The IOC released a position statement on youth athletic development that can be found by visitinghttp://bjsm.bmj.com/content/49/13/843.full. This comprehensive statement has a lot of recommendations for youth sports and practitioners and can help serve as a foundation for those involved with youth sports.
While prepubescent males and females show similarities in movement, strength and fitness there is a vast difference post puberty. The implementation of a neuromuscular and strength training program is vital to improve balance, proprioception and strength as athletes go through puberty. The committee acknowledges the importance incorporating strength and conditioning into the development of youth athletes.
Some of the other recommendations regarding youth development is a lack of awareness and understanding of adequate nutrition by athletes and coaches. Educational material should be developed and disseminated to those that work with young athletes in an effort to educate them on what a proper diet looks like and how to get the necessary nutrients. Coaches are also encouraged to adopt a 4 C approach to coaching consisting of competence, confidence, connection and character. This should serve as the framework for coaches to develop relationships with their athletes and the adoption and implementation of long term, realistic outcomes. Coaches following this can decrease the chance of psychological overload, or burnout, by making sure that they keep the long term health (physical and mental) and wellbeing of the athlete in mind.
As discussed in previous blog posts, there is a concern for overuse injury in single sport, specialized athletes that should be taken in to consideration when working with young athletes. The decision to choose to play one sport is a personal one and efforts should be made to discuss the pros and cons of that decision. Athletes, parents and coaches should understand that playing a single sport is not a guarantee for future success, since so few athletes hit the elite level, and that other sports allow for the development of new motor patterns and tissue adaptation. They can still participate in their main sport with skill acquisition while playing other sports or completing a strength and conditioning program.
Athletic development is a complex process with intrinsic and extrinsic factors that interact with each other and the athlete. The goal for the IOC is to “develop healthy, capable and resilient young athletes, while attaining widespread, inclusive, sustainable, and enjoyable participation and success for all levels of individual athletic achievement.” As athletic trainers we are in the perfect position to assist young athletes in making good decisions regarding participation by practicing evidence based medicine. We can develop educational materials for athletes, coaches, parents and administrators, discuss the benefits of strength and neuromuscular training programs and how to appropriately overload and recover for success. Our understanding of youth sports helps to ensure that they are able to engage in safe, long term participation in the sport they love.
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*This site is for educational purposes only, it is not meant to diagnose, treat or replace medical advice. Before starting an exercise program always make sure that you are healthy and able to do so safely.*