Athletic development is a hot topic, one that can be overlooked and undervalued. As coaches, parents, teachers and trainers, we are responsible for how our youth athletes grow on and off the playing field.
So why, when it comes to developing our youth athletes, do we overlook the steps it takes for them to grow properly and focus only on the result? The answer is simple. People (parents for the most part) are more concerned with the results they see now in their youth athlete than the process it takes to achieve great results over time.
Building Better Athletes Takes Time
Proper athletic development takes time; there are many different factors that must be addressed. Many parents think that they can get a quick fix by taking their son or daughter to get a hitting lesson or get a private lesson with a skills coach, however, an athlete must first be strong enough to perform the skills they are being taught. This is one of the key flaws in developing youth athletes.
One Sport Athletes Get Injured More Often
Another flaw in training youth athletes that has become a trend in the past 15 years is the idea of sports specialization. The thinking goes that an athlete will develop and excel faster if they specialize in just one sport. Not so fast. In a study regarding sports specialization in youth athletes performed by Loyola University, it was found that “injured athletes had a significantly higher average score on a sports specialization scale.” Furthermore, “Young athletes who were injured tended to have more intense specialized training in only one sport.” Dr. Neeru Jayanthi continued by saying, “young athletes should be encouraged to participate in a variety of different sports and develop a wide range of skills.” These studies are important because they give parents, coaches and trainers alike insight in to how we should be developing youth athletes. Specialization leads to overuse injuries which can create frustration and burnout at a young age.
Developing The Mental Side
Lastly we need to address the mental side of athletic development. While every athlete wants to excel physically, much of the time, the thing that holds young athletes back is the mental side of things. Developing habits that allow young athletes to succeed is probably the single most overlooked aspect of development. Creating routines for how to warm up properly, practice at a higher level, and most importantly play well under pressure is extremely important to becoming a well-rounded athlete.
Good Fitness Habits Lead to Greater Success
One of my favorite examples of this is Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. As 2015 league MVP he has been lauded for his abilities as an amazing shooter and ball handler, but if you ask anyone who knows the game of basketball what’s the most impressive thing about Stephen Curry and they will say it’s his amazing work ethic. So how does a young athlete go about developing a great work ethic like Curry’s? They start by developing habits that allow them to succeed. They implement routines that will keep their body healthy. They pay attention to details when they are practicing. But most importantly, even when coaches aren’t looking, they stick to the habits that will allow them to succeed.
Today’s Elite Athletes are Multi-Sport Enthusiasts
Athletes all develop at different levels. Some will excel in Little League at a very young age, while others won’t blossom until late into their high school years or even college. One of the most important things they can take away from their parents, coaches, teachers and trainers is the fact that athletic development takes time. Multi-sport athletes take the time to try out various sports that appeal to them, and then after weighing their options they chose the one that best fits their talents and goals. At Archetype Fitness we believe that young athletes should be encouraged to engage in a wide variety of sports. They should be taught the mental side of athletic development as well as the physical one. Building better athletes is not only about getting great results. It’s also about the process it takes to achieve and sustain those results over time.