Sport Specific Strength Training is unnecessary. Sport Specific Strength Training is Unnecessary for most athletes under the age of 18. Learn more as we tackle the “fad” of “sport specific training” or “Speciality Athletic Training”.
As a sports performance coach with years of experience, I have worked with hundreds of youth athletes over the years. One common misconception that I often encounter is the belief that sports-specific training is necessary for young athletes(18 and under) to excel in their chosen sport. However, this is simply not the case. In fact, focusing too heavily on sport-specific training at a young age can actually hinder a child’s athletic development.
The Problem with Sport-Specific Strength training for high school and middle school athletes
Many parents and coaches believe that if a young athlete wants to excel in a particular sport, they need to start strength training for that sport at a very young age. For example, they may think that a young soccer player needs to start attending soccer-specific strength training sessions. Or that a young basketball player needs to start doing a specific strength program for basketball.
The biggest problem with this approach is that it can lead to burnout, injury, and over-specialization. Young athletes are still developing physically, mentally, and emotionally, and focusing too heavily on one sport or one set of skills can limit their overall athletic development.
In addition, most young athletes are just simply not strong enough. No matter the sport that your middle school or high school athlete plays they need to gain strength. This strength that I am discussing is in relation to their own body weight. An increase in strength will lead to positive characteristics that allow the athlete to see success no matter what sport they play.
Fast always plays. Explosive always plays. (almost always)
I just talked with a sports coach and they were telling me how they “find a spot” on the field for the fastest kid because it is such an advantage. Get strong, run fast and jump higher and I bet your high school athlete gets to see the field and/or court.
The Benefits of Getting Faster and More Explosive
Strength training is important for building the foundation of any sport, but becoming faster and more explosive can make a significant difference in an athlete’s performance. Here are a few benefits:
- Improved agility and coordination: Speed training can improve an athlete’s footwork and body control, which translates to better coordination on the field.
- Increased acceleration and top-end speed: Explosive training can increase an athlete’s ability to accelerate quickly and reach their top speed faster, giving them an edge on the competition.
- Better reaction time: Training to react quickly to a stimulus can improve an athlete’s reaction time, which is crucial in many sports.
Other Benefits of a Generalized Approach to Strength training for Youth Training
Besides the aforementioned characteristics of being faster, stronger and more athletic, general strength training will also provide these benefits.
Reduced risk of injury
By focusing on overall strength development, young athletes can build the strength, flexibility, and mobility needed to prevent injuries. This is especially important for sports that require a lot of repetitive motions, such as pitching in baseball or hitting in tennis. Doing more “specific” exercises on top of the already repetitive motions will lead to more injuries not less.
Improved overall athleticism
By building overall strength, speed, and coordination, young athletes can improve their performance in a wide variety of sports, not just the one they are currently playing. This means they can be more well-rounded athletes and have more options if they decide to pursue a different sport later on. Again it goes back to the key characteristics of a successful athlete – strong, fast and explosive.
Increased motivation and enjoyment
Focusing too heavily on one sport or one set of skills can lead to burnout and a loss of motivation. By taking a more generalized approach, young athletes can enjoy a wider variety of activities and stay engaged in sports for a longer period of time.
Sport Specific Training for Youth athletes is unnecessary. The characteristics that youth athletes need to develop are stronger, faster and more explosive. These characteristics will help the youth athlete in their favorite sport right now but also help them in all future sports as well. Most importantly, developing these characteristics now as a youth athlete will help build a solid & healthy foundation as they move into adulthood.