The Gathering Place has teamed up with Lee Taft Speed Academy with one common goal: to meet the physical, mental, social, and spiritual needs of young athletes. Here is a helpful article from Lee Taft, who has been training athletes at the highest levels for three decades.
Is Athletic Training Right for My Child?
Top 6 Questions Parents Should Ask
by Lee Taft
Parents, are you thinking about signing up your child for athletic development training? Be sure to "complete your homework" by asking these important questions about the programs and sports performance trainers you are considering for your child.
#1 Are the Trainers Qualified to Teach Youth Development?
Often the differences between adult personal trainers and Sports Performance or Athletic Development Coaches are misunderstood. The key is knowing how to properly and safely progress and train young developing athletes.
When searching for a trainer, be sure to always ask for his or her background and experiences, especially when it comes to training and understanding the growing bodies of youth athletes. If trainers don’t give you specifics about their understanding of growth issues during certain ages, nervous system development, coordination development, and other areas relating to youth development, then move on.
#2 Do They Have Experience Teaching Young Athletes?
Far too often trainers think they must take an excessively tough approach with clients to get results. If a youngster’s first exposure to athletic development is yelling and screaming, they may just shut down and dislike the entire experience. Treat kids like kids. Share the rules and expectations with them and be consistent. There is NEVER a need to yell and scream at young kids during a training session.
#3 Do They Understand Skill Development?
I can’t think of a more critical time to establish a solid foundation of fundamental movements than with young athletes. This is a time to teach them how to move correctly and give exposure to many movement patterns to establish “movement recognition.” This means the athletes are building a huge bank of skills as their nervous systems begin to program solid patterns.
If trainers make the athletes run hard all the time and only focus on making them overly tired, they are clearly missing the point of athletic development. Often, a trainer’s thought process is, “If I make youngsters work hard, then parents are getting their money’s worth.” In reality, they are cheating the young athlete out of development opportunities. There is nothing wrong with working hard. However, young athletes need to develop skills and be taught how to properly move.
#4 Do They Understand Strength Training for Young Kids?
Yes! Strength training is vital for kids. It is so important for youngsters to begin developing the foundation of strength early in life. It is one of the most critical periods of development for growing nervous systems. Keep in mind, strength training needs to be properly performed and appropriate programming needs to be used.
Young athletes must develop stability to attain great mobility. If kids are put on machines it is a travesty. Be sure the trainer knows to use exercises that force athletes to stabilize on their bodies and create “stiffness” so they can create force, as well as balance. No machines for young kids!
#5 Do They Understand How to Teach Speed?
Going back to an earlier statement, many trainers believe if they make kids run a lot and get really tired they are doing their job. The problem is the young athlete is learning bad habits and isn’t really being taught anything.
Trainers need to understand the biomechanics of acceleration, change of direction, top end speed, vertical jumping, and so on. They also need to know how to teach young athletes how to control their bodies to be efficient movers. This is critical for the Long-Term Development of athletes.
#6 Do They Subscribe to the Long-Term Athletic Development Model?
Although more convenient for parents, programs that run 4-6 weeks are really not doing much to help children to develop their true potential through positive habits of movement. If trainers do not encourage athletes to commit to at least three months or longer, then they do not understand how our youth develop.
Considering the fact that young bodies are changing non-stop, it is easy to understand consistent training will help young athletes overcome the challenges that come with growing. During growth spurts, athletes tend to become slightly uncoordinated due to both growth and the nervous system figuring out the new length. It is important to train differently to protect the athlete and turn the focus on coordination, mobility, and body control activities. Doing too much pounding during this stage only creates problems with pain and poor movement.
Parents, don’t allow just anyone train your child. It is important for your child to develop properly and reach his or her true potential while not being held back by uninformed trainers.
The Lee Taft Speed Academy was developed nearly three decades ago specifically to train and develop young athletes. Many years of research, clinical studies, trial and error, college, internships, and certifications have helped our foundation of knowledge. But nothing replaces the true desire to see young people trained and coached properly.