When speaking with the parents of our athletes about the importance of strength and conditioning, the conversation typically begins with a process of reassurance that age appropriate programming is suitable for a developing athlete. According to the NSCANational Strength and Conditioning Association “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” (NSCA, 2009)
The youth (6-12 years) or adolescent (12-19 years) athlete goes through many changes in life and in sport through the growth and development process. For this reason many vital decisions must be made for long term athletic development during this time period. With the most recent trend towards the importance of early sport specialization becoming more popular in the youth athlete, it is important to establish that each individual athlete is trained in a broad spectrum of movements so that they are well rounded and able to perform their sports activities in the safest manner possible. Therefore we can safely say that strength and conditioning training can provide a stable foundation for a lifetime of movement.
With this in mind we’d like to share the 4 key points that highlight why strength and conditioning are so important for the youth athlete.
- Preparation for the Future- Strength and conditioning training has a significant role in ensuring that young athletes become more coordinated, stable and strong as they advance through their athletic careers.
- Reduced Injury Risk- Despite concerns in the past that strength training is harmful for the youth athlete, it has been revealed that strength and conditioning can make a developing athlete “more resistant to injury” (NSCA, 2008). A higher level of motor control and a better understanding of how their body moves in space, allows an athlete to take more control over their injury prevention.
- Smaller Incidence of burnout or overspecialization- As more sports teams, coaches and parents are pushing for children to specialize in a sport earlier in their careers, it is important to make sure that health and fun are major components of the process. Whether through the initiation of a strength and conditioning program or by continuing multiple sports through childhood, all children should be exposed to several modes of physical activity/sport. Premature focus of specialization can lead to burnout, overuse injuries and potentially social isolation.
- More enjoyment in movement and physical activity for a lifetime- Individuals who enjoy movement and physical activity are those who are the most likely to continue a healthy exercise lifestyle through their lives. Strength and conditioning is a way to learn how to positively impact movement quality through mobility and movement training.