This topic of strength training as it pertains to youth athletes (age 10-14) is of special interest to me, mainly because I hear all sorts of lies, myths, and simple false facts that strength training will hurt a young athlete’s growth potential. This is no more than an urban legend and something that really has never been proven and/or validated.
Simply put, if a young child can participate in high-impact, high-collision sports (football, soccer, lacrosse, etc) then they are fully capable of participating in a structured and supervised resistance training program. The risk of injury is MUCH higher in a contact team sport due to the nature of contact, constant change of direction, and the violent nature of the game itself.
I coach youth football and have seen kids in the ages of 8-13 years old hurt ankles, knees, backs, shoulders, necks, hands, fingers, as well as numerous other contact related injuries i.e. concussions, joint sprains, and muscle strains. How many times have I seen any of these types of injuries occur in the weight room under supervision and structure? NOT ONCE. Yet, there’s not one ounce of hesitation to sign up young children for a game that involves running full speed at each other and colliding over and over again.
I am ALL for playing sports and encourage young athletes to participate in as many sports as possible to develop into a well-rounded athlete. But to discount and disregard weight training for athletes is not only foolish, but it is severely limiting an athletes potential as well as increasing their risk of injury in sport. Cone drills, ladders, parachutes, bands, and all these other crazy gimmicks and tools will NEVER accomplish this and may actually become a hindrance to an athlete who is already experiencing TONS of agility and speed work at their sport practice without even knowing it. The last thing we need to do for these young athletes is subject them to MORE of what they are already doing at practice.
By getting an athlete stronger (through various means, just because they are involved in resistance training DOES NOT mean they are lifting HEAVY folks!), they will have greater potential to display force, which in turn means they will have a higher output of power and speed. It’s simple; just like adding more horsepower to an engine of a car, the same applies to the human organism.
My main point is this: young athletes CAN and SHOULD be involved in a resistance training program that emphasizes LONG-TERM DEVELOPMENT. There is no such thing as a QUICK FIX for young athletes; look long-term and you will find success not only in the short-term, but moreso the appreciation of what strength training can do for athletes, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Please leave me your thoughts and comments below; I’d love to hear your input on this topic!