“Success isn’t an overnight thing. It’s when every day you get a little better than the day before. It all adds up.” – Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
The Rock is right, success isn’t something that hits you randomly one night. Success is something that is earned over time by consistently grinding to improve your skill set. Each day, everyone has the choice to decide whether they are going to wake up and work to be better than they were yesterday or to sit back and let life’s opportunities pass them by.
As Athletes, we face that same decision everyday: Do I want to get better or am I going to let all the other athletes pass me by? Let’s face it, we are now in the world of Aaron Judges, Giancarlo Stantons, LeBron James, and Marouane Fellainis, the freak athletes with incredible talent and Goliath like size. How can average sized athletes, or even below average size athletes (Dustin Pedroia, Jose Altuve, Lionel Messi, and Isaiah Thomas), compete with those monsters? Of course, each of them brings their talents to their respective sports, but each one of them trained extra hard in order to make up for their physical weaknesses. Athletic training is a crucial part of succeeding in sports, regardless of age or physical ability.
As athletes get older, their physical abilities start to change (awkward running, slower, not as strong), not because they are getting worse, but because they are are learning how to adapt to their growing and developing bodies. It’s crucial for an athlete to learn how his/her body works in order to be successful in their sport.
What age is an acceptable age to begin training?
Through peer reviewed research, the National Strength and Conditioning Association has determined that strength and conditioning for the youth athlete can be both safe and effective in developing strength, coordination and athleticism starting from the age of six. This is the foundational age of the athlete. Athletes ages 6 to 11 are at the entry level of their sport and in the midst of learning how their body works. This is the time for the athletes to begin laying the groundwork and developing coordination, movement awareness, neuromuscular control, speed and agility, and core strength. In foundational stage, athletes are establishing the building blocks of athletic movements.
The next stage is what we call the progression stage. You know, the time when kids start looking like a newborn giraffe when they run…flailing limbs, awkward movements, and imbalances all over. 12 through 14 year olds fall into this area. Both boys and girls start to hit puberty and their body really starts changing, developing and progressing, which makes those coordinated movements even more challenging. Just like the foundation stage, the progression stage will work on coordination & balance and speed & agility, however now athletes can work on entry level power training, strength training, agility and stamina.
The final stage, or the playmaker stage, is where athletes are starting to look into college programs. From 14 to 18 years old, our bodies start to develop and muscles start building. Honing in on how to use your body with all the new assets is critical when competing for a starting spot or scholarships. This age group will focus on power and strength movements and speed, agility, & stamina in order to be prepared for the next level.
What benefits does training have?
As more and more research comes out, an increasing amount of people are realizing the long lasting benefits training has on our mind and bodies. Training has become such an integral part of sports that if you aren’t doing some sort of training, you might start getting passed up by those who are. With that being said, here are my top 5 benefits of training.
- According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), strength and conditioning training can help younger athletes, or athletes still developing, become more resistant to injuries. Because athletes are learning proper mechanics and motor control, they are able to better understand how their bodies move, proper distribution of body weight, and correct stabilization of the core muscles in order to have more control over their injury prevention.
- Childhood obesity, and obesity in general, has been an increasing problem in society. Social media, video games, and TV are contributing more and more kids being neglectful about their physical activity and health. Physical activity is one of the most important aspects of creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Some benefits of physical activity include: improved memory, lower risk of heart disease, lower risk of diabetes, strengthens bones and muscles, improves mental health,
Lifestyle of Healthy Habits
- There are a lot of people who are unaware that the habits they create and how they take care of their bodies will have an effect in the future. I find it extremely important to instill good habits at a young age because the earlier a kid can create a lifestyle of positive habits, the better quality of life they will have.
- Working out is one habit that comes with many perks. This positive habit teaches us how to set and achieve our goals, which can be beneficial in any aspect of life. Not only do we learn how to set and achieve goals, but we also become healthier and stronger, we sleep better, and our happiness and self-esteem improve. These perks are a step in the right direction to live a happy, healthy lifestyle.
Increased strength and power and quickness
- According to the NSCA, developing athletes strength capacity can be significantly enhanced (gains of up to 74% have been reported) through a program that uses a variety of forms of resistance training. Coordination and the ability to recruit muscles efficiently and effectively at the same time are two main reasons for strength improvements. Although children naturally develop to form proper muscle memory and strength, training can help expedite and improve the process.
- The increases in muscular strength seen in childhood can be greater than the strength increases seen in adolescence which evidences why the early initiation of a formal strength and conditioning plan is an important step. Individuals who train twice per week, on average, have 33% higher strength gains than their one session per week counterparts. Stronger athletes perform better, are more trainable and have the most long term success.
Smaller Incidence of burnout or overspecialization
- As more people start flocking towards specializing in a certain sport at a young age, it is important to make sure the kids health and enjoyment are major factors of the process. I find it extremely important to make sure kids are developing the “fundamental movement skills” first, rather than the “sports specific skills” because without a fundamental base to work from the athlete will limit their growth. In addition, early adoption of specialization can lead to burnout, overuse injuries and potentially social isolation. The last thing we want to do is harm the child’s future in any way.
What are you waiting for?
Ultimately, athletes at all levels should be exposed to some type of athletic training if they want to be included in the group of elite performers. However, it is my job as the trainer to insure the athlete is proficient in ALL planes and direction of movements, not just those movements that are required for their sport. Gaining the fundamental knowledge about the body and how it moves, as well as understanding the necessary steps to prevent injuries, will allow the athlete to be healthy and successful through their career. Remember, success isn’t an overnight thing. You will become successful by putting in hours of hard work and dedication that allows you to be better than you were yesterday. And eventually, it all adds up.