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Keys to Developing Young Athletes

Updated: Mar 28, 2020

XIP’s involvement in the local communities, specifically with youth athletics, has always been a staple of our mission - educating and helping athletes of all ages train and have better performance for life. Along with improving athletic skills, XIP also understands the importance of creating a culture that is built on a foundation of core values - consistency, hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

This summer two long-time XIP athletes recently assisted Coach Adrian Guyer in a pre-season football camp for youth football athletes in the Lyndonville and St. Johnsbury communities. JJ Mesics and Ethan Roberts are products of our local youth athletics programs and XIP's Performance Camps. Both of these athletes are members of collegiate football programs (Husson University and St. Lawrence University, respectively), so who better to help XIP give back to the community than these athletes?! Thanks again JJ and Ethan for being such great role models for our young athletes!

XIP is deeply rooted into shaping young athletes to be better prepared for their sport while also placing a priority on the behavioral and social skills needed to be successful in life. We strive to maintain a high level of excellence because we know there are SO many benefits to performance training. For example, it is widely known that a comprehensive performance training program: improves risk of cardiovascular disease, weight control, strengthens bones, improves motor performance and decreases the risk of sports related injuries. In addition to the physical benefits, training can improve psycho-social well being allowing athletes to feel more confident and connected with their bodies and their peers!

We also know that being a great athlete is about so much more than just lifting weights, gym workouts and getting bigger muscles. If you truly want to be a great athlete you must have a movement tool box that is as diverse and robust as possible, having been introduced to as many movements as possible as a young, developing athlete. This toolbox, or the bandwidth of athletic movement, can also be referred to as an athlete’s “physical identity” and we at XIP couldn’t agree more with this "move more" approach to athletic development. The video of the pre-season football camp above was full of movement diversity and creativity, which is the backbone of our youth development camps at XIP. We want athletes who have the ability to react and respond quickly and effectively to any situation they encounter in sport, which by nature is wildly unpredictable and inconsistent. This will allow for greater success in athletics while also decreasing the opportunity for injury along the way.

Lifting weights has become the blanket remedy for athletic development, the mantra "make them stronger and they will get better" has followed this mindset. Although developing strength is important to athletic success, not to mention general health and well-being, it will not make anyone a better "athlete" alone. It's a tool, a very small tool at that, used in the athletic development process and it should not be the backbone of any young athletes training.

"Athleticism is one's use of physical skills or capabilities"

If you want to help develop the innate athletic potential that young athletes are born with we must introduce and challenge young athletes in as many movements (movement variability) and physical activities as possible every day. In return, athleticism will improve naturally and effectively as we layer on more and more diversity to their movement. When you watch truly "athletic" athletes move you will understand what I am referring to. It's as if they have an answer or a movement solution for every obstacle they encounter in sport. Their movements are fluid and quick because they have a nervous system that can respond with a solution to everything they encounter. Less athletic athletes don't move this way, they are slower to respond and lack the tools in their toolbox to fix the problems they encounter in sport. Many times athletes who reach the high school level will often turn to "lifting weights" as their cure for athletic shortcomings. Testosterone, social media, and misguided coaches and parents tend to exacerbate this problem. Don't make this mistake with your young athletes.

Lifting weights will not cure movement inefficiencies. Learning to move better will.

More progressive coaches know that you "don't load dysfunction" as this will further incapacitate an athlete's ability to move and react quickly and with precision. Resistance training can be highly effective when applied at the correct time and with appropriate volumes, intensities, type and timing. It can also ruin an athlete at precisely the time when they should be starting to find their stride and the long term development truly pays off. Yeah there's some science involved, tons of it actually.

In closing, if you want to help young athletes reach their athletic potential you must get them moving early and often with as much "free play" as possible. Be competitive and utilize games that incorporate high speeds so that athletes must make quick decisions. Remember quickness is more about decision making than physical capacity. An athlete must first see it (vision), process what they see and make a decision (motor cortex/the brain), and then then finally the muscles, tendons, joints, etc. will act and the movement will happen. Free play should not disappear when an athlete gets to High School, as it's vital to keep these reactive capabilities keen. It always makes me happy to see HS and college teams playing inter-squad "games" during practice. These coaches get it! So get out there and and get moving!

If you haven't read our post on the "30 Skills Every Young Athlete Should Have" click here as this article shares skills that will help in the athletic development process and can be done at home.

Coach Guyer

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