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Developing youth athletes: Guidelines and reasoning for movement mastery training

May 7, 2018

Daniel Vockeroth, Personal Trainer

Today’s youth play a wide variety of sports from a very young age, some specialize in one, using the full calendar, year after year to hone their sport-specific skills to achieve an elite level. Others change their sport with the season, adapting their skill sets to each new activity they take on while competing in high level competitions that require a great amount of time and effort. Youth athletes (age 6-18, female/male) are taught skills that are geared towards their sport. Most of the time, these skills are not built on foundational movements, rather they’re hyper-specific to their sport. This specialization does not breed a higher standard, which is why correct movement pattern training is necessary.

Scientific research has concluded that it takes eight to 12 years of training for a talented player/athlete to reach an elite level. This is called the 10-year or 10,000-hour rule. To achieve this level, the youth athlete must master basic movement patterns that span all sports in order to achieve greatness in their respective discipline. The aim of youth development is not to perform maximal weighted lifts with barbells or to engage in exhaustive cardiovascular bouts. They need to perform a wide variety of skills associated with different sports to get the full spectrum. Increasing sport participation to three sports during the specializing years significantly increases the likelihood of greater participation at a higher competitive standard.

Skills such as Body Awareness, Locomotor (managing the body in space and in motion) and Object Control allow youth athletes to gain desirable adaptations in sports because they lay a strong foundation from which to build their careers. These skills must be taught, practiced and maintained by an outside (the family) specialist if they are to succeed. If nothing else, the kids will be taken off the parents’ hands for a while and tired out from new challenges!

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