Year Round Sports – Agggghhhhhh!!!!

 

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Last night I went to a local business networking event.  It’s always interesting to meet new people and to connect with them.  One lady told me the story about how much it helped her son to have worked with a strength and conditioning coach when he was in high school.  Positive experiences about our profession are always great to hear.  Then we got into the part of the story about her son’s athletic career after high school.  That’s when things got interesting.

The son was a catcher in baseball and was active in the high school band.  He played high school baseball in the spring and then played on other teams the rest of the year.  Now, most of us can predict where this story is going.  Eventually playing baseball and being in the band caused too many conflicts.  Instead of his school trying to work things out he is forced to choose between the two.  He chose to stick with baseball.  Once he graduates he has opportunities to play in college.  By this point:  a) he has started having shoulder problems  b)  he’s burned out.  Any ideas why this may have happened????  Playing year round baseball maybe????  The best jocks in high school used to be 3 sport athletes.  Not anymore.  Now everyone wants to “specialize” thinking that this will lead them to that brass ring that they all want, a college athletic scholarship.  Yet all to often it winds up with similar results.  The kid either doesn’t want to play sports in college or they play for a year and decide that it isn’t that much fun anymore. 

Why does this keep happening?  Are parents and coaches not realizing the issues?  If a kid wants to play a sport year round, I am ok with that at a certain age.  Like I said, if a kid wants to do it. It shouldn’t be because a coach or parent says to do it.  I think that it’s a problem if a 10 year old is playing year round baseball (or any other sport).  Let him/her try other sports.  It will develop their overall athleticism and they might actually have some FUN doing it.  Even if a kid only wants to play one sport, give them a break at some point.  Let them recover mentally and physically. Focus on strength, speed, and agility training.  That will develop their athleticism.  It can also be a time to “prehab” the body to prevent injury during the season.   Maybe some parents and some coaches need to take a realistic look at things.   For every kid that is able to get a college scholarship in the year round model, lots of other kids end up hurt and burned out.  There are reasons, for example,  that major elbow surgery is being done on teenage baseball players.  This never used to happen.  What changed???  Think about it.

To bring this all to a happy ending, the son from the baseball story is now playing in an adult softball league.  There is no pressure, it’s just for fun and he’s having a blast.  I’ve heard similar endings to other similar stories. The athlete still enjoys playing, but they just want to do it for fun. 

The take home point = the year round sports model needs to change.

 

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Why we need experts

I’ve got to confess that I was planning this post last night.  At that time, I wasn’t aware of a recent Webmd article about sports training for female teens.  Fortunately, I saw a link for it on Twitter this AM.  The article is a great lead in to my post.  If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so.

I think that the article does a great job of touching on several points.  First and foremost, it addresses several things that females need to be doing to prepare and it explains why.  Anyone who works with athletes should be aware of the fact that female ACL injuries occur more often than they do to males.  They should also know how to train an athlete to try to prevent their occurance.  The article also emphasizes having a well designed plan to follow when training.  The article closes by discussing the imporantance of proper nutrition.  This is a subject that cannot be overemphasized when dealing with athletes at any level. 

By now you’re probably wondering what my original post was going to be about and how this article played into it. My original idea was to write about the training of athletes needing to be led by someone who is qualified to do it.  Too many times I’ve seen a sport coach decide to design a strength/speed/agility program for their athletes.  There are some sport coaches who can accomplish this and design a safe and effective program.  Unfortunately, there are a large percentage who cannot do this.  Just because someone coaches a sport does not mean that they have a full understanding of :

  • program design
  • safety
  • preventative (“prehab”) exercises
  • exercise technique
  • speed/agility mechanics
  • corrective exercises/drills

I have worked with some great coaches in my career (and a few not so great, but we won’t go into that….).  There is no doubt that some of those coaches understood their sport inside and out.  My favorite sport to watch is football.  I’ve watched it, played it, and worked around it.  While I might know some about it, I have worked with coaches who knew 100+ times more than I do.  They were the “experts” in their sports.  I could have never coached their sport as well as they did.  On the other side of that, I tried to make it so that they couldn’t do my job as well as I did. 

When you consider the training and development of your son/daughter or your athletes, please keep all of this in mind.  There are qualified people who can run a strength/speed/agility program.  Of course, there are also some who claim that they can.  Believe it or not, designing and running a fitness program is much different than training athletes to maximize their potential.  Find someone who has experience dealing with athletes, someone who has a degree in exercise science or a related field, and someone who has credentials from a credible organization.  Not only will these people understand how to train an athlete to get better, they will understand the biomechanical and physiological aspects of the sport so that they can design and implement a top notch program. 

P.S.  If you want to see what one training program for females looks like, check out the video of the Auburn Softball Team below.

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Using Common Sense

In the June issue of Pediatric Clinics of North America, there is an article on “Resistance Training for Adolescents“.  The authors make two points that I feel are imporant:   

  1. Supervision and teaching should be emphasized
  2. Consideration must be given to the fitness level, experience, and any medical problems that the teen may have

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