Drew Henley from Henley Sports Performance joins us to offer training tips for your youth football athlete. Implement these valuable pointers! If you have any further questions, Drew’s contact information is below.
Many coaches and parents are looking to help their kids prepare for the next youth football season, and searching for the proper way of doing so. Should their child be lifting weights? Focus on football? Or is it best to do something else? Here are a few dos and don’ts for helping your child get ready for the upcoming season.
1. Do focus on speed and agility – Multi-directional speed, change of direction, acceleration and deceleration are all skills that can be developed at an early age. It is well known that learning ability is highest at a young age and motor control is just like any other mental ability – it must be learned. By focusing on these fundamental movements, athletes will have an excellent base to build on as they age. This kinesthetic awareness (mind-body connection, or control over one’s movements) is what we notice when we see an athlete make smooth, fluid movements. An athlete who hasn’t “grown into his body” is an example of an athlete who didn’t establish his kinesthetic awareness at a young age. Additional benefits include stronger tendons, ligaments, and connective tissues, which are the main injury areas for football players.
2. Don’t worry about lifting weights – During this stage of development, adding resistance training can actually be detrimental to your child’s long-term growth. Pre-pubescent training should be geared towards learning to move their body, improving coordination, and developing agility. The natural increases in hormones during their growth will increase their muscle mass and size, these other traits require early training to be fully developed.
3. Do get them outside – Get them playing, running around, and acting like kids before the inventions of television and video games. Remember monkey bars? Or climbing on top of them? I call those pull-ups. Tag? Agility drill. Going down the slide? Gotta run those stairs first. Childhood obesity has become an epidemic in this country as kids spend less and less time outdoors. By encouraging a variety of outdoor activities, your child will be less likely to become bored and resort to sitting in front of a TV.
4. Don’t force it – Early specialization is a bit of a double-edged sword. While many of the greatest athletes began their careers at an early age, however they are the exception. Many young athletes will quickly burn out and lose their joy for the sport if it encompasses their entire life. Think of a plant – too much water as a seed and the soil will be washed away. Allow it to grow naturally and it will blossom later in life. High school is the earliest I would suggest focusing on a single sport.
5. Do encourage diversity – Many athletic traits are improved by cross training with different sports. For example, soccer is an excellent way for a young athlete to improve coordination, agility, and foot speed. All of these traits carryover to the football field and can improve performance. At this level, athletes should be encouraged to participate in other sports. Not only will it prevent burn out, as mentioned above, but also will improve their athleticism in ways that football doesn’t.
I hope these tips help you in training your child for the upcoming season. If you would like to know specific drills or exercises for your athletes, please feel free to contact me by email, call or text and I will do my best to help.
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES