Today’s guest post is by Ed Stedman from Ed’s Gym. Ed’s Gym offers strength & conditioning training for athletes of all sports, and for those who simply desire to improve their overall fitness and health.
In today’s world of youth sports, it is becoming more and more common for kids to start specializing in sports instead of developing a well-rounded athletic base.
This athletic base is made up of the five biomotor abilities: Strength, Speed, Mobility/Flexibility, Coordination, and Endurance. Developing these five biomotor abilities is the ideal way for youth athletes to prepare for youth sports and to prepare to specialize in specific sport skills later in life, when he/she is developmentally ready.
Unfortunately, developing this general athletic base is getting stepped over on the way to trying to make kids sport-specific superstars at younger and younger ages.
The dream being sold is if little Johnny/Janie starts to build a sport-specific base at a very young age, then he/she will be in a more advantageous position to play varsity sports in high school, get an athletic scholarship to a college, and play sports at the professional level.
The truth is that there is absolutely no correlation between focusing on a specific sport at a young age and future success. Research actually shows the opposite and that the most successful athletes are those who develop a well-rounded athletic base.
For example, Colt McCoy (former starting quarterback for the University of Texas and now starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns) did not play in his first football game until high school, when he also was on the basketball and track team.
Except for very rare exceptions, youth athletes should not train specifically for sports until the collegiate level. A young athlete is constantly growing, changing and developing, and the biomotor skills should be trained and developed to keep up with the changes the body is making.
Just because little Johnny/Janie shows good biomotor development at 12 years old, doesn’t mean (s)he will maintain that same proficiency at 13 after going through a growth spurt, or starting puberty and going through intense hormonal changes.
The problem is not that sport coaches don’t know how to teach athletes sport-specific skills. It’s that young athletes perform these high stress, sport-specific skills, over and over again WITHOUT developing the biomotor skills needed to tolerate and recover. Sport-specific skills place stress on a young, developing body.
Little Johnny/Janie does not need to (and should not) play only one sport all year round and focus on sport-specific training. Off-season training and playing multiple sports contributes to the development of a good athletic base.
It has been observed that athletes with good biomotor development excel in their sports, compared to their peers who only play one sport. Coaches and parents (and the kids themselves) should not look at kids as football players, soccer players, baseball players, etc. Instead, they should be viewed as youth athletes who happen to play certain sports. This helps keep the proper frame of mind on how to best train these youth athletes.
The best coaches and training programs (like those at Ed’s Gym) focus their athlete’s training on developing a base of the biomotor abilities. However, most sport coaches are not developing a good athletic base with their athletes, but instead are focusing solely on sport-specific movements such as shooting, blocking, sprinting, hurdling, throwing, etc.This is to the detriment of the athletes, and can lead to a higher likelihood of overuse and acute injury, burnout, and stunted athletic development.
Athletes whose coaches focus on biomotor development are more resistant to injury, stay committed to playing sports longer, and perform at higher athletic levels later into life. Training should be about athletic development, not making little Johnny/Janie a better specific sport player. If young athletes train to develop their biomotor skills, they will naturally become better at all the sports they play.