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Alexander Graham Girls Lacrosse

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Mar, 2017

When is your child ready to train?

While perusing my Facebook feed, I came across a video of Russian youth hockey athletes’ off-ice training program. Social media provides the opportunity to stay connected, but it can also feed into the desire to be certain your kids are keeping up with the Jones' (and the Russians). My concern after viewing the video was how many parents will watch this and think "I need to get my kid training like this" or "my kid already has a training program more intense than this".  The reason for my concern:  the athletes were 8 years old. While some components of the training were applicable to the young athletes in the video, many of the drills were performed incorrectly and there did not appear to be a coach anywhere in sight (we'll assume the coach was filming).  

Our program prefers to wait until an athlete reaches middle school to start training. A training regimen for middle school athletes consists of elements designed to improve performance while simultaneously building a foundation for high school training. This formula will continue in high school as the athletes prepare for collegiate athletics.  

The middle school athletes in our program focus on speed development (a major component is correcting mechanical flaws reducing the efficiency of the athlete), change of direction, coordination and strength. The strength training program consists of body weight resistance (utilizing TRX, push-ups, squats and exercises for core strength). Before continuing, it is appropriate to define the word "core" which has become a synonym for abdominal training. While these muscles are part of the athlete’s core, our coaches address the core as the muscles posteriorly and anteriorly between the base of the sternum and the top of the knee cap. As stated previously the goal is building a foundation for the athlete meaning core strength is imperative.  

The youth hockey athletes were performing a number of simple and complex movements, some displayed proficiency and others demonstrated the need for training regressions to build towards proficiency. These regressions are needed due to a variety of reasons, including insufficient core strength, coordination and lack of understanding proper mechanics to execute the drill.

The proper design and implementation of a program suited to the athlete’s abilities will lead to improved performance. An overlooked component of success is the athlete’s interest and desire to train. If the athlete lacks the desire to attend or understanding of why they are training the chances for success significantly decrease. My personal experience with this scenario involved a middle school athlete who attended a couple training sessions and abruptly stopped. This athlete had an amazing high school and collegiate lacrosse career and returned to train with me to prepare for Major League Lacrosse. I would often joke (harass may be a better description) about how we could have fixed this or that when he was in middle school. The fact is he wasn't ready for formal training in middle school and had no understanding why he was there or what the sessions would accomplish.  

Parents often ask when their athletes should begin training.  Here is a check list to gauge interest, readiness and appropriateness:

  • The athlete expresses an interest and desire to train.
  • The program should be designed and implemented by certified strength and conditioning coaches.  
  • The program is built on short and long term athletic development
  • Training frequency is determined by total amount of athlete activity (we recommend our middle school athletes attend no more than two sessions per week).

Jay Dyer of MedStar Sports Medicine and JDyer Strength and Conditioning is the strength and conditioning coach for the U.S. National Teams Program. He can be reached via email at [email protected], and you can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Alexander Graham Middle School, 1800 Runnymede Ln
Charlotte, North Carolina 28211

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