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4 Recurring Issues with Young Athletes

In talking with parents about how to best help their children/ athletes elevate performance, and make the sport more enjoyable, I've identified 4 common issues that hinder athlete development across all sports:

1. Lack of Flexibility: When I say, "Feet together... now reach for your toes." You wouldn't believe how many youth players can barely reach past their knees, much less get anywhere near their toes. They strain and groan as they reach in an attempt to improve their flexibility in a mere matter of seconds. Flexibility is something that can only be improved with consistency and time. Flexibility is important across all sports in terms of joint mobility patterns and muscle activation. Specifically in acceleration and sprinting, the hip flexors play the most pivotal role in driving the knee up while running. With tight hip flexors an athlete will never be able to run at their highest potential. Lack of flexibility is a plague across all youth sports. I formerly wrote an article about Stretching to shed some light on the whole role of flexibility.

2. Uneven Weight Distribution: Kids are going through hormonal changes and can be a bit on the awkward side. Many youth athletes have a lot of wasted motion when they are moving. For instance, whenever sprinting, the arms should be at 90 degrees. swiftly moving back and forth with the goal of "brushing your pockets" with each arm swing. A lot of youth athletes run with their arms stiff and moving across their body. It almost looks like they're chopping themselves in the chest. This completely throws the weight and momentum of the body off. Another common issues is running flat footed. I myself am flat footed, and had to learn to shift my body weight to the front part of my foot while running and making athletic movements. But many kids still run with the weight in the middle or back of the foot. So between stiff arms chopping across the body and flat foot running.... yea... that's not ideal.

3. Lack of Core Strength: High intensity endurance requires core strength. If you practice good running form and other movement patterns specific to a sport, many athletes cannot hold those movement patterns because their core is not developed yet. Many people think of core strength as just the abs. False. Core strength encompasses everything below the chest all the way down into the hip flexors. It can even be argued that the glutes are part of the core. Just think of the core as the middle third of the body. A strong core allows a person to keep their body in a specific position for an extended period of time, which is very conducive to sports.

4. Lack of Overall Conditioning: Yep... I named my company Life Speed and Conditioning because I wanted to emphasize those two components. However, in real world application, conditioning must come before speed work. An unconditioned athlete cannot train for speed. As soon as we start working on certain movement patterns they are already out of breath and feeling the effects of fatigue. Obviously certain sports have different levels of fitness requirements. But rule of thumb, an athlete will perform better and find their game more enjoyable (and easier) when they are well conditioned for the sport.

So when developing athletes, please be mindful of these four components and turn these issues into strengths.

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