Training Tomorrow's Champions: Part I
Lets face it, today's youth is getting more unhealthy and less fit as time goes on. Physical education is a downward slope and conversely, the number of children enrolling in organized sports teams on the rise. In my opinion this is directly related to the dramatic rise in sports injuries among children – some of them so severe that they were once exclusive to professional athletes. Paradoxically, with this rise in team sports participation, obesity and lack of fitness are higher than ever.
The popular stance on training these young guns and the attitudes that accompany it are why. Ten-year-old's are taking private pitching lessons before they're ever taught basic coordination skills.
A Pyramid Is Only As Tall As It's Base
Everyone parent wants their kid to be successful, and there’s nothing wrong with that only if the right attitude accompanies it. I see it all too often - the “end justifies the means” mindset reigns supreme and parents insist on specializing their young’un right off the bat, narrowing their preparation to sport-specific movements and exercises. This impatient, short-term thinking rarely leads to long-term sports success. But rather it leads to injuries and a breeding of a negative attitude towards sports...far off from the original intentions of breeding the next superstar.
Put overall development ahead of everything else you had in mind. That trophy case you have set aside in the living room may fill up someday. But today is not that day. Your 6th grade kid thats riding the pine by the water cooler could be the dude shattering backboards his senior year! Pressuring and discouraging them early drains that talent pool far too early. Rather than exploit them and leave them susceptible to injury, turn them onto what physical education and work is really about.
Now this doesn’t mean let the kids run blindly around the neighborhood and expect them to get a scholarship to your alma mater. Proper training absolutely exists, and should be implemented as soon as they're able to take directions. And please, don’t give me the “well I don’t want him/her to start training until they’re older” line, then turn around, toss your kid a Gatorade and a 10-pound helmet, and tell them to run full tilt into other kids and knock them down. Remember I said proper training. No, they shouldn’t be slinging around barbells or undergo any spinal loading until puberty. We can all agree on that. Proper training improves physical literacy, which is defined as the mastering of fundamental movement and sport skills that permit a child to read their environment and make appropriate decisions, allowing them to move confidently and with control in physical situations. I love that definition.
At Pulse, our athletes parents trust us because the success of our young athletes is paramount - we provide the most effective training techniques, and adapt our coaching cues to encourage and motivate them efficiently. To elaborate on the idea of building physical literacy, I'll let you behind the curtain and tell you the pillars of our youth development programs: they are what is known as the Components of Athletic Motor Skill Competencies (AMSC)
- Lower Body Unilateral (Concentric and Eccentric)
- Acceleration, Deceleration, and Re-Acceleration
- Throwing, Catching, and Grasping
- Lower Body Bilateral (Concentric and Eccentric)
- Jumping, Landing, and Rebounding Mechanics
- Upper Body Pushing (Vertical and Horizontal)
- Upper Body Pulling (Vertical and Horizontal)
- Anti-Rotation and Core Bracing
These pillars trained in our programs set the stage for long-term athlete development. The adolescent years are the most pliable when it comes to teaching your budding athlete: the earlier, the better. Starting them young allows us to take advantage of the phenomena known as neural plasticity, or, the ability to absorb and learn. It's no secret that it's easier to learn new skills when you're younger (reading, writing, speaking), this is because a younger brain is still developing and that big sponge known as neural plasticity is at its most receptive. Our goal is a simple one: fill up that sponge while we have access to it, and that meter is running as we speak.
What does this mean to your athletes future? It means a brighter future with greater movement vocabulary and physical literacy due to the fact that they are being exposed and forced to adapt to the training stimulus we provide. The type of training we prescribe at Pulse fosters health and performance. After all, a kid with greater functional movement, reaction time, and range of motion, means they are easier to coach, less likely to get injured, and more likely to have a long future in athletics - long enough to fill up that living room trophy case.
In summation, this is how Pulse's Youth Athletic Development program separates itself from the other "junior" programs out there. We individually screen our youngsters and build the base for development through incorporating fun activities and exercises that that teach healthy life-long habits in a positive, high-success atmosphere. If you're stuck at a fork on the road on what step to take next with your young athlete, this article should help direct you down the right path and en route to filling up that sponge with the tools needed for long-term success!
Drabik, Jozef, Phd. Children & Sports Training: How Your Future Champions Should Exercise to Be Healthy, Fit, and Happy. Island Pond: Stadion, 1996. Print.
Lloyd, Rhodri, and Jon Oliver. Strength and Conditioning for Young Athletes: Science and Application. London: Routledge, 2013. Print