People develop at different ages, and that can mean a lot for athletes. We all have seen that middle schooler who is dominating the other kids because of a summer growth spurt.
Many professional athletes grew a lot over a long period of time and take time to fully develop.
The way we approach youth athletic development is to give them opportunities to learn and grow, but do not mandate it. We want there to be natural interest in the activity, not make it a chore and burn them out before they really get started.
Once they enter the summer going into their freshman year of high school is when they are expected to train.
Expectations by age:
Focus on techniques
2-3 times per week
Technique and discipline
2-3 times per week
4-6 times per week
Ages 12 to 14 years are when you really see year rounds sports start to build up. This can be football with the fall season, spring training, and summer workouts. It can also be baseball, soccer, tennis, and all the practice that goes on top of the games and matches.
It is around these ages when you start to see stress fractures creep in as the growth plate is simply overloaded and kids break down.
Stress in youth
Children can be very resilient and we don’t always know what they are going through. They don’t have adult brains, so they don’t always understand the stress they are under. This is often manifested through acting out rather than well-articulated feelings.
As coaches, we have to pay attention to body language, facial expressions, and social interactions. Sports should be an outlet for kids and can often be the only distraction or discipline in their lives. Stress is cumulative and we want to balance the expectations we put on them at these hard early ages so that they are able to push through and get the full benefits from athletics moving forward.
We always say, "we want to stimulate your thinking". These are general ideas that may help you in your decision-making process. It is our hope that these resources help coaches coach and athletes reach their genetic potential. If there are any questions, comments, or feedback, please leave them below.