Sport Game Competition vs. Athletic Preparation for the Youth Athlete

This past summer alone, I have had numerous conversations on where and how “training” fits in to the youth athlete schedule. This is an almost impossible question to answer simply because each athlete has a different schedule and different goals. However, one statement I will make with 100% confidence and certainty is that if an athlete wants to improve and maximize his/her sports career, they NEED to train on a regular basis.
IMO there is almost a “tug of war” going on with how a youth athlete and his/her family go about their unique sports competition experience. In general, the “tug of war” winner seems to easily be the participation of sports competitions. As an example, I look at a motivated high school baseball player and the number of games that he plays in when you add up his high school season, his club team season, and other elite team situations he is a part of on a year around basis and the number of games is overwhelming. Keeping with my tug of war analogy, on the other side of the rope is the physical training preparation (strength, power, speed, agility, mobility, etc…). In most cases by these athletes, physical training is just skimmed over or left out completely. I use the baseball player analogy here, but it is the same for many athletes in a variety of sports. Game competition dominates over athletic preparation.
Let me preface this by saying I was a high school team sport coach much longer than I have been a trainer. Having athletes in competitive situations is very important and necessary and always will be. My gripe that I have even when I was in the midst of my coaching career and definitely now as a trainer is the ratio of playing competitively to performing physical preparation training is out of whack. I have said it many times before and will say it again, the most common thing I see with the motivated youth athlete population are athletes that are well versed in the fundamentals of their sport but aren’t physically athletic enough to play beyond high school. Sadly, I think this will continue to be the story for most as long as the emphasis of playing games all year around at the expense of athletic training continues.
What are collegiate football players doing during their off season? How about women’s collegiate volleyball players? How about professional baseball players from their November thru February off season months? I guarantee you the majority of their time is spent physically training for their upcoming season. Game competitions are put on the back burner for awhile and training becomes the major priority. I strongly believe that youth athletes need to have this same approach!

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