Speed Training for Young Athletes
Brian J. Grasso
Although running at a quickened pace appears to be an extremely simple concept, developing good speed is actually a very complex endeavor. Speed, agility and quickness are physical attributes that all athletes require regardless of the sport. In fact, speed camps and speed-based training programs are currently among the most popular and trendy activities within the youth sport industry. Are we teaching young athletes the proper application of speed?
What does speed mean? Running at a quick velocity is comprised of several bodily systems all working synergistically with each other -
When you first picked up a baseball, did you know how to throw it? If you progressed in baseball, you know that not only did you need to learn how to throw a baseball, but you likely received instruction for a long time, even into your adult years. NO athletic skill is done well without a certain degree of instruction. Think about it, Olympic sprinters have coaches don’t they? Moreover, they often hire consultants to teach them how to ‘clean-up’ their form in order to run faster. The fact is that running for speed is no different than any other athletic skill in that it is an involved endeavor with much technique which requires good coaching.
This leads us to a current problem with the very trendy “kids’ speed camps“. All to often, I watch coaches hook external apparatus up to their young athletes and proceed to ‘run’ them through a series of sprints. These external devices are either over-speed or resistance in nature and serve different purposes. Over-speed devices force the athlete to run a small percentage quicker than normal. The science behind this is that the nervous system will become accustom to that pace of firing or sequencing and will adapt (become faster). Resistance devices work to slow the athlete down. Their basic purpose is to create stronger muscular contractions through a running motion which would support those muscles becoming functionally stronger. Again, the end result is increased speed.
The problem lies in the fact that young athletes typically lack the functional strength to benefit heavily from this style of training. The core musculature in most kids, for example , will undoubtedly lack the ability to control the pelvis appropriately through either over-speed or resistance sprinting drills. Lost in the contemporary world of sport and fitness is the need to get back to basics. Simply put, if you want to get young athletes to run faster then TEACH THEM HOW. The biomechanics of most young athletes is wild at best and if coaches would concentrate on teaching kids how to move their bodies in a fluid manner then that would result in an exponential increase in speed within their athletes.
Bottom line - get back to basics. Stay away of fancy speed equipment and highly intensive strategies. Biomechanical concerns and fluidity of motion will have a much bigger and safe impact on the speed of your athletes.
Key points when developing speed in young athletes -
Brian Grasso and Developing Athletics are the world leaders at providing educational literature to coaches, parents and athletes on the concepts of functional conditioning and athletic development.
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