Preparing our youth for sports
Playing sport has obvious benefits from regular practice of technical sport skills to developing communication and leadership qualities. Therefore, promoting sports and getting more youths interested in sports are clearly important messages. However, an element which is constantly missed or not discussed enough is getting youths Sport Ready.
Unfortunately, we have seen a decline in youths’ general athletic ability and strength levels (5,8,6), with some studies reporting between 7 – 26% reduction in strength performances (1). We also understand that developing strength, or more specifically improving relative strength levels can enhance motor skill performance (7), improve sprint, and jump ability (2). Furthermore, exposing youths to a range of resistance training can influence neuromuscular adaptations which may be a part of an injury reduction programme (9). Regarding injury rates in youths, we are seeing high levels of over-use injuries (3), which may be associated with early-specialisation, and/or playing one-sport throughout the year (4).
So, what is sport ready and how can it help?
Firstly, we need to understand that all training is practice, so regardless of what the youth athlete is performing, they are practicing that specific movement. This could be a squat, a press-up, a pull-up, or a vertical jump. Taking this notion, a little further, the athlete will ultimately practice their sport, with the goal of improving the sport skills in that specific environment. Therefore, we need to appreciate that the only sport-specific training the athlete can perform, and probably needs is their sport-practice – all other training relative to the sport we class as general training (general preparation phase or getting sport ready).
By exposing the youth athlete to a wide range of general training this will develop physical capacities, (see below list) including, strength, power, mobility, and motor skills. Enhancing these physical capacities will benefit the youth athlete – neuromuscular changes, force production, joint and bone integrity. The adaptations will help the youth athlete to cope with the demands of the sport, perhaps play a vital role in reducing overuse sport-related injuries as the training is general, but also help the athlete with their confidence and general wellbeing.
- Motor skills
How to Develop Physical Capacities
Therefore, to prepare or to be Sport Ready, youth athletes should use a wide range of training strategies to help build and develop their physical capacities. Within strength and conditioning programmes, the below training modes can be used - I think its noteworthy to mention that the training modes do not drive specific adaptations but a spectrum of adaptations, for example, a youth athlete performing a loaded lunge, will obviously improve their strength, but also their mobility and motor skills will be challenged. If the lunge is performed with a deal of intent or quickly this may lead to improvements in power, and relative to their maturation, the athlete may even notice a gain in muscle (hypertrophy).
Resistance training: Exercises that normally use an external load, barbell, dumbbells, medicine balls or kettlebells.
Plyometrics: Exercises and drills that involve rapid, dynamic movements, such as jumps, hops, and bounds.
Sprints: Shorter sprints can aid in developing acceleration
Agility: Drills that promote quick changes of direction, emphasising changes in balance, and coordination.
Conditioning: Exercises or drills that challenge the aerobic and/or the anaerobic systems.
It is essential that we promote and invite youth athletes to perform regular strength and conditioning programmes to enhance their physical abilities, with perhaps a special focus on strength improvements. We need to understand that their sport training is specific practice, in a particular environment and demands, however, their strength and conditioning training should be more general, sometimes even classified as – general physical preparation.
By regularly performing strength and conditioning this will help youth athletes as they can develop their physical abilities and learn a host of skills, including balance and coordination. Over time these general physical abilities and motor skills will hopefully leak through to their sporting environment and aid in performance, but by keeping their strength and conditioning general this will give the youth athletes a break away from their sport/competition, enhance their overall resilience (reduce the likelihood of injury) and wellbeing.
Stength and Conditioning Platform for Clubs and Academies
Our Total S&C platform helps coaches to deliver a LTAD and S&C programme efficiently to a large number of athletes across all age groups playing different sports.
Our Strength & Conditioning platform consists of a Portal for the coaching team, enabling them to modify training sessions, monitor players training history, input test results and identify players who are sports ready. The athletes are provided their own S&C Player App which allows them to take control of their own training, self-test, log exercise history and track progress.
We get athletes sport ready. We reduce overuse injuries and burn out. We help to develop independent and healthy athletes.
Automated session generator saves time
Monitor athlete adherence and progress
Online management portal for coaches
Training App for all athletes
Testing and profiling to identify sport readiness
- Cohen, D.D., & Voss, C., Taylor, M.J.D., Delextrat, A., Ogunlete, A.A., & Sandercock, G.R.H. (2011). Ten-Year Secular Changes in Muscular Fitness in English Children. Acta Paediatrica, 175 – 177.
- Comfort, P., Stewart, A., Bloom, L., & Clarkson, B. (2014). Relationships Between Strength, Sprint, and Jump Performances in Well-Trained Youth Soccer Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(1), 173 – 177.
- DiFiori, J.P., Benjamin, H.J., Brenner, J., Gregory, A., Jayanthi, N., Landry, G.L., & Luke, A. (2014). Overuse Injuries and Burnout in Youth Sports: A Position Statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, 24, 2 – 20.
- Fabricant, P.D., Lakomkin, N., Sugimoto, D., Teplot, F.A., Stracciolini, A., & Kocher, M. (2016). Youth Sports Specialisation and Musculoskeletal Injury: A Systematic Review of the Literature. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 44(3), 257 – 262.
- Faigenbaum, A.D., MacDonald, J.P., & Haff, G.G (2019). Are Young Athletes Strong Enough for Sport? Dream On. American College of Sports Medicine, 1891), 6 – 8.
- Karpowicz, K, Karpowicz, M, and Strzelczyk, R. (2015). Structure of Physical Fitness Among Young Basketball Players (trends of Changes in 2006 – 2013). Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 29(10), 2745 – 2757.
- Pichardo, A.W., Oliver, J.L., Harrison, C.B., Maulder, P.S., Lloyd, R.S., & Kandoi, R. (2019). The Influence of Maturity Offset, Strength, and Movement Competency on Motor Skill Performance in Adolescent Males, Sports, 7, 1 – 11.
- Sandercock, G.R., & Cohen, D.D. (2019). Temporal trends in muscular fitness of English 10-year-olds 1998-2014: An allometric approach. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 22(2), 201 – 205.
- Zwolski, C., Quatman-Yeates, C., Paterno, M.V. (2017). Resistance Training in Youth: Laying the Foundation for Injury Prevention and Physical Literacy. Sports Health, 9(5), 436 – 443.