Apr 04, 2022 • 4 min read
Strength and conditioning to some may have the reputation of heavy weights and endless sprints on hardwood gym floors, but it’s much more than that. Strength and conditioning, when operated correctly, is a way for athletes to get stronger, move more athletically, and prevent injuries.
It isn’t about who can lift the heaviest weights, but more so emphasizing correct form, and getting the athletes to understand why single leg step-downs can benefit their performance on the field.
For a lot of elite athletes, strength and conditioning can seem like an afterthought. Their focus is on their sport; the technical reps and the tactical X’s and O’s. Youth sports organizations can better prepare their athletes for the next level by implementing strength and conditioning programs as part of their weekly programming. It doesn’t have to be a dedicated day in a gym, but it could be 30 minutes built into the weekly training where athletes are introduced to dynamic movements and conditioning drills. It’s important that the athletes understand why they are spending 30 minutes without the soccer ball, basketball, football, etc, though, so make sure the coaches and staff are ready to present why this kind of supplemental training is important to their performance and development.
Here’s why it’s important:
According to the Hospital of Special Surgery (HSS), “Strength training may positively influence athletic performance, prevent and rehabilitate injuries, and improve long-term health.”
Now, what is strength and conditioning? HSS defines it as the “Application of resistance, plyometric, agility and speed training.”
Just like the way a practice is ran, with adequate supervision and safety measures accounted for, the same must be organized for any strength and conditioning program. Since every athlete is unique, it’s crucial that any program can be adjusted based on the young athlete’s’ physical ability, but also goals and other activities.
Safety is at the forefront of any youth sports program, so making sure that any strength and conditioning prioritizes safety first is vital. “Most injuries occur during misuse of gym equipment, using excessive weight, or lifting weights with improper form. A well-designed, well-supervised strength training program has no greater inherent risk of injury than that of any other youth sport,” HSS details.
The benefits of a strength and conditioning program in your youth sports organization can improve the athletes’ strength, endurance, sports performance, motor skills, and also reduce sports-related injuries. The list goes on. Now, if you’re thinking about getting a sports and conditioning program integrated into your club, here’s how to do so safely and effectively.
Make sure that the structure of your strength and conditioning program has a structure and keeps in mind athletic development, but also individual goals and needs.
Having a dedicated and qualified adult supervising all of the strength and conditioning sessions is important. Specifically, you want the adult to be in the pediatric strength training field so a physical therapist or a certified strength and conditioning trainer. It’s recommended to have an instructor to student ratio of 1:1, 1:2, or 1:3.
Picking a program and plan that is age appropriate is crucial to athletic development. Kids’ bodies all develop differently and at their own unique times, so make sure that you implement a plan that is conducive to the age group you’re working with. That also means being mindful that not one shoe fits all here, so there may need to be modifications and adjustments along the way.
Dedicating time to warming up properly and cooling down after the workout is just as important as the training itself. Make sure that the warm-up is active and dynamic and after any workout, a proper cool-down that brings the heart rate down while keeping them moving and not fully static.
Just like you spend time on player evaluations and their specific skill development process, dedicate the same commitment to tracking their strength and conditioning progress. This will be not only helpful for the athlete, but also crucial for referencing any specific areas they need to improve on more specifically. Maybe one athlete is great with the ball at her foot, but is struggling to win 50/50 balls in the air. This could mean that there needs to be some more specific strength and conditioning training around vertical movement; jumping and landing.
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