The 3 sport varsity athlete may soon be on the list of endangered species. More and more youth athletes are playing one sport, all-year round. Sports like soccer, tennis, and even basketball with AAU leagues have been this way for a while. But now, even football, which was once just a fall sport, is year-round with 7on7 tournaments. The type of schedule and specialization that was once reserved for college level athletes is now happening at the HS and youth levels.
On every level, youth to pro, skill development is an important part of an athlete's growth. An equally important part is strength development. Take for instance a car. You could be the best driver in the world, but if you are up against a far superior vehicle, you don't have a chance. In many cases, this is what is happening to youth athletes. Although the skill sets are very fine tuned, kids are generally less athletic, and overall more prone to injury because of overused movement patterns. So much of our program is designed to undo all of the bad movements before we can even get to developing good movements. To break this down, lets take the example of tennis. When you first learn to swing the racquet, repetitions are important in developing the skills to strike the ball. But remember, practice doesn't necessarily make "perfect", practice makes "permanent". After all of those repetitions, muscles will start to break down. Without proper recovery and strengthening, the muscles will lose their ability to perform, similar to a rubber band that has lost its tension, leading to conditions like "tennis elbow". But this isn't just a tennis problem, this is now happening in every sport. ACL injuries, concussions, shoulder impingements, back problems, etc. are happening more frequently and at a younger age. Kids are more skilled but less athletic. They're only used to moving one way.
The other part of that is developing raw power behind the swing. After a while, you can only contact the ball so well. If you want to develop more power in that swing, it has to come from developing the muscles. Speed kills, its what seperates an athlete like Serena Williams from the rest of the pack. She has the skills to be competitive but her power and speed make her special. Every year at the NFL Combine, all eyes are on the 40 yard dash and people aren't looking at running form. The only thing that matters is how fast you can run, not how well. Running form drills only go so far, if you want to run faster you have to develop that raw power. Skills have to be at the top of the pyramid when it comes to the growth of an athlete, but in a lot of ways its been reversed. Young athletes are specializing in one sport, developing the skills to compete at a high level, but still incomplete as a player. They haven't developed the overall strength and agility that comes from a wide foundation of pure athleticism.
There are many different reasons for why this has happened. Youth leagues and organizations have found a way to profit, competition is valued more than development, and parents are living thru their children. But somewhere in there, kids actually just love playing their sport. Many of the youth athletes training with us fall into this category. They love playing their sport and they can't get enough of it. Swimming, lacrosse, baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, hockey, basketball, football.. you name it, we see it. We don't train athletes being forced by their parents. Its very easy to see on a kids face whether or not training was their idea and I have no problem confronting parents in this situation. Some training programs will gladly take your money and sell you on the idea of a scholarship or even pro careers. We simply don't do that. For those of you who just love the game, whatever that game may be, here are 3 of my favorite corrective moves.