As a father of a one year old daughter, I appreciate the concept of youth development. As I watch her crawl, walk, and learn the new movements of life, it reminds of the importance of letting kids to just be kids.
Over the past 8 weeks I have had the opportunity to work with different groups of youth athletes from 13 to 17 years of age both male and female. While each kid has their own unique sets of goals and needs, one thing that I have noticed is that kids have forgotten how to be kids.
I remember when I was a kid. Playing sports allowed me to socialize, have fun, develop confidence as a kid, and figure out which one I loved best, while really figuring out what and where I wanted to be.
Today being a youth athlete carries so much pressure that kids are forgetting to be kids and have fun.
Over the past decade youth sports has become so competitive that a lot of parents and coaches truly believe that more is better and specialization will get their kids to the next level. While some kids may be more resilient than others and be able to do so many things at once, more often than not most kids are not able to handle the pressure associated with being forced into playing one sport all year round.
Research supports kids who engage in multiple sports tend to be more creative, have better motor skills, and carry more emotional intelligence versus those kids who specialize in one sport early on in life.
Overzealous parents and coaches are forcing kids to do more today, and early specialization is leading young kids to be burnt out, depressed, and often injured.
Specialization becomes a forced path to becoming the best they can be without encouraging self-discovery. The constant overscheduling of sports while pressuring young kids to do so much so early is deterring kids from learning some of life’s most valuable lessons.
In addition, many of these young kids lose the love of the game and go through the motions rather than enjoy the process. When kids lose the love of the game, they often quit. But when kids are allowed to have fun while developing a passion for the love of the game they often yield better results both in sports and throughout life.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, only seven percent of high school athletes move on to play college sports and only three percent earn an athletic scholarship. That means if you have 500 athletes, early specialization will only benefit roughly 35 kids.
The benefits of multi-sport participation are evident in the latest Super Bowl when 88.7 percent of the players from The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons played multiple sports in high school.
When a young athlete plays multiple sports they develop better hand eye coordination, balance, endurance, strength, explosiveness, and adversity. All of which are things college recruits look for when selecting athletes.
Why Long Term Development Is The Key To Success
When working with youth athletes, the goal early on should be to develop a set of foundational skills like running, jumping, throwing and body awareness. Research suggests that sustained success comes from training and performing well over the long term rather than winning in the short term. Focusing on specialization during early years often causes shortcomings in athletic abilities later on in an athlete’s life.
A good design to youth athletic training will teach kids how to develop the fundamental movement and basic levels of strength needed for any sport and throughout life.
The goal should be to focus on the basics and teach kids the importance of movement and exercise rather than focus on strength itself. Volume, intensity, and the type of training that should be conducted will depend on where the kids are in their offseason or in season.
Most of all allow kids to just be kids and have fun!
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Sometimes you have to think outside the box in real time situations . Here's a quick game of team pick up with tennis balls that teach the kids to work together and strategize to get the balls back in the bucket #youthdevelopment #youthathletes #strength #strengthtraining #youthgroup #kids #kidsstrength #teamtraining #reaction #reactiondrills #speed
Brooks, T., et al. Fundamentals Of High School Strength and Conditioning. ICYA
Rerick, M. Importance of Multi-Sport Participation. National Federation of State High School Associations.
Spilbeler, Brian. Tracking Football. Superbowl 51 Roster Full Of Multiple Sport Highschool Athletes.
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