Observations from Training Young Athletes

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At Evolution Sports Performance, we train athletes as young as 8 years old. I have even worked with a couple of 7 year olds.

I have seen some young athletes despite a short time in in this field.

I have also been lucky enough to see athletes progress from the youth age to now being in high school.

It is interesting what consistent training produces even from a young age.

youths

I know that the Long Term Athletic Development Model has its pros and cons, with it catching a lot of abuse due to its lack of “evidence.”

Sometimes it takes a practical approach to see what the evidence really is.

Our system is that athletes ages 8-11 (the Youth class) do 45 minutes of a warm up, speed/agility technique, and integrated drills. The last 15 minutes is basic movement patterns.

The Youth Class will really test a coach’s ability to cue and teach these athletes. If you can get through to these kids then you can get through to anyone.

Some people take issue with the idea of athletes this young training. Again, we do not take them in the weight room and we try to teach them as many skills as possible to make them successful. I have no problem giving these tools to young athletes.

We do also promote that they play many sports and try to make the sessions fun for them.

I have made many observations from training this group of kids.

  1. You will lose them after 5-8 seconds

This pertains to a lot of aspects of what does on in a session. First, their attention span is gone after this time period. If you are speaking for more than 5 seconds they are chasing butterflies in the background.

The same goes for drills that they perform. Anything more than about 5 seconds and they hit a wall. The effort isn’t there and the speed slows down.

A good example of this is one of our 9 year olds who has been training for 2 straight years. His 10 yards of acceleration is faster than anyone else in the building, regardless of age. After that, we’ve lost him.

The fix for this is that athletes this young need to do shorter drills and repeat them more. They recover very quickly and can handle a few extra reps.

The drills must be fun and short in duration if you want to keep their attention and allow them to get anything out of it.

  1. You cannot expect technical perfection

We teach the athletes the basics of good speed and agility. They learn how to swing their arms, drive their knees, slow down, change direction, etc.

Whether it happens or not is a different story.

I find myself constantly reminding the kids to drive their knees or run in a straight line. You know what? This is the cost of doing business.

Once I remind them, they make the change. The constant reminders can be draining though so some patience is required.

They will never drive their knees perfectly, but the intent and effort will yield progress.

  1. Things will click out of nowhere

Athletes will struggle with certain things. Maybe its ladder drills. They may have many weeks of confusion and frustration.

Sometimes they come back the next week and they can now perform it.

I can get into nervous system development and other complicated topics but there are not enough hours in the day. Eventually things will click.

  1. If they are not having fun then change what you are doing

Young kids like this can play 7 sports, participate in many activities, and do god knows what else.

They do not have to training. If they do not have fun with what they are doing then they are gone.

They will also shut off if they are having a bad time.

You cannot run them for not listening, give them burpee penalties, pushups etc. because it doesn’t phase them.

They are too young to really put in enough effort for conditioning to affect them. They also cannot actually do pushups/burpees for them to be a punishment.

It has to be fun or else it won’t last.

I know that I am a Sports Performance Coach and my realm is slightly different. These same principles are going to apply to sports.

Conditioning or long, complicated drills are going to fail. Parents pay a lot of money for their kids to play on whatever team and coaches train the kids like they did in college.

The system is broken and needs fixing.

My observations are what I have seen and worked with. I have also seen these kids move onto our older classes and all of the skills transfer.

A very slow youth kid can turn into a high school player with a great burst of speed.

Youth kids are not mini-adults and treating them that way will fail.