Training for High School Athletes
For the last 10 years I have worked with young athletes ranging from 8-18 years old. Over this time I have learned some valuable lessons on how to safely and effectively train young athletes. Because these kids have wavering skill sets and varied levels of physical and mental development, trainers must understand how different young athletes learn, adapt, practice and stay motivated.
Here are some essentials when working with young athletes:
1. Evaluate. You don’t go to the doctor and just ask for a prescription because you think it might help you. You meet with your physician to get a physical! During this time your doctor talks to you about your stress level, medical history and family background. He/she also runs some basic tests to assess your state of health.
The same SHOULD happen when you work with a personal trainer/strength coach. The coach should know which sports the athlete plays and assess each athlete’s injury history. In addition he/she should evaluate movement patterns that are key to normal function. At Skill of Strength, we use the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) with all of our athletes (and non-athletes for that matter). This assessment gives us a greater understanding of the athlete’s movement baseline, which allows us to detect weaknesses and asymmetries that need to be addressed to reduce and/or prevent injury.
2. Coach, don’t just drill. Kids are usually smarter than we give them credit for and they generally pick up on things very quickly. There is a huge difference between coaching and just running kids through lifts.
I always try to keep it simple by sticking to 3-5 teaching points for each lift. Eventually, I will go into detail the finer points of the exercise, but I think it’s important to use the KISS method. Keep it simple stupid.
2. Practice the basics. If you look at my training programs for young athletes, you’ll find that they are very simple. If I can get my athletes to nail a basic deadlift, split squat and single leg squat, I am a very happy coach. I have them practice these every day because I would rather have my athletes be proficient at 8-10 lifts than stink at 20.
I’ve found that many coaches spend too much time worrying about whether or not their program is boring. Guess what I’ve learned? If your athletes are getting stronger and you have the numbers to prove it, they won’t be bored at all.
3. Decelerate. Non-contact injuries are increasing at an alarming rate these days. Almost all coaches love teaching young athletes how to jump, but spend very little time practicing the landing. Deceleration training is vital to performance and injury prevention. Teach your young athletes how to change direction and land safely and effectively and it will do wonders towards keeping them healthy.
4. Focusing on sports-specific training is not the answer. The training we provide for young athletes (or heck, athletes of all ages) should enhance the sport that they play, not take place of it. Strong is strong in any sport. Fast is fast in any sport. Being durable and injury-free is an amazing gift we can give to our athletes.
Athletes need to work towards being mobile, strong, explosive, fast and durable. Then they can practice the sport they love and get better every year.
5. Record the numbers. We all love to see results. Kids are the same way. If they see that they started with only being able to complete 2 pull-ups and after the program they can do 10, they will be psyched! Record all of your athlete’s workouts and watch the numbers steadily go up. Progress is a trainer’s best friend.
If you are a high school athlete, parent of a high school athlete or coach of young athletes and you are looking for a program where trainers have experience and truly care about training young athletes properly, check out our open house at Skill of Strength next week. All local high school athletes are welcome to check out our sports performance program for FREE on March 18, 20 and 22 from 2:30-4:30pm at our facility in North Chelmsford. For more details visit our website or check out our Skill of Strength Facebook Page.