How to Make Better Athletes

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We train a lot of athletes throughout the year.

There seems to be some characteristics of these athletes that are starting to become more and more apparent.

When I was growing up, sports were a lot different.

Typically, athletes would play for the town or for a church. They would run this course until high school approached and then they were faced with a choice.

A really good athlete that maybe had college potential went to a private school. All other athletes were left to play high school.

There were very few club, select, or AAU teams around. The biggest difference back then was that only the best of the best could play since there weren’t many teams.

We maybe had 1-2 kids from our town playing on those teams in each sport.

Fast forward to now and I am in the southeastern part of the state. It seems like everyone plays a travel team and a club team for all sports.

This comes from the more is better so playing more games must be better for the kid. It rarely is until the are probably 16 or older. Athletes should only be playing on teams that are going to help them get closer to their goals.

Most athletes are not striving to “have all of their time occupied by school and soccer to give up the sport in high school.”

Instead it would be good for athletes, parents, and coaches to determine where the athlete needs to develop the most. They should then take all steps necessary to improve those skills.

The following question can give some guidance to fixing weak links.

Is the athlete skilled?

If an athlete needs to improve their skills then they need to be in an organization that takes skill training seriously. Some teams are all about getting into games and figuring out who fits what and going from there.

Athletes that lack skills need to seek out that training. Sometimes they might need to go away from the teams and find training elsewhere.

An athlete that does not have skill is going to really struggle to enjoy the sport that they are playing 6 days per week.

Is the athlete fast?

Now we are moving into my realm. I have heard of a lot of athletes that have the skills but they seem slow. Slow athlete have a tough time displaying the skills that they have if they cannot get around defenders or into open space.

Training speed is simple but not always easy. We like to work on technique first and reinforce in the same session with some kind of drill.

Half the time we just need to get athletes moving fast in order to help them improve their speed.

Is the athlete strong?

There are very few athletes under the age of 18 that would not benefit from strength training. And no, it will not make them slow.

Strong athletes run faster, change direction quicker, shoot harder, and jump higher than those lacking strength.

A lot of times I hear that an athlete just doesn’t shoot hard enough. This is often because they lack the strength they need to put some power behind the shot.

Is the athlete in shape?  

Lastly, we get to the athlete that just needs to get in better shape.

This is an easy one that a lot of people screw up. A kid is out of shape so we instantly think that they need to run miles, hit the bike, or take more laps.

Instead, we have to train these athletes to repeat whatever it is they do in their sport. Lets take soccer for example.

A slow soccer player will benefit from strength and technique work because it will make their running more efficient and takes less effort to do the same work.

They also need to be able to repeatedly sprint with short rest periods. Soccer is sprint, break, sprint, and break. This is not the same as running a mile.

They should be training to recover from short sprint bouts and then repeat them. That is in shape for soccer.

We have stopped looking at what our athletes need and how to fill that need. Now everyone just defaults to playing on more teams.

Many of the athletes we see would be 100x better if they played less of their sport and worked on the areas where they have the most room for growth.

And everyone always wonders why the star athlete always leaves a certain team or sport to focus on what they are good at…