There are many misconceptions about youth sports training programs. All parents want the best for their children, and nothing makes them more proud than seeing their children reach their full potential in sports. But when guiding their kids into athletic training, parents need to appreciate that they are still children. Young athletes must be put in the right situations to succeed. I would hate to have an athlete's progress hindered due to lack of information. By addressing three simple questions, parents can get their children off on the right foot and ensure their future success in sports.
Question One: Is my child old enough to start training?
Naturally, parents want their young athletes to be successful, but when mom and dad try to "get a jump on the competition," they sometimes take things too far. Sports performance training is a great tool to help players become better athletes, but only when it is introduced at the proper age.
Based on my experience, as both a strength coach and a father, I have pinpointed some cues that can tell you if your children are not yet ready to start training:
- They cannot independently tie their shoes
- Their sport season involves a snack schedule
- You have to dress them in their uniforms for games
If any of these cues characterize your situation, don't worry. Take some time to allow your kids to fall in love with the sports they choose. When they can honestly agree on performance aspects they want to improve, then it may be time to look for a sports training program.
Question Two: Does my child have enough time to commit to training?
Children's lives have become more hectic. Parents now face the task of proper time management for themselves and their children's activities. (Read Marcellus Wiley on the Value of Time Management.) For a youth sports training program to be safe and effective, everyone involved needs to devote quality time to it. If sports performance training is number three on your child's list of daily after-school activities, you may need to reshuffle your time commitments. Youth athletes have only so much comprehension and physical energy available. So, parents, if your athlete looks like a zombie walking into my gym every session, we need to talk.
Question Three: What do I expect from this program?
One of the most important aspects of starting a training program is to have realistic expectations. Youth athletes present complex situations, involving growth spurts, hormone changes and school-age personalities, all of which can affect performance gains and losses. Parents need to understand that early results can fluctuate—and to think in terms of building a solid training base for the long term. I'm all for setting high goals, but there need to be interim goals that kids can achieve. One 4-week training block will not produce NFL Combine numbers. Attainable goals and a commitment to a full program will set the stage for an athlete to reach his or her full potential.
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