Blog & Articles

Training a Young Athlete

by Scott Blewett of Blast Sports Training, May 8th, 2009

1. Play Lots of Different Sports
Many people believe playing hockey, and only hockey, will make their son or daughter an excellent player. This may happen for some, but those athletes are in a vast minority. If you ask any pro athlete whether they played a wide range of sports when they were young, they will reply in the affirmative. By taking part in a wide variety of sports an athlete develops a huge range of physical skills, which ultimately improves hand, foot, and eye coordination, resulting in improved performance in their sport. We highly recommends sports such as soccer, lacrosse, swimming, martial arts, baseball, basketball etc.. for all young hockey players. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time to concentrate on a specialization, but this shouldn’t occur until the later teen years for a hockey player.

2. Train the Core
Training the core feels like hard work but it is a necessity for the prevention of injuries and to improve the overall strength of the body. The core region includes the abs, lower back and all the surrounding muscles of the hip. Remember you are only as strong as your weakest link. If an athletes’ core area is weak there will be a susceptibility to groin injuries which will interfere with the ability to reach potential strength optimum.

3. Develop your Posterior Chain
I don’t mean just sitting on your butt. The posterior chain includes your lower back, hamstrings, glutes and calves. These muscles are responsible for up to 80% of speed and power development. Most people will do a few sets of hamstring curls and believe this to be enough. Wrong! Train the chain as a unit.

4. Train for Speed and Agility
Many studies have shown that the ages of 9 to14 are crucial for the strong development of speed and agility. Performing an assortment of drills or taking part in a wide variety of sports enhances agility. When developing speed, we stresses proper technique. Just recently, we tested 100 teenage athletes and found that only about 1% had correct technique. As sprint coaches would say, 'Learn the A, B’s and C’s of running'. You may be wondering how sprinting would make your son/daughter skate faster. Just last summer our athletes were involved in a study comparing on-ice and off-ice speed. Our findings showed the fastest athletes off-ice were usually the fastest skaters on-ice. How does this happen? Sprinting develops fast twitch fibers and these same fibers are responsible for the power and acceleration involved in skating.

5. Stress Form Not Weight

We want you to train using proper form and trust that the increases in weight lifting ability will come. Incorrect form is the main reason young athletes get injured in the weight room. You would be doing yourself and your child a favor by making sure a professional trainer shows your child the safe, correct form to use when doing any kind of resistance training. Proper supervision is vital to prevent injuries with this age group.


Why do athletes quit playing sports?
There are lots of reasons, depending on the age and level of skill in the athlete. At the recreational level, 80% of kids drop out of youth sports by the time they're 13. Reasons? Researchers (Tara Scanlan, UCLA, Richard Stratton, Virginia Tech, Joan Duda, formerly of Purdue, and others) point to several reasons.

NO FUN seems to be the most common reason. Dedication wanes when the sport stops being fun. Fun doesn't have to mean "entertaining." Fun can come from getting better and better at a skill. Dr. Stratton's ongoing research lists several reasons why kids drop out of youth sports:

  • lost interest
  • coach played favourites
  • no fun
  • developed other interests outside sports
  • not enough playing time
  • too much pressure to win
  • didn't like teammates
  • wasn't learning anything
  • wasn't challenged enough
  • too much pressure from the coach
  • had to work
  • father pushed too hard
  • mother pushed too hard
  • less skilled than sibling

5 major reasons for females dropping out of youth sports:
  • not learning skills
  • coach didn't understand kids
  • no fun
  • coach a poor teacher
  • not challenging enough

The top 5 for males:

  • lost interest
  • coach played favorites
  • no fun
  • developed non sport interests
  • coach was a poor teacher
In my own observations over the years, I've noticed that motivation to play changes as the kids get older. At first they're playing because mom and dad signed the up, and because mom and dad want them to play. Then they continue to play because their friends are playing. It's not until age 12-13 that a typical youngster decides to play sports for sports sake. That's probably why the big drop off at age 12-13. That's when they decide whether it's "worth it" to go to all the practices, to miss out on social activities or other extracurricular activities. Lots of kids decide that sports are a side issue, and they have other interests.

When I see kids and their parents and they're truing to decide about whether to play club and rep sports, I always hope the kids are playing for themselves, and not just for mom and dad. "Set Reasonable Expectations" discussing the importance for parents to make sure they are not putting undue expectations on their kids in sports. Many parents expect too much in the way of motivation and dedication to a sport, and some kids eventually "burn out" from playing too often, too early, for too long.

At the advanced level, the club level, the rep team level, a lot of the drop out is due to coaching style. If a coach emphasizes winning, he/she motivates athletes by instilling a fear of losing. If a coach emphasizes task mastery, he/she motivates athletes by instilling an atmosphere of competition against self, where athletes strives to improve their own skills regardless of the outcome of an athletic event.

Research shows that if fear of losing dominates athletes' thinking, they will experience a lot of stress and disappointment, ultimately leading to dropping out of sports. But, if they measure success by the scale of "am I getting better?" they'll see self improvement, they'll be happier, and will persist longer.

In general, if athletes are motivated only by winning, they're more prone to drop out in the face of failure. But coaches, athletes, and teams that focus on mastering skills and having fun perform better and stick with the sport longer.

Remember Your ABC's

Sometimes in Life it is important to get back to basics, in this case to remember your ABC's. They will help you get back on that championship track - where you belong!
Avoid negative sources, people, places, things and habits.
Believe in yourself.
Consider things from every angle.
Don't give up and never give in.
Enjoy life today, yesterday is gone, tomorrow may never come.
Family and friends are hidden treasures, seek them and enjoy their riches.
Give more than you planned to.
Hang on to your dreams.
Ignore those who try to discourage you.
Just do it!
Keep trying to no matter how hard it seems, it will get easier.
Love yourself, and spread your love to others.
Make it happen!
Never lie, cheat or steal, always strike a fair deal.
Open your eyes and see things as they really are.
Perfect practice makes perfect.
Quitter never win and winner never quit.                            
Read, study and learn about everything important in your life.        
Stop procrastenating.                                 
Take control of your own destiny.  
Understand yourself in order to better understand others.  
Visualize it.
Want it more than anything...
Xcellerate your efforts.
You are unique of all God's creation, nothing can replace you.
Zero in on your target and go for it!

Post filed under: Training

View All Posts