Youth athlete training: Why training smart is better than training hard.

A good coach needs to know how to build an athlete not break one.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says there are more than 100,000 ACL reconstruction surgeries performed in the U.S. annually. Among 14- to 18-year-olds, that injury has increased 148% over the last 10 years, and is increasing by at least 2% every year.

The worst thing about this is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 50% of these sports injuries are preventable, if the proper precautions and regulations are in place.

But what precautions do we need to know about to help increase longevity and decrease burn out and injury! Here are three things to consider:

1. Proper movement mechanics: Soccer requires a lot of movements such as Landing, jumping, cutting, stopping! Issues such as a valgus tendency (where the knees collapse in), ankle pronation (the ankle rolls in) can increase the risk of injury and inhibit speed, balance and power. Proper strength training recognizes and addresses a lot of issues and works to correct them in a safe and controlled environment.

2. Appropriate stress: Workload, recovery, nutrition: Workouts stimulate muscle growth and adaptation but without adequate recovery and nutrition the benefits of a good program can be jeopardized. Understanding the workload of an athlete and adapting the workouts to compliment this so they are not just going 100% every time and burning out is vital for long term development. One of the things we advocate is recovery sessions, good nutrition and learning how to respect and take care of our bodies.

3. Progressive overload: A follow on from number 2 and a principle of development that is often overlooked. Progressive overload is all about ensuring the program is appropriate as well as challenging to ensure progress is being made. We want to know whether the athlete is getting stronger, faster, more agile from the training and thats why we track what we do each session.

We are not randomly assigning exercises to the athlete just to make them sweat and tired!

In summary what this comes down to is learning to train smart not just hard.

Unfortunately after a decade of coaching soccer I have only met a handful of coaches who have any idea on how to implement strength, speed and conditioning the right way.

The mindset of a lot of coaches is simply push, push, push and the success of the session is based upon how fatigued the athlete is. They simply train to get tired not to get fit and although maybe well intentioned, the consequences are serious!

So how do you go about training an Athlete?

Here is a video to a typical session we would do with Athletes.

And here is how we generally structure our 60 minute strength training programs:

0-10: soft tissue work, Mobility, breathing and control, mental preparation.

10-20: Power, Speed, Stability,

20-35:Strength circuit A

35-50: Strength Circuit B

50-60: conditioning.

*Give or take 5 minutes depending on the day, this is usually what 1 hour looks like.