faster? Instead of saying it, turn the drill into a race.
Need a player to shoot harder? Instead of saying it, turn the drill into a bowling competition where they have to kick balls off cones.
Need a player to player to dorsiflex their ankles better? Instead of saying it, add in a low box.
3.) Time away from sport won’t cause a zombie apocalypse.
Admittedly, I get amped up when summer arrives.
Because kids are finally off from team practices and games.
Moreover, I can actually train them and focus on building strength, improving running and agility mechanics, and increasing speed and power output.
It’s impossible to accomplish these things during the season when kids practice 3-4x a week and have games on the weekends. Injuries would rise and burn out would be inevitable.
So get this: time off from sport is fucking amazing.
It gives kids a chance to focus on other pieces of athleticism, namely speed and strength, as well as enjoy time to be kids on the weekends.
Time away from sport is good. Very good.
4.) You can’t go wrong with getting strong.
This month, I wrote an epic piece titled When Will ACL Injury Prevention Be A Priority?
Starting kids on the strength training journey young is the smartest thing since Uber Eats.
Given kids are under the supervision of a certified strength coach, they can’t go wrong with getting strong.
Strength does several things:
– reduces chance of injury
– prepares athletes for the demands of their sport
– increases confidence
– promotes hard work and dedication for the long-haul
– improves speed and power
I’d argue that girls as young as 11 (and boys as young as 12) can start strength training, especially if they’re mentally ready and physically mature. Through bodyweight exercises, resistance band and medicine ball movements, and then free weight exercises, girls and boys can make tremendous strides from a performance as well as injury prevention standpoint.
Make sure this is all done with a qualified professional.
Oh and one more thing: seriously take action on this. Don’t just share my articles and pretend you’re a coach who focuses on strength and ACL prevention. Actually execute it.
K thanks. #Bye
5.) Encourage activities that aren’t an organized sport.
Okay, I got carried away with the physical training portion.
Beyond fitness, I’m a huge advocate of other activities that will augment athletic performance.
These, in fact, are the icing on the cake for youth fitness development.
Things like learning a musical instrument, participating in school plays, joining the art club, or leading the school science team, are all non-sport related activities I encourage.
Not only do they increase brain plasticity and expand neural connections, they inspire creativity.
And last I looked, all sports involve some degree of creative thinking – to make decisions spontaneously, to swirl around defenders in a split second, to rapidly execute a move past pressure.
If you’re a parent, youth coach, or youth fitness coach, I urge you to motivate your athletes to explore things outside of their sport.
Working with kids is one of the most rewarding careers in my book.
Sure, being Kate Middleton and princess of England is up there, but nothing beats being a coach who starts a kid from the ground up, and witnesses them blossom to extraordinary heights as they grow older.
I’m no parent, but I’m sure as hell a passionate coach when it comes to youth fitness.
And that should be enough.