Building Healthy Futures
Becoming someone who exercises regularly is not an easy proposition as we get older and become more set in our ways.
Going from someone with a sedentary lifestyle after you have put on some pounds and lost some joie de vivre to someone who works out four-to-six times a week requires a pretty drastic change in lifestyle.
Engagement in youth sports has risen in numbers over the years. And the degree to which parents invest not only their time but also money has increased along with it. Playing a seasonal sport on a team in a local sports league has escalated to travel squads who play the same sport year-round.
But as many adults can attest to, playing sports as a kid does not necessarily equate to adult fitness. While they share similarities, practicing for and playing sports only play a small part in an overall fitness regimen. Good physical fitness is a possible byproduct of playing sports, but not the goal of playing sports.
Working with a personal trainer to develop athleticism outside of the youth sports framework promises to bridge the gap between playing youth sports and better overall health later in life, while also improving overall and sport-specific athleticism in the short run. While practicing and playing a sport helps develop skills, working one-on-one with a trainer supplements the athlete by improving speed, agility, power, coordination, and self-confidence.
“Any coach will tell you that they only have a limited amount of time to work with their athletes, and that time is best spent developing sports-specific skills and focusing on teamwork if the athlete is involved in a team sport,” says Ryan Hoskinson, a certified personal trainer at FitMe Wellness with a youth sports training background. “They just don’t have the time in a limited practice window to help kids develop their overall athleticism, which is where strength training, conditioning, and helping develop an athlete’s coordination is so crucial.”
Each youth athlete has their own unique areas for improvement. “One of the first things I look at is an athlete’s posture and gait,” says Hoskinson. “Minor adjustments and helping them become aware of where they can improve can offer almost immediate improvements in their top-end speed and overall movement.”
Strength training will improve just about any athlete’s game, but development of proper form is a necessary building block. “Young athletes’ bodies are still developing; they don’t have the same coordination and strength as adults. Focusing on proper techniques and having an expert there to correct mistakes is so critical to their development,” says Hoskinson. “Knowing you’re doing something correctly builds self-confidence, which is an underrated part of a young athlete’s development.”
These benefits transfer over to adulthood as well. “I work with a lot of adults, and you can tell which ones have high-level athletics in their background; the exercises I throw at them come much more naturally, and while they still will have technique issues that need to get ironed out, the learning curve is much less steep.”
Getting youth athletes into exercise beyond the practice field and playing field helps to build familiarity and a routine that will help them beyond their athletic careers.
Youth sports training also offers youth athletes a competitive edge over their peers. While athletes will generally spend the same amount of time practicing as their teammates and opponents, developing their speed, strength, and coordination beyond the practice field can help them get the edge to get them more time on the playing field or increase the edge they have on their opponents.
Working with an expert in strength and conditioning can also help prevent injury and reduce recovery time. Aside from contact-based injuries, most injuries occur from the repetitive stresses of their sports. “By developing athletes beyond practice, they become more aware of the range of sensations and physical feedback they get from their bodies,” says Hoskinson. “And a qualified youth sports trainer can also correct form issues before they develop into injuries.”
Getting youth athletes into exercise beyond the practice field and playing field helps to build familiarity and a routine that will help them beyond their athletic careers. “Getting a kid into a health-club environment helps to create a familiarity so that when they get older, if they have a gap in focusing on their physical health, it’s not the first time that they’re experiencing it. So there’s less fear and more confidence in what they’re doing and why they’re there,” says Hoskinson.
Having your child involved in youth sports is a positive reinforcement of physical activity in their lives. But it is only a starting point. Supplementing their youth sports involvement with strength training and conditioning with the proper guidance will improve their performance in their sport, and also lay the groundwork to becoming a happier, healthier adult. •