Kids Sports: Specialize in being an Athlete

There is a lot of talk on overuse injuries in kids and much of it stems from specialization in one sport at an early age. Baseball players, football players, soccer players, swimmers among other athletes have common injuries that are associated with playing that sport. What becomes alarming however is the decreasing age at which these injuries are occuring.

In our eyes at CrossFit Jungle Gym, most of this risk can be avoided if not entirely eliminated. Overuse injuries come from repeating the same motions over time: incorrectly, beyond fatigue or the bodies limits.

First it would be ignorant to say that I know the intricate details of every skill of every sport and so I will leave those skills in the hands of the sport specific coach. However, basic physical skills can and should be trained to become a great well rounded athlete. The best way to learn and train these fundamental skills is to find a coach and/or gym that uses General Physical Preparedness as it’s main focus, for example a CrossFit gym.

The 10 general physicals skills that should be trained regardless of sport…

  1. Cardiovascular Endurance
  2. Stamina
  3. Flexibility
  4. Strength
  5. Power
  6. Agility
  7. Speed
  8. Coodrination
  9. Balance
  10. Accuracy 

The best way to get good at all 10 of these skills is to perform: constantly varied functional movements at high intensity. Our Teen’s Strength and Conditioning Program being one of them!

Bad movement

Next lets consider overuse injury as a percentage. If an athlete only plays one sport and plays 9 months out of the year how many bad repititions does he or she produce? Lets say 25% of them are bad mechanics. Lets say it was a Pitcher who threw 1000 pitches… 250 are bad. Now lets consider an athlete who plays 3 different sports and threw 333 pitches… 25% are bad mechanics 84 are bad. Now consider the two kids both young developing humans which one will recover? which one will begin having fatigue? Who will be fresh for next season?

Lets go back to the 10 general physical skills, athletes who train for all 10 skills do the movements that help build an all around fit body. Impact exercises increase the density of bones. Functional strength exercises increase the strength of both muscles, tendons and other connective tissues. The variety of types of movements constantly creates new stimulus for the body to adapt to. Without this stimulus the body will plateau. Shooting a basketball is a skill, cutting, sprinting, blocking, throwing, spiking are all skills and are secondary to being an athlete. We must train our kids and young athletes to be athletes first.

Our contention is that most of the young athletes come to us looking to improve their performance and they spend more time on the field that in the gym and it should be the reverse. Skills take time and practice but they are more mentally exhausting than physically and should be practiced and programmed in such a manner.

We fully believe that teams, coaches, parents and athletes would be better served to rearrange the goals to first be improving general athleticism then sport specific skill. An athlete that is 12 years old should have 5-6 more years before deciding to specialize. The different skills learned in every sport will have transfer ability to the “chosen” sport. It is important for parents, coaches and athletes have a concise and thought out plan as to how their kids will be progressing.

Brian Zimmerman

Owner- CrossFit Jungle Gym

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