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Culture Of Youth Sports


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#1 hollad6636

hollad6636

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Posted 03 October 2007 - 11:10 AM

This is something that I have been thinking about and considering for some time.

It's not exactly about ideas related to speed training, strength development or athletic skill per say, but it does involve those issues on a broader and more theoretical level.

I don't want to give you any exercise guidelines or training
suggestions...

... I just want to make you think.

And if you take my challenge, I guarantee you'll look at your own training programs and practice schedules a lot differently.

A lot of the 'old guard' in the sports training industry believe new 'innovations' and concepts in the strength and conditioning realm to be the ridiculous fabrications of young, 'green' and fool-hearty professionals.

"Nothing is new" they often say.

"What was true and scientifically valid decades ago, is STILL true and scientifically valid today".

I suppose the general message is that 'training is training' and 'coaching is coaching'. Any deviations from the tried and true methods established years ago is tantamount to silly and unnecessary novelty acts being developed by people who don't know any better.

Now, I have made many mistakes in my professional life.

Too many to count within the scope of this article.

But unlike many other Trainers, I don't try and hide my past indiscretions or consider myself infallible in any way.

I went through a 'Swiss Ball' phase, during which I considered standing on top of an inflated round sphere to be the epitome of 'functional'.

And as I have stated in the past many times, in my early 20's, I believed myself to be uniquely talented in the matter of training athletes.

In my late 20's, I believed myself to be knowledgeable, but with some information yet to learn.

Now that I am in my 30's, I see that I know very little in contrast to the broad amount of wisdom that I hope one day to gain.

And that is the circle of life.

Very often as you age, your self-concept begins to shift from 'I know everything' to 'I know nothing'.

At least...

... That's the way it SHOULD work!

But there still exist some industry grandfathers who believe their role to be one of constant criticism.

Criticize new-age thinking.

Publicly admonish those who think 'outside the box'.

But to me, the root of all that is good in our world has stemmed from the courageous and bold acts of individuals who opted not to conform, but rather reform.

I say all that because the youth sports world as well as the youth sports training industry that it parallels, is in a state of flux that could only be described as chaotic and messy.

And that is the point of this discussion.

There exists a rather fractured dichotomy in the youth sports training industry at large.

Personal Trainers and mega-facility franchises have begun the practice of training young athletes to the tune of several hundreds of dollars per training cycle - a cost that many parents fell compelled to pay in the nterest of gaining an edge for their children.

Now, I believe in the open market.

I do not believe it is my place or anyone else's place, to comment on or negatively criticize professionals for charging whatever they determine to be fair and equitable.

The very nature of a free society infers that it is not the businesses or agents of trade that establish price points.

It is the market.

20 years ago, virtually everyone world-wide would have had a good laugh at the prospective potential of a coffee company to charge consumers upwards of $5.00 for a good cup of joe...

... Enter Starbucks.

Now, the same people who 20 years ago scoffed, find themselves at their local Starbucks location every morning enjoying a 'tall, sugar-free, extra foam, no whip vanilla latte'...

... And only get a few dollars back when they hand the cashier a $10 bill.

My point is that rather than raking Starbucks, Personal Trainers or franchises over the coals for having the audacity for charging such 'extreme prices', we must embrace the reality that times have changed and the market had decided what certain goods and services are worth.

Starbucks did not set the price of coffee at $6.00 and Personal Trainers did not set the rate of training for young athletes at $65.00 per session.

The market at large has decided these fees to be a fair and equitable exchange for the goods or services received.

And while I don't like much of what many Personal Trainers and franchises are doing with young athletes, the very best I can hope to accomplish is set an example for a better way and work to bring both the market as well as the industry itself, around to to what I believe to be true.

Now, if I had my choice, society at large would accept the tenants of training youngsters set forth in the theoretical concepts outlined in the Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) models originated Europe so many decades ago.

Young athletes were exposed to a variety of seasonal sports and taught the proper measures of speed, strength and agility through developmentally-sound and 'teaching-based' methods.

As the athletes progressed in skill and age, they eventually became specialists in certain sports based on natural skill and a variety of other determining factors.

Now...

... How contrary and different is that compared to what we know to be true about youth sports virtually world-wide?

As I have said many times, we constantly shoot for biomotor improvements with our young athletes (increase speed in 6 weeks for a 10 year old kid) and mold youngsters into 'sporting specialists' as young as 6.

I began this article with a reference to 'innovative' thinking and the zeal at which many of the industry old-timers work to 'disqualify' those who choose to breach the traditional standpoints of training and conditioning.

But, innovative thinking is precisely what is necessary to make a change in the mess that is the youth sports industry.

A permanent revolution of sorts.

How does one go back to the scientific realities of 'periodization', slow and incremental improvements or progressive skill development in an age where young athletes are playing one sport year round, Coaches are under pressure to win the plastic trophy at this weekend's 10 year old baseball tournament and parents are desperate for a competitive edge in order to defer having to pay upwards of $100,000 for their child's education?

The reality is you can't.

And that is why innovation is not only important and practical, it is necessary.

In the 1950's, children ate nutritionally sound meals...

... The fast food industry explosion has changed that as has the faster paced and more expensive lifestyle realities our modern-day existence mandates - necessitating a 2-income family.

In the 1950's, physical education in school was a disciplined and developmentally-sound method of offering fitness and sport participation to every child...

... Now, many PE teachers are ill-prepared to handle the class sizes and dramatic variances often seen in the fitness levels and abilities of children.

In the 1950's, you th sports were a recreational part of society that every child had access to...

... The advent of the competitive youth sports marketplace and the 12-month athlete have seen those nnocent days disappear.

The 'x' factor or intangible in the equation is society at large.

Society has changed beyond the ability of the traditional training and athlete preparation methods to remain effective.

And we will not have society reform.

There will be no going back to the 'good old days'.

Instead, we must have a social reform to the way we train, develop and nurture young athletes that can exist WITHIN the scope of the contemporary youth sporting culture.

So my challenge is this...

How can you design your training programs and practice schedules so that TEACHING SKILL and honoring DEVELOPMENTAL REALITIES are at the forefront of your concerns?

Work on fundamental ability and teaching rather than looking to gain speed, strength, power or victory?

Think outside the box, but within the context of your situation.

Reform is necessary.

'Till next time,

Brian
Complete Athlete Development