By Steve Preston, Sports Performance Specialist
If you’re a coach or parent of youth athletes you understand the “need for speed” in your athletes. Speed on the field, court or track is the game-changer for athletic success.
I admire coaches and parents who consistently work with their youth athletes in order to help build them up and let them experience success.
But, there’s a problem…
Sometimes when you are giving your best to your athletes yet the information you are giving them is incorrect, you wind up doing them more harm then good…
Now, before I get into this 1 big problem and how you can fix it in order to increase the speed of your athletes let’s imagine for a moment…
Imagine your car outside on an icy, snowy, blisteringly-cold morning in the middle of January in Buffalo, New York. (That’s where I grew up:))
If you’ve ever experienced this, you know you need to warm the engine up in the car for about 15-20 minutes while you’re scraping the snow and ice off the windows.
It’s so important to let the engine warm up because if you try to take off earlier (in a rush to get to work or school) the engine will struggle and won’t run well. In fact, it will stall out on an older car. But even a new engine would struggle when the actual temperature is in the single digits with a wind chill below zero.
Well, guess what folks?
It’s just as important to warm up your youth athletes prior to movement in order to develop more speed, quickness and athleticism. But, it has to be done right…
More importantly, you will actually slow your youth athletes down if you don’t have them warm up correctly.
The biggest mistake I see when watching youth athletic teams warm up before practice is their lack of a general warmup and concentrating on static stretching.
The General Warmup
Remember how I told you about warming up the car in good ole’ Buffalo, New York in the middle of winter? Well that’s what we’re simulating with the general warmup. I can’t stand it when I see coaches sending their kids out for a few laps at the beginning of practice. It’s counter-productive. It turns into aerobic work that simply tires the kid out so that they won’t be sharp for skills development.
The best way to do a general warm-up is to move in different directions yet in an anaerobic fashion. I’m talking about things like:
- running in place
- jumping jacks
- high knee skips
- high knee march
- thrust jacks
These simple movement patterns teach youth athletes (or any athlete for that matter) to wake up the muscles that they need to run, change directions and perform at higher levels.
The best part is that it doesn’t take much time either. Why waste the first 10-12 minutes of practice and stunt your athletes speed and athleticism with jogging? Have them perform a quick, general warm-up… followed by dynamic movement exercises.
I watched a youth sports team recently and more specifically, their warmup. They did no general warmup at all. Instead, they had the team captain lead the team through static stretching. NO!!!! Big mistake!! (Static stretching is the kind of stretching you do when you hold the stretch for a longer period of time, say 30 seconds)
No general warmup for blood flow and greasing the engine, plus having youth athletes hold static stretches is the opposite of what you want them to do in order to build better, faster athletes.
So, you will want to have your young, developing athletes get into good habits. A general warmup, followed by dynamic exercises will prepare them to move faster, more powerfully and reduce injuries. We’re talking about dynamic movements such as:
- crab walks
- bear crawls
- forward rolls
- seal walks
- pushup walks
There are a ton of different ways to move. These different locomotive skills are important for youth athletes… especially if they are specializing in one sport. They need to move their body in different directions, levels and speeds. This, my friends, is how you build more speed, strength, power and long-term athleticism. It’s also how we help prevent non-impact injuries and keep them in the game.
So what happens after the warmup if you want to build faster youth athletes? Speed drills!
After you have a warmed up youth athlete, then it’s the perfect time to work on their foot speed. Many youth athletes are “growing into their feet” so I’ve always believed in speed drills. Youth athletes have a lot of fun when doing the speed drills while they are becoming quicker and more agile. It’s a win-win for the athletes, coaches and parents.
If you want to get your hands on one of the best speed and agility training systems for your youth athletes I urge you to check out our F.A.S.T. Speed & Agility System for Youth Athletes by Clicking Here!