Monday, October 4, 2010

Athletic Destinies Determined By Age 10

I recently came across this article. This is something that I really try to preach to young athletes. I'd be interested to hear some other opinions.

David Yeager, ATC, CSCS

LeBron James was 10 years old once. By that age, he was on his way to becoming the LeBron James we know today, and he was helped by playing football, according to expert trainers who agree that a range of play activities between age six and 10 helps build a broad base of athletic motor and coordination abilities.

Each year hundreds of kids come through Scott Moody’s AthleteFit facility outside Kansas City, and dozens of them finish high school with collegiate sports scholarships.

“If [kids] don’t develop those manipulative motor skills at that age, that 6-10 window, then they don’t have the confidence necessary to participate,” said Moody. As a result, their overall fitness goes down, further dropping confidence. “It’s this downward spiral that most people never come out of.”

Moody joined more than 100 trainers from across the U.S. and Canada at a recent National Strength and Conditioning Association Youth Training Symposium in Chicago (see him presenting on TRX Suspension Training in the photo above). They discussed how in an overweight yet sports-obsessed culture, trainers are making a difference in how kids get started in athletics.

Patrick McHenry, a high school strength coach in Castle Rock, Colorado, talked about a tall, strong basketball player who could shoot and who looked like he might be great, but as a senior he lacked footwork.

“Was it too late? Yes, for him.” McHenry said. “If we had had him during his sophmore or junior year we could have helped him, but would he have been the best? No.”

Rick Howard, director of athletics for the School District of Philadelphia, gets requests from teachers and coaches for lowest-common-denominator training programs to meet the needs of, say, a third-grade physical education class or a girls’ softball team.

“It’s not that easy,” he tells them. “You really have to know everybody on that team, what they’re good at, what they’re not good at.” Mostly he sees sports instruction and training for kids that winds up reinforcing what they’re already good at, “Kids that are fast, keep them running.”

Reinforcement has run amok in cases where young athletes are opting to specialize in one sport at a young age. In the worst cases, according to McHenry, they run the risk of overuse injuries.

“We find they’re missing their window to all of those motor skills that are going to help them athletically later in the game,” said Moody.

“Girls’ soccer players have trouble tracking the ball in the air,” he pointed out, “because they never played volleyball growing up, they never played softball growing up. They didn’t get used to tracking objects out of the air.”

Mike Nitka is an editor for the trainers’ association journal and a Wisconsin high school wrestling coach. Motor skills in older people, he said, “can be developed, but not at the highest level possible because Mother Nature is trying to give us the biggest assist possible, and these are the windows” for that.

“I have a sign in my office,” Nitka said, “Volleyball players play volleyball. Athletes play anything they want.”

Article taken from

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