The Reality of Youth Sports Training

I was once giving a presentation to a baseball clinic in northern New Jersey. I spent an hour going over what you should and shouldn’t do inside of the weight room.

At the end of the presentation, like I always do, I opened it up for some questions and a father in the back raised his hand and asked me this, “I understand everything you said but my son has a ton of work to do, he participates in three other sports where the coaches also hold year-round practices, so what can we do in the weight room with all of this other stuff going on?”

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It was a question I was so happy to get. A much different one than the usual. It was a “real world” question and I love answering these because I pride myself in my ability to be realistic with my approach.

Young athletes playing basketball

The simple answer is “not much.” When we look at the science of training, there are a few points that are quite clear.

First, we have to apply a great deal of consistent stress to the body in order to demand an adaptation.

Second, everything we experience in life is, in fact, stress. Sports and training stress count the same as school and all other stress. We must find a way to create peaks and valleys of stress input in our lives. We should have high peaks during training and valleys before bed.

Third, the adaptation can only occur during times of recovery (the valleys).

If they are participating in a ton of activities, with lots of homework and more year-round sport training, the valleys will be few and far between. When we consider the science, the black and white answer is that we can only train (apply stress) when recovery time is available, and their stress levels are already managed. Simply driving more stress into their system will produce a negative effect. Period.

In these instances, strength and conditioning coaches should focus on building the recovery capabilities of their athletes. Create excellent single leg stance. Work on nutrition. Develop the aerobic system. Encourage sleep. Educate the parents and sport coaches. Have a lot of fun!

Their progress will come from their ability to recover. In the cases of overstimulated individuals, less will always be more.

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