TACTIC: Youth Strength & Speed Training
This is always a topic of conversation in the private setting as coaches are constantly chatting with parents. There is a pressure/need to find an advantage for their sons/daughters, which isn't completely the parents fault. Coaches these days are testing 40 yard sprint times and vertical jump heights in youth sports which is absurd. If they want to find the fastest athletes, they should probably go to girl's soccer practice as females develop quicker than males in the elementary to early middle school age bracket.
Top 3 Questions and Answers:
Is it safe for my son/daughter to do strength training?
If your athlete is participating in organized athletics it is absolutely safe to start a training program. These programs need to be dialed back to the basics of controlling your body in space and learning movement patterns. Teaching kids how to skip, hop, jump, land, body weight squat, lunge, hinge, crawl, and maybe even walk in a straight line will do wonders in their development as an athlete.
What should my kid be working on?
Everything! I do not believe there should be specificity in sport until later in a high school career. From there, an athlete should be able to choose their most successful sport(s). The best athletes tend to end up being the best across multiple sports. Creating an environment of play and fun keeps kids engaged and wanting more. Developing proficiency with all movement patterns and body control will translate to any sport/position they grow into.
When should we start a program?
This can be tricky and depends on the facility/coach in your area. If there are youth training groups, test them out. Make sure they are not just putting kids through circuits and making the athletes tired. They already have a couple daily hours of practice for that. These sessions should teach the basics of movement and be intermixed with games to add competition. As of now, I do not have a youth group, so I keep the age to second semester of 8th grade and up. This age tends to understand goals, focus, and the seriousness of athletic competition on their own. Continually talk with your athletes about their goals, and guide them to come up with their own goals as they develop.
I hope this helps anyone out there deciding what to do with their young athletes. Feel free to reach out anytime with questions. Have a fantastic end of week and weekend!