PURPOSE: The role that strength and conditioning could & should play in the injury prevention and performance enhancement of youth athletes.
POINTS OF EMPHASIS:
Strength & Conditioning that is positive for all of the youth community, regardless of whether the individual is an athlete or non-athlete.
Absolute Power or Peak Athleticism is predicated on the athlete’s ability to elicit proper sequencing of a given movement. (see kinematic sequencing)
A coach should maximize the attention paid to task orientation and strictly guided practice as opposed to ego oriented randomness which can result in athletic decrements.
Why is it that as a society we feel such pressure to find that edge? You know that step-up, the ace in the hole, or that special weapon? The differentiating skill or attribute that we are told is EARNED over thousands of hours of perpetual practice. Practice that is probably coupled with a blindly driven, vastly unspecific, and more than likely, un-educationally based, BEATING. Unfortunately, these practice and training domains are now being classified under the same term that at one time embodied values such as sophistication, pride, and mastery of progression. That term; Strength and Conditioning!
The youth sports market has clearly been on an explosive incline with club teams, summer camps, sports domes, and the almighty sport specific training facilities popping up everywhere like earthworms after a heavy rain; and yet there seems to be no cap on this market and no end in sight. Except for one little speed bump; the practitioners or consumers of this market (YOUTH ATHLETES) just can’t seem to keep up and stay healthy (cmon kids would ya just toughen up already?).
Since the year 2000, there has been a more than five-fold increase in the annual number of youth injuries related to sport . When this stat is read do you know what the common response is? Well, it must be because the sports are too violent or the kids aren’t playing often enough…right? Aren’t we as American’s obese? It is this ambiguity right here that causes parents to be so befuddled by what to do, or how to correctly manage their youth athletes career.
The truth, yes, in some populations across the US our youth are not active enough and do need more activity. However, in other areas, where activity level is high (i.e. something scheduled 10 days a week..j/k) we have seen 50% of all injuries be caused by overuse . So, how do we solve this equivocal conundrum?
The answer, Strength and Conditioning!
“STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING IS A PRACTICE THAT WILL NOT ONLY ELICIT POSITIVE BENEFITS FOR THE ATHLETE BUT ALSO THE NON-ATHLETE OR SEDENTARY YOUTH.”
Generally, most overuse injuries are particularly due to a deficiency in the ability to absorb forces. Meaning although your athlete may train on their own, or work with a coach that is primarily prescribing very sport specific movements (i.e. speed and agility drills), if they have not development structural strength in several foundational movements (i.e. the squat, hinge action, or unilateral movements) they are merely waiting to get injured.
Let’s put this a little simpler: My youth athlete is a baseball player who desires to gain more power hitting. For years he has worked with hitting coaches and his technique appears flawless, but the increase in power just doesn’t seem to magically appear. What shall you do next? More hitting lessons? You are aware of what the definition of insanity is…right? Well in case not let’s break it down a little further.
In biomechanics terminology the equation of POWER = FORCE x VELOCITY. So let’s assume your velocity has peaked considering your technique is rather flawless. The next piece of that equation is to increase the amount of force you can apply to a given object…also known as absolute strength. However, for absolute strength to be applicable in sport one must have a vast amount of kinetic strength. This is the ability to transfer energy/force from our center to our exterminates, (core to extremity) and then elicit this force on an object (ie. The ball, puck, or another lineman).
“THUS, THE COMBINATION OF KINETIC STRENGTH AND PROPER TECHNIQUE WILL HELP AN ATHLETE ELICIT THE GREATEST AMOUNT OF ABSOLUTE POWER.”
Ok, great, so I see how strength and conditioning will help create a more powerful or forceful athlete but how does this help prevent my athlete from getting injured (undoubtedly the next question along this dialogue)? As individuals begin to develop foundational strength, kinetic strength and absolute strength (through movements such as squat, deadlift and varying Olympic lifting movements) they too will begin to develop the capability to handle a load much greater than that of their own body weight and over many repetitions (i.e. through externally loading of a barbell or dumbbell). Thus, when placed on a playing field they are much more equipped to handle varying forces and movements due to previous strengthening.
So…why is this not more apparent among the youth athlete population? Through poor qualification restrictions of the strength and conditioning industry, several under qualified coaches have severely tainted a practice that could be vastly beneficial to many. With poor coaching practices and the mounting potential for injury as load increases, there have been several exercises and exercise practices that have been essential damned to the “That’s way too dangerous” or, “That can’t be good for you” list. Yes there is always a risk-reward ratio that needs to be taken into account when deciding on the use of a given exercise but for the most part as long as the individual possesses a normative range of motion and lacks current injury, foundational movements (i.e. squatting, deadlifting, pressing, hanging) should never be condemned.
However, has the damage been done? Is this why parents insist on paying deplorable amounts of money to watch a coach essential babysit their athlete for 60-90 minutes, as they take them through speed drill after speed drill on a small patch of grass alongside some field they are borrowing? Hint: Go on Youtube and get those same drills for free and with luck you’ll find a good video and still be within 90% of what you would have gotten out of that hour.
“IT IS OUR HOPE THAT BY EDUCATING A COMMUNITY WE CAN CHANGE THE PERCEPTION HOW A PRACTICE SHOULD BE RUN AND WHAT TRAINING IS NECESSARY TO CULTIVATE FOUNDATIONAL STRENGTH!”