Take a look at the youth sports culture and you see athlete’s deciding to pursue one sport or discipline at a younger and younger age.
Four words: The Age of Specialization.
The days of a multi-sport athlete are slowly fading, and the consequence of this new age athlete is a rigid ideal of sports and several factors appear to be the cause:
One, the allure of stardom presented by our nation’s professional sports organization.
Two, pressure from the community to “keep up with the Joneses”.
Three, coaches wanting to claim a special athlete for their sport only.
Four, club teams gaining all the collegiate recruiter’s attention.
Five, the fear of injury.
And yet this is the ideal time when these young athletes are supposed to embrace the culture of play, expression, and camaraderie. A very counter message to the one currently at play in youth sports.
Not only is specialization happening among the choice of “sports”, but the same trend has been going on in the training/sports performance realm.
What Is This Leading To?
First, it leads to coaches becoming fixated on these mechanical approaches and the relentless need for more power, more speed, more strength.
Second, it produces an athlete that is more robotic in nature instead of supple, allusive and intuitive.
Third, young athletes miss out on the opportunity to develop RAW athleticism due to specialization and strict power-lifting terms.
Where Should We Be Leading Our Athlete?
In truth, young athletes need more fundamentals to build body awareness, coordination, proprioception, healthy joints, total body control, and mobility. All these add up to prepare an athlete for the endless variables that take place during competition.
Instead of focusing on more power, more speed, more strength these young athletes need focused technicality, continuous neural adaptation, exploration of the transverse plane, inversion, an understanding of tension & relaxation, and a gateway for free-flowing instinctive physical activity. (I will share more on of each of these in a follow-up blog series).
But once an athlete is empowered and becomes a sound mover, then unconscious competence during the competition will spring! This is where an athlete wants to be!
Where Should an Athlete Start?
Athleticism and movement is something that we’re already familiar with, so it’s a process of re-training as oppose to it being new information for the body’s kinetic chain.
I always refer to these simple examples when explaining the idea of movement wisdom to my students.
Look at a toddler, and watch their staple movement patterns. They crawl, roll, squat, hinge, rotate, arch and more. Or if you’ve ever been to a public elementary school during recess, then you see a perfect example of what movement, play, and athleticism means.
At some point, all of us were toddlers, and also elementary school children playing at recess. This wisdom has always been with us or your athletes, the one thing getting in the way is specialization and a loss of play.
Once an athlete commences towards more quality movement in their training, they will start to realize how natural it all is, and how it translates over to their ability to play their given sport with grace, without free of injury, and most importantly throughout life.
Keeping the big picture in mind the true goal of sports participation is for a lifetime of healthy movement and play… not just for the short season they play competitively.
What to know more preparing your athlete to be a physically fit? Read more on where to really start for athleticism and movement training here.