Thursday, December 15, 2011

9 Things Young Athletes Need to Master

Strength and Conditioning Coach Julia Ladewski recently wrote a piece for Elite FTS discussing simple things kids should be able to do, yet most high school freshmen lack the ability to do. Check them out here:

  1. Body Weight Squat – The squat is one of the most basic movements for body awareness and strength. It is also a precursor to other movements like jumping, hopping and bounding. Toddlers just learning to walk and pick things up off the ground start off doing a perfect squat and somewhere along the way, we mess it up.
  2. Skipping – This is a basic fundamental motor pattern that should be mastered. It teaches opposite arm and leg relationship and takes a bit of coordination. Not to mention, the basic movements needed for running, like staying on the balls of the feet and proper arm mechanics.
  3. Pushups – While this is on every Dad’s list of “Things To Make Your Son Do Every Day To Stay Ahead Of The Game” it can easily get out of control if not done properly. I’ve seen many kids who say they do pushups every night, yet they are done poorly. Whether you start with plank holds or incline pushups or any variation, young athletes need to learn body position.
  4. Chin-ups/Flex Arm Hang – Apparently this is part of most kids’ Presidential Fitness Test…yet when I ask kids how often they practice them in P.E. class, they say never. Hmm…that’s another conversation for another day. Again, there are a million ways to help kids learn to do a chin-up or flex arm hang, but I think we can all agree that it’s a fundamental skill (mastering your body weight) that all kids should have.
  5. Jump Rope – I’m surprised at the amount of kids that don’t know how to jump rope. Rocky would be ashamed of us.
  6. Hip Hinge – Hinging the hips, while keeping the spine in alignment, is extremely difficult for most young athletes to understand. Most just bend forward at the waist, rounding the back. This is a key position for teaching them to create spinal stability.
  7. Lunge/Split Squat – Another basic movement that not only builds into more difficult strength moves, but can be a great movement screen as well.
  8. Landing – Learning how to stick a landing position and absorb the forces through the body are another key thing to teach young athletes. They need to know how to keep their posture in the right position (not letting their chest flop to the floor), and have a soft landing.
  9. Jumping and Hopping – While many coaches would argue that a kid should know how to land before they can jump any higher (and I do agree), basic jumping skills should be mastered. Again, timing of the arms with the legs and overall body control. And with hopping, again, I’m surprised that most kids don’t have the body control and strength to hop on one foot.

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