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Age Appropriate Sports
Training for
Young Athletes

Developmental Guidelines for Young Children
      Age appropriate activities can help a child to grow and develop according to normed learning and developmental milestones. Coaches and parents can gain a better understanding of how children learn and how sport's skills will relate to their interpersonal life skills.  

      Coaching strategies should be based on how children learn and not on practices that traditionally have proven successful on college age athletes. 

      Our schools roughly define the stages of a child's academic development as below, at, or above grade level as expressed in years and months. Within each grade level, the abilities can be differentiated by their abilities and their development can be compared against the progress of students in the same grade within a district, state or national normed standardized tests.

      To put it another way, in elementary school, they do not put children in class together according to their grade average. There is no such thing as a class with all “C“ level students, or grade average of a “B”, etc..
What usually occurs in first through third Grade classroom is a bell shaped curve of grades. Starting in fourth grade, students with "A" and "B" grades are usually tested and assigned to Gifted and Talented Education or GATE Classrooms with specially trained teachers.

Curriculum Driven Classroom
      The curriculum in a GATE classroom is to challenge the students to expand their intellectual limits by not allowing them to become bored. If they quickly complete assignments, additional work will be assigned. It is extremely important that "busy work" assignments are not used. When a student finishes the assignment early, award them a "special" assignment that will be challenging and expand their learning experience.

      Children who share the same specific characteristics, with other children in their intellectual stage of development, will be very competitive with their classmates in physical, mental, social, and intellectual activities. Some very acaademically oriented chirldren may be slower to develop their social skills and jusged to be "nerds" by classmates.

      The structure of a classroom learning environment should be sequentially organized. Breaking down complex tasks or problems into a Step-by-Step process helps all students achieve the desired goals. The problem is that not all of the learners will acquire the information at the same rate of speed (amount of time).

       Struggling learners require a slower pace to acquire information to avoid being overwhelmed.Those who process information at a faster pace easily become bored unless they are provided with a  more challenging classroom environment.

       Research has demonstrated that the best method of maximizing a child's learning potential is to put them together groups that are appropriate in age, emotional maturity, social adjustment, and physical development.  Students who fall outside the norm are likely to experience serious adjustment problems because they don't fit into any peer groups that exist in the class.

What types of outcomes can be expected from using specific learning techniques?
       The desired outcomes derived from learning should be useful, and be structured so there is also a social and emotional balance for the athlete. The resulting learning should be integrated into games and practices.

          Coaching strategies should be developed based on an understanding of individuals or team players:

1. Determination/motivation
2. Psychological Capacities
3. Learning style
4. Language, use of words that are age appropriate to facilitate understanding.
5. Interaction with teammates.
6. Interaction with any adults who are officials and coaches.

C-B-A Focus Model, developed Dr. Gary Russell, outlines how to optimize the learning process for children:

1. C = Concept -
a. Players must be given a clear picture of what is expected of them.
b. Players must show signs of clear thinking on the topic being learned.
c. The coach must define and clarify any mistaken beliefs.
2. B = Belief
a. What are my Feelings?
b. Empathizing with the players.
c. Realizations of who, how and what.
3. A= Achievement Can be a synergy - the action of two or more people to achieve an effect of which each is individually incapable.

      It is very important that parents and coaches understand that young players can only deal with one or two suggestions for improvement at a time.  Overloading their ability to comprehend and retain the information creates a very stressful and frustrating experience for anyone, but especially younger children.

         It is sometimes difficult to determine if a child lacks the necessary coordination or if there is a delay in their physical development. Either are likely to result in not being good at sports. There are a combination of physical, emotional, and chemical milestones that can be indicative of a child's ability to be successful at a particular sport or activity. Coaches and parents should be aware of these milestones and use this information in guiding their children towards a positive sport experience.

       The child's personality may influence if they prefer to participate in individual or team sports. Their physical height, size, and weight may determine if they are interested in contact or non-contact sports.

Over Training
       The drive to being a winner is resulting in an increasing number of young athletes suffering from overuse injuries. What is happening occurs at the cellular level and does not present itself like a bruise or broken bone. An MRI may be required to confirm the need for treatment.

       To prevent pediatric overuse injuries requires an approved training plan for each specific sport. Such guidelines need to be displayed at the training site to educate parents and athletes. Such information also serves to remind coaches of the need to be alert to individuals who are exceeding recommended training and thus, increasing the risk for injuries occurring throughout a training and competitive season.

Age appropriate program is key for young athletes U-T San Diego  June 12, 2012
        More than 40 million kids in the United States are now involved in organized athletics, according to the National Council of Youth Sports. Many of them have parents on the sidelines who are their biggest supporters.

        But raising young athletes today comes with a unique set of challenges. There are many myths circulating in the public about the best ways to help kids excel in sports. And despite the best intentions, its easy for parents to head down a path that may ultimately do more harm than good.

        Learning the facts about the following key areas can help foster a healthier youth sports experience.

• Age considerations. Starting a child's sports career at an early age may seem like a smart way to get ahead. But research shows that beginning very young – age 4 or sooner – provides no benefit to future sports performance and may contribute to injuries and burnout. Kids build their sports skills in a progressive sequence that can't be dramatically sped up, no matter how early, often or hard they train. Motor skills such as balance and running don't fully develop until age 6 or 7, while the ability to visually track moving objects doesn't mature until age 8 or 9.

• Lifting weights. Working out with moderate weights usually starts to provide the most strength benefits once kids reach puberty (age 13 to 15 for boys, 11 to 13 for girls). This is when they have the hormones to allow their muscles to get significantly bigger and stronger. By this time, many kids will have had ample time to refine their technique, so the strength can be put to effective use. Before puberty, some low weight strength training may be done – but only for purposes of injury prevention and always under careful adult supervision. Heavy weights should be avoided until kids have gone through most of their rapid growth.

• Treating pain. When muscle and joint pain arises, some parents will give their kids anti inflammatory medications before practices or games so they don't miss any playing time. The problem is, these medications only block the chemical process that produces inflammatory pain, so continuing the activity simply puts more stress on the already injured tissue. By masking important symptoms, kids run the risk of experiencing more extensive injuries and more time away from the action. Ice is preferable to anti-inflammatories as a first line treatment for pain after injury or activity.

• Dietary demands. Eating the right balance of nutritional foods can improve athletic performance. But maintaining a healthy diet is often challenging, so many people try to fill the gap by taking multivitamins. Despite their convenience, vitamin tablets simply cannot replicate the healthy nutrients found in fruits and vegetables. The benefits of eating healthy include stronger bones and muscles, improved oxygen delivery, a more robust immune system and better ability to recover for the next workout. When it comes to keeping hydrated during play, water is usually adequate. With sustained activity that lasts 90 minutes or more, kids can benefit from replacing their electrolytes and glucose with a sports drink.

Source - Dr. Paul Stricker, is a former U.S. Olympic team physician
and a sports medicine pediatrician with Scripps Clinic.

Recommended Reading
:

Dr. Paul Stricker :: Youth Sports Medicine Specialist   Young athletes feel more pain, no gain ... Dr. Paul Stricker is one of less than 200 doctors in the US who is board-certified in both sports ... Dr. Paul has been featured on ESPN and news programs, and has been cited in national ... children develop and what physical skills are achievable and appropriate for each age group.

PDF TOP TEN QUESTIONS - Dr. Paul Stricker required part of a sport training program at young ages, and if employed, should ... should stay away from athletic supplements and concentrate on good ....

PDF   Pitfalls & Pearls of Fracture Management   La Jolla, CA. “Athletic kids with fractures—a whole different ball game than adults !” This was one of the take home messages provided by Dr. Paul Stricker.

PDF  Young athletes feel more pain, no gain “You're show that the real athletes kick in at age 13 or 14.” Dr. Paul Stricker, an associate professor at Children's Hospital of San Diego and physician for the ... program at Children's Heathcare of Atlanta. “Of the 15 kids I saw ... “There are more and more parents telling their kids how good they are and will hard work hard they can be great.

References:
  • Strength Training for the Young Athlete With every young athlete, the question eventually arises: What is the appropriate age for a child to start strength training?

  • Strength Training for Young Athletes - William J. Kraemer,Young superstar athletes have dispelled long-standing misconceptions that strength ... Learn how to individualize the age-appropriate sample training programs.

  • PDF  Strength Training for young athletes Dispels some common 'myths' surrounding youth strength training for athletes ranging in age from 10-14. Make sure that the training equipment is  sized appropriately for a young athlete. Most equipment in a strength and conditioning facility will be geared towards adult body structures.

  • Identifying, Understanding and Training Youth Athletes   Coaches of young athletes may prioritize training that improves athleticism as ... If a child excels at a young age, there is no guarantee that this will continue through adulthood. It is important to match the appropriate skills with each sport.

  • Soccer Strength Training for the Young Athlete-Soccer Strength Training for the Young Athlete: The Benefits Will Last a Lifetime! ... to follow a properly designed and supervised age-appropriate strength training program.

  • Young Athletes PL Article When it comes to training today's young athletes, we often hear the phrase “train ... Provided the child is properly nourished, receives an age appropriate fitness program, and proper guidance to progress safely, young athletes can see many of the same benefits pros do when they are looking to improve their performance on the field.

  • Age Appropriate Conditioning Techniques for Teenage Athletes  Source: Bompa, Tudor, Total Training for Young Athletes, Human Kinetics, 2000.

Resources:

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Program Development
Athlete Development
Skill Development
How We Learn
Stages of Learning
Parent-Teen Relationships
Youth Development
Stages of Skill Development
Stages of Figure Skating Skill Development
Long Term Athlete Development Framework
Techniques of Sports Skills
Biomechanics
Principles of Motor Skill Mechanics
Newton's Laws of Motion
Athlete Training Principles
Being Successful in Sports
Age Appropriate Sports Training
Effective Learning Environment
Essential Feedback

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