What Young Athletes DON’T Need

Disclaimer: This article is specifically designed for athletes between 8-13 years old. Although, most of these apply to all athletes.

1. Early Specialization

This is one of the most popular topics out there when it comes to youth athletes. We don’t need athletes specializing in one sport from an early age. Let the kids have fun and try multiple different sports and activities. Athletes that play more than one sport growing up develop into more well-rounded adults, compared to kids who only played one sport.

2. Massage Guns, Compression boots and other Fancy Tools

Please stop it with this one. Stop buying your kids massage guns, compression boots and all these other expensive recovery tools. “Because it feels good” is not a reason to spend hundreds of dollars on one of these. The best recovery tools are the ones who have stood the test of time, which are Sleep, Nutrition, Hydration and Rest. If you have the money to blow, go ahead.

3. Avoid Resistance Training

This one is also misunderstood most of the time. Resistance Training can be extremely beneficial for young athletes to further develop motor skills, coordination, body control and begin to develop some strength. We should always begin with bodyweight training, and then once the athlete is ready for the next step, we can add a bit of resistance. Some of the best exercises that young athletes should be doing are:

  • Push Ups
  • Pull Ups
  • Squats (Goblet or Bodyweight)
  • Band Pull Apart
  • Planks
  • Lunges

4. Strict Coaching

There’s a time and place to give kids strict directions. But, we want to make sure kids have a great first experience and enjoy their training sessions, so they stick with it for the long haul. Building an active and healthy lifestyle starts from the ground up, which means it starts as a child. Self-Discovery is crucial to a child’s development. We must allow young athletes to explore different movements and put them in different situations to problem solve and allow them to perform drills WITHOUT strict coaching.

5. Supplements

There is only 1 supplement we should ever have young athletes taking. And this is still pushing it because it does not teach good nutritional habits, but it’s Whey Protein. Don’t even consider letting young athletes take Pre-Workout or Creatine.

6. Complex training programs

Keep it simple. This saying constantly goes through my head on a day to day basis. A simple workout for a young athlete, should look something like this:

  • Dynamic Warm-Up (5-10 minutes)
  • Sprints and Jumps (5-10 minutes)
  • Strength Training (Push ups, Squats, Rows, Lunges, Glute Bridges, 10-15min)
  • Game Play and Competition (10 min)
  • Cool-Down (5 min)

7. Strict Diets

As silly as it sounds, do NOT make your kids follow the same diet that you are following. Believe me, this is not uncommon for parents to do. Instead, teach your kids good nutritional habits, such as drinking lots of water, limit fast food, eat fruits and vegetables, carbs are NOT bad, etc.

8. “Showcase” Events

Money Pit. Seriously. Stop throwing away your money to have your kids participate in one of these events. If your son/daughter is 8-10 years old, why does their 40-yard sprint matter? Why does their Broad Jump score matter? Are they being recruited straight out of 5th grade these days? Geez…

9. Endless amounts of Conditioning

Don’t get me wrong, conditioning is important. However, youth athletes that compete in at least 1 sport are going to get enough conditioning while they are playing the sport. As sports performance coaches, on average we only get to work with each athlete for about 2 hours per week. In this short amount of time, we must do what is going to benefit the athlete the most for Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD). In my opinion, conditioning isn’t a top priority.

10. Pressure

I hate this one because I know I’m going to be guilty of this when I become a father. But, stop pressuring kids into playing a sport because you played it, or making sure they beat their opponents this week, or being the best athlete on the team. Stop, just stop. Let the kids be kids. It may be hard to watch at times, but let the kids have fun!

Published by Jonathan Valentini,

B.A. Exercise Science, Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach, Former NCAA athlete, CSCS, CSAC, CPR/AED

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