As more children become involved in school or community-based athletics, our attention must turn towards the proper training.
She eyes the goal with a fierce determination, her breath in perfect cadence… this is her moment. She quickly darts past defenders, moving the ball between her fast feet, smiles at the other team’s goalie as she sends the ball into the top right corner — just out of reach.
Whether a coach or parent, we can’t help but beam with pride when our athlete exceeds all expectations, and with confidence. Every practice, every tournament, every game they continue to grow and develop into the athletic star we know they’re meant to be. But what is it exactly that got them there? And, how can we continue their training in a way that further develops this athleticism?
Enter: Strength Training.
As more children become involved in school or community-based athletics (at younger and younger ages), our attention must turn towards the proper training and conditioning to optimise performance, ensure safety and mitigate injuries, as well as increasing our young athlete’s confidence, self-awareness and esteem.
While many coaches are eager to start this type of strength program to their athletes, many fail to incorporate the fundamentals first.
On the other hand, many parents are nervous to begin an aggressive program for fear of:
- Stunting their child’s growth
- Creating more injuries than preventing
While both concerns have their place in any parent’s mind, we ease their worry here.
In actuality, strength training is critical to proper youth development in sports, especially those between the ages of 6-13. This prepubescent age is the prime time to start developing athletes’ body awareness and control. And through various forms of resistance training (used interchangeably with strength training for children and adolescents), our young athletes can experience any of the following:
Increased Muscle Strength & Endurance
No, we’re not turning our youth into mini-me Arnold Schwarzenegger, We’re showing their bodies exactly what they’re capable of. While many children will not see an increase in muscle size, their muscles are moving better, faster, and with more power. Proper resistance programs teach the muscles to work together in a coordinated manner, making movements more efficient.
Improved Coordination and Sport Performance
We’ve all heard the term, though we never truly understand what it means unless we’ve played sports. Yep, good ‘ole muscle memory. Our children’s muscles have figured out how to perform a certain movement to create a specific outcome. It follows the path of least resistance to get the job done, but when you add resistance, the body must adapt. This adaptation comes in the form of highly-coordinated movement and better overall performance.
Reduced Risk For Injury
Now for the topic you have all been waiting for: ‘Injury Prevention’. How can we keep our kids on the field or court for longer? Think about your child’s muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones like a combination of fabric, thread, and glass. The muscles, or fabric, flow and move somewhat freely while the bones, or glass, give it their structure. The tendons and ligaments (you guessed it, the thread) keep the muscles and bones together.
While some fabrics can be easily ripped, others have been conditioned to resist overstretching and tears — just like muscles adapt to a proper strength program. The same can be said for bones — through proper tempering, bulletproof glass is much more resilient than your grandmother’s precious vase. Now, the thread in this analogy is rather special because it’s the key to preventing some of those parenting concerns mentioned earlier.
Increased Self-Confidence and Self-Awareness
While all of the above are great benefits in the eyes of coaches and parents alike, one of the most important to remember is this one: playing this sport is what makes our child happy… and playing that sport at their highest abilities can spark the most pride and happiness a young athlete can feel.