10 Commandments of Training Youth Athletes

  1. They’re not mini-adults

Time and time again I see coaches talking of how strong or how much weight their athlete is lifting. The truth is there are specific musculo-skeletal parameters that will prevent them from lifting anywhere near an adult (and even more so without injuring themselves), so why try and push it? I’d much prefer to see sound technique, across a variety of planes, both uni/bi-lateral in nature and a fluid motion than concern myself with numbers of weight overcome.

  1. Specificity has a time and a place we owe them movement literacy

Every coach screams SPECIFICITY! What if the athlete can’t perform a specific movement because they can’t hold themselves in a particular position to do so? Improve their movement efficiency first, skill transfer 2nd. They have years to hone their craft; delayed gratification will prevail in the end!

  1. Lead by example

Often I’ve seen coaches carry on both verbally and non-verbally that translates into their athlete’s behaviour. Truth is what you see is what you get, why question them when they’re carrying on like a pork chop? Here’s the mirror…

  1. More is not necessarily best

Sure there is numerous literature out there addressing different theories (i.e. 10,000hr) as to how best to master a sport. Choose wisely and prioritise, there are many factors to consider whether skill/technical, physical, mental… oh and let’s not forget social- after all they’re kids right?

  1. Program of best fit vs. best program

Often parents and technical coaches try and include several training modalities into their athletes training regime. This may work in the professional realm because they have all day to do it, have the acquired training age, and physical maturation to cope. But what about the other factors to consider such as school and its associated responsibilities, social networks, dealing with the emotions of being a teenager, oh and the process of the body being given time to adapt/respond/develop accordingly through sleep/recovery. Choose wisely and maybe prioritise throughout the various stages of athlete development.

  1. Set them free

What you mean let them go? Of course! They are going to fall in and out of love with a sport that may very well end up being their career. Embrace the dynamics, move with the flow and support any transition through assuring decision-making. After a while the odd hint such as going to a game, or watching a match on TV may actually reignite their passion for it. If this happens it will be their choice- not yours!

  1. Language is key

Pitch, tone, words, descriptions should all be considered in order to be effective. The younger the athlete the more animated/creative the coaching cues need to be. The older they become the more in tune you will need to be with common trends etc. It’s all relative to them, not you!

  1. Set them up to win

Everyone loves to win. With the current generation this is even more so. Even schooling frameworks have tended to go down a ‘positive’ mindset approach or reward incentive. I know you’re going to say there are going to be times when they lose, and some of the most valuable lessons are learnt from that. True, but it always feels good when you win, doesn’t it!

  1. Parental harmony

This is an interesting one. Always promote a harmonious relationship because in the end, they are your bosses and if you don’t get along you won’t be employed for long. Sure, there are going to be times when you disagree, but remember it’s how you communicate and deliver your side that counts because it is your professional opinion they’ve sought…. Of course there will always be a time when you have to stick to your professional belief and they can choose not to accept it- they can just pay someone else who will!

  1. Enjoy what you do

Regardless of where you’re at with your coaching career, enjoy it. It resonates in what you do, how you deliver it, and the relationships you build in the process. Oh and did I mention success? Well that will always be a by-product!

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