Long-Term Athletic Development

How often have we heard stories about the kid that was a great high school baseball player or tennis player and then you never hear about them again or their sports career just vanished?  I have heard stories like “ boy Johnny was really good, didn’t he get a scholarship to go play baseball at State University”. Unfortunately, Johnny never played. He injured himself, got burned out and stopped playing.

Today, early specialization is the norm, which is too bad. You don’t hear about the 3-sport athlete any more, because coaches and parents won’t allow it.

Here is what happens with early specialization:

Quick performance improvement (parents love this)

Best performance achieved at 15-16 years because of quick adaptation

Inconsistency of performance in competitions

By age 18 many athletes were burned out and quit the sport

Prone to injuries because of forced adaptation (look at all the kids having Tommy John surgery before age 21)

We have taken the perform pyramid and turned it upside down

  

Today, unfortunately many kids just don’t know how to move properly.  There is very little free play and with computers, XBOX and Playstation, there is not a lot of movement going on.

In this article we will focus on Movement.   Movement is the foundation of performance.

We can also refer to movement as Multilateral Development.

Here is what happens long term when movement/Multilateral Development is part of the development of young kids and athletes.

Slower performance improvement 

Best performance at 18 years and older the age of physiological and psychological maturation

Consistency of performance in competition

LONGER ATHLETIC LIFE

FEWER INJURIES

Kids need this foundation of movement.  They need to know how to run, skip, jump, land from a jump, rotate their bodies, development strength and agility.  You would be surprised how limited kids are when it comes to doing push-ups and pull-ups.  My kids can not run or skip properly.

Training programs for the young athlete should focus on overall athletic development and not sports specific performance.

It is important for the young athlete to maintain the movement/multilateral foundation they establish during their early development throughout their athletic career.

Lets look at this example: Jennifer is 12 years old and every week she practices or plays soccer for about 10 hours during that week, but does nothing else except a quick warm up before soccer practice or a game.  The coaches and parents think that playing more soccer and doing more soccer drills will make her a better skilled soccer player. Increasing her soccer training at the expense of multilateral training is the only possibility with her hectic schedule.  In the short term Jennifer may improve her soccer skills, but the lack of training in basic movement skills such as strength, agility, mobility, stability and power will limit her playing abilities long term.  When she is 17 her lack of good physical movement qualities would lower her overall soccer playing potential through slower movement, speed on the field, decreased agility and quickness and a greater potential for injury.

Now I’m not saying that when kids are young, they should not work on skill specific drills, but because of lack of just play, kids also need to build the right foundation of movement/multilateral development for Long Term Athletic Development.