Hey guys, with summer here many parents and athletes are trying to pack in as many summer activities as possible before school starts up again in the fall. For many families of young athletes this means choosing as many skills camps as possible to cram in over the next few months to help get the edge over their competition come fall or winter. We tend to see many of these same athletes cutting out of our strength and conditioning programs for a week or two over the summer to go to these camps or play summer ball, AAU, etc. There's a lot going on and I don't think many parents and coaches are aware of what is actually going on in these young athletes’ bodies either.
For youth populations it's important that pre-pubescent athletes are spending more time training/practicing than playing. This means roughly a 70/30 split on hours training vs competing and applies to ages 8-11 for girls and 9-12 for boys. These kids are playing 3 sports and absolutely not specializing in any one sport during this phase of development. This stage is sometimes referred to as the "Learn to Train" stage. We will introduce BW strength training patterns during this stage, agility, aerobic endurance, speed, proper warm ups and cool downs, team building, games, and relays. This is also a great time to teach accountability and that there is always a winner and a loser! Life is not about blue ribbons for everyone, when is this going to end!? If you miss this during this stage you are in for it down the road.
At approximately ages 11-15 for girls and 12-16 for boys we should still be seeing 3 sport athletes but the split will move closer to 60/40 training/practice vs competition. This is also the stage where athletes should be introduced to strength training with professional coaches. We also want to develop a sound aerobic base, and continue development of speed and agility, and plyometric activity. Athletes might also see anaerobic alactic or work capacity type training become important during this phase. Girls reach their peak height velocity during this stage at appx age 12, boys are at appx age 14. They are growing daily! Overdo it during this period of
growth and be prepared for overuse injuries, hormonal imbalance, and decreased performance. This stage is referred to as the "Train to Train" stage.
The final stage that we typically see at XIP, boys ages 16-23 and girls 15-21, is the point at which specialization can start to be considered, although in over a decade of training youth athletes I still don't recommend that you do this. This is the "Train to Compete" stage. Have a focus sport, and train for that sport year round, but still play 3 sports and keep athleticism as the prime objective. The risk here is overuse injuries and mental toughness and stamina if you become too focused too quick. Here the ratio will swing to favor competition but still no more than 40/60. Training should become sport specific and be somewhat periodized, this is of course dependent upon their competitive schedules. Their mindset should be focused and determined, and absolutely at their own free will. If they are unsure here about commitment it's best to have conversations about what is important to them, please don't push an athlete to compete if their heart isn't in it. Nutrition and sleep become imperative to success during this stage as well. High school is a tough place sometimes and parents and coaches need to be aware of this also. If they can't be a team player during this stage they might need a "slap up side the head", and reminded that they are not going anywhere in life with that attitude.
Now take a look at your young athlete's last year of sport, and add up all the hours of competition vs practice and training, I bet you fall at least a stage above where they should be for their age and development. If you are right on congrats to you! Now with summer here and choices to make I want you to consider your options. Is your kid the fastest? The strongest? The most agile? The fittest? If you said yes to all of these then you "might" consider a skills camp or summer competition league. However last time I checked high school coaches could give a crap what camp your kid went to over the summer when selecting the starting roster in August. They want the best athletes, simple. And if your kid has an injury they've been dealing with, most likely from overuse in their sport, then please don't put them into more competition this summer...Find a qualified strength coach who has knowledge and experience training youth populations and get your kid healthy and durable! I know that week long hockey camp that you spend $700 on will teach your kid a great new deke they can show off this fall, but if he's on the bench cause another kid is stronger and faster what good is that move going to do him?? Not to mention the typical strength and conditioning camp for 6-8 weeks is normally around $200-300, just sayin...We all need to be educated on the stages of development. Most parents and volunteer coaches have no clue, and that's why kids athletic careers end before they ever have a chance to shine. Knowledge is power people, make healthy decisions and these athletes will be competitive for many years to come, potentially leading to competing in college.
All the best, Coach Guyer