The burnout is real in youth sports. What was once a seasonal endeavor has become a multi-billion dollar industry of parents pursuing every avenue to give their athlete the “edge”. Youth athletes as early as 10 years are now playing year round in a single sport while some are doing two a day practices between school and travel.
There’s a better way!
I always ask parents and coaches on the teams I’ve worked with, “What’s your goal for these athletes?”. Most provide a list of general improvements; get stronger, faster, more agile, prepare for college. Perfect! A purposeful strength and conditioning program led in a professional setting can do all those things. What is going to limit its potency to increase athletic potential, training year round without any consistent period of break from sport specific activity. This high volume of sport specific activity leads to either burnout and disinterest from the athlete or injury. Working in a physical therapy setting for several years it’s now become normal to see the same kids seasonally with ACL or meniscus tears before they ever leave high school. If you ask one of them how many people on their team have similar injuries it will not be 1 or 2 but 5 or more.
Now of course many factors go into this as well; genetics, prior level of activity, total practice versus competition volume, mechanism of injury (contact or non-contact) and more. The idea still holds true, no matter how nice the rubber is on my tires, if I drive non-stop eventually they will need to be replaced. While you may only be looking at the tires, knowing you can just replace them when something goes wrong, I am looking at everything else. How is the suspension, the oil, transmission, the cooling etc. Strength and conditioning programs are the quarterly and yearly maintenance necessary for healthy, functioning athletes.
We want to create an all encompassing program that can fill the gaps of general athleticism that is missed when specificity and such and still increase the competitiveness when return to sport occurs.
So where do we go from here? Check out part 2 of our Youth Strength Articles!
-Nicole Tsetsilas, CSCS, CF LV2
CrossFit Kids and Youth Strength and Conditioning Coordinator