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30 Skills Every Young Athlete “Should” Have

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

With the days slowly getting shorter and the nights getting cooler I’m sure most parents of young athletes are already carting kids to soccer or football practices, shopping for school clothes and supplies, and trying to get those end of the summer excursions or vacations checked off the list before school starts up and fall is upon us. Last month during a workout with Coach Johnson here at XIP I asked him what he thought were physical skills every young athlete should have?? Both of us are fathers of active young children, and we also grew up in the days of no technology, so we had some fun with our list as we made sure to put an emphasis on skills that “kids these days” just don’t seem to have in their tool boxes. I put a social media post up asking the same question to our audience and it was really amusing to see everyone’s answers, as well as the similarities to our own list. I’m sure as you read the list below you will come up with a handful of skills we missed, I know I already have. It seems that we all want to see them doing more manual labor, lol. Why do you figure kids don’t work with their hands as much as they used to?? My hope is that those reading this article will see that diversity and creativity of movement is vital to building athletes who will dominate in sport later in life.

Athletes who are exposed to a diverse selection of movements early in their athletic lives will develop a more robust and creative "physical identity" as they mature which will help guide them to success in competitive athletics later in their careers while making them more durable and resistant to soft tissue injuries. This physical identity won’t happen inside on an ipad, on a phone, or playing video games. The most effective training grounds for developing this is The Great Outdoors! Get them outside early and often, let them explore and create games and movements as they begin to discover what their bodies are capable of. After reading the list below you might encourage some of these skills with your young athletes as well.

A few thoughts to keep in mind with all of this:

  1. Kids learn what they live.

  2. Prepare the child for the path not the path for the child.

  3. Kids haven’t changed, parents have. Kids only know what they’ve been taught and what they live, and that falls squarely on the shoulders of the parents. Lead them to success parents.

  4. Practice what you preach. Parents, Coaches and Teachers if you expect your young athletes to be able to do these skills you had better be able to show them, correctly! Side note: I once had a parent tell me their kids tee ball coach was teaching kids to throw with the same arm they were stepping with!! We are never too old to learn a new skill, trust me they will thank you for it later!

30 Skills Every Athlete “Should” Have

  1. Skipping – (Using the opposing arm and leg together)

  2. Jumping Jacks

  3. Jumping Rope

  4. Crawling – (Using the opposing arm and leg together)

  5. Sprinting – (All out for at least 10 seconds as if running for your life!)

  6. Starting a “push” lawn mower and mowing the lawn with it, including side-hills.

  7. Jumping up and down from things (try jumping rock to rock in a stream)

  8. Playing keep away or tag

  9. Dig a hole with a shovel

  10. “Walk” across a balance beam (not shuffle)

  11. Throw and catch without a glove

  12. Climb a tree high enough that you can’t jump out of it without getting hurt

  13. Do a push up

  14. Swing from a rope

  15. Kick a ball and know where it’s going to go

  16. Do a cartwheel

  17. Hammer a nail with both left and right hand

  18. Do a headstand

  19. Ride a bike up a hill without pushing it!

  20. Hit a ball with a bat

  21. Swim in water over your head

  22. Play dodgeball

  23. Stacking firewood or hay bales

  24. Traverse monkey bars

  25. Push Up

  26. Pull Ups

  27. Lunges

  28. Run fast downhill

  29. Line Dancing

  30. Balance on one foot with eyes closed.

Now go out and try these skills with your athletes and help them create as diverse of a movement toolbox as possible. Children at the middle school level have systems that are literally sponges for learning new movement skills, take advantage of this integral period in their athletic development and get out and move with them. When was the last time you climbed a tree, skipped down the sidewalk, did a headstand, or traversed the monkey bars on the playground? Remember children learn what they live, be sure they live and move well.

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