Common Sense Isn’t So Common in Youth Sports
I know this title could go so many places within the youth sphere. Today I am referring specifically to the proper (what should be) basic training for our youth athletes. There is a behavior many parents in youth sport todaytake that( from my perspective) simply means we can’t make up our minds,receive and or digest real experts opinions and make informed choices base on hard facts. To many simply decide or default to figure it out as they go. Believing whatever pit falls have been they for other athletes have to do with “other”athletes will never have to do with mine.
Here’s what I mean. In the media we often read of so called experts complaining about starting to early in sports, but most sport enthusiasts’ with their kids in tow ignore what the “to early experts” have to say and dive head first into soccer at two years old t-ball at three years old. While I have no personal feeling for a “truly fun” outing for a toddler, trying to teach skills that these small children yet to master is futile and a complete waste of time. Conversely a child that is 5-8 starting early sports could be a good thing if it is done right.
What is sports done right? My opinion, just as many well respected doctors and experts agree is that sports done right is to train basic movement skills before rigorous competition as the basis of sport early on. Common sense should lead most to understand that if a child masters basic movement skills they should improve over all athletic function with less injury and more fun because of this mastery as the years progress.
Many children today are playing sports that don’t yet have the full physical capabilities and mastery of for a host of reasons.
To name a few .. age, improper training, no training ,no progressive systematic training based on biologic development(which is an individual approach to the athlete not to an age group).
In a recent article by Vern Gambetta he writes alot that should be followed and I couldn’t agree more. The article is focusing on girls in soccer and basketbal but could easily be any athlete.
“It begs a simple question: Do these players have the physical competencies and fundamental movement skills necessary to compete? We know they have the basketball, soccer, or specific sport skill, but do they have the underlining physical competencies and movement skills to give them a fair change to avoid injury? Part of the solution is quite simple – identify and assess the physical competencies. Then train those competencies in parallel to the sport skill. The dark hole is what is being done in the off-season, preseason and in- season in regard to strength training. In many situations strength training is only done in the off-season, reduced in pre-season and almost nonexistent in-season.
For the female athlete a commitment to year around strength training is a requirement, not an option. It must continue in-season through the championship season. Unlike her male counterpoint that has a great percentage of muscle mass and higher testosterone levels, the female cannot afford to take off from strength training. Obviously the greatest investment should be on leg strength. The great majority of ACL tears are noncontact and in most of those cases they are a deceleration injuries (As are ankle sprains). It stands to reason then that we should focus on training the decelerators. Stop focusing on the knee and think kinetic chain, emphasize the linkage of ankle, knee, hip and the trunk. The knee is stuck in the middle; it is at the mercy of the joints above and below”
The article goes on to say
“The sports that put the knee at greatest risk are sports that require quick starts, stops and changes of direction off one leg onto the other leg. This dictates that the training emphasize work on one-leg and reciprocal movements. The single leg squat is the cornerstone (True single leg squat, not some of the permutations labeled as such), lunges in all planes and step-ups at various heights. Double leg squats are important, starting with body weight and progressing to appropriate loads based on developmental level and sport demands.
Dynamic balance should be part of daily warm-up, as should a mini band routine to work the intrinsic muscles of the hip. Once a foundation of leg strength is established then progressively add agility work that starts with known programmed movements and progresses to random chaotic movements. Incorporate jump rope as a means to teach good coordination and foot strike. Progress to multi dimensional jumps and hops.
The clincher here is that this must be systematically addressed in the female athlete starting just before puberty.(highlight is mine) Think of it as preparation to play the game that runs parallel to skill development. In most cases it should slightly precede skill development. The two must go hand in glove, not either or. The functionally strong young female athlete will be more receptive to skill learning and be better able to apply the skills to the game. TRAIN TO PLAY, DON”T PLAY TO TRAIN!
Select movements that link and connect the ankle/knee and hip as a functional unit to reduce and produce force. Include exercises that have a high proprioceptive demand”
So there you have it, we really should be training our girls with a focus toward just before puberty and taking advantage of her inpending biological change. Helping to enhance her strength as she progresses in her chosen sports.