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THE ESSENTIAL 8 -
THE EXERCISES YOUR ATHLETE NEEDS TO DO
By Tom Hoffman
It’s no secret that the world of youth sports is hyper-competitive. Everyone is looking for an edge as their young athlete plays their sport year round, practicing multiple times a week, traveling in and around the state on weekends for games and tournaments, and maybe even hiring a coach to work on those hitting, dribbling, shooting skills that will make them a top performer.
While I am not interested in perpetuating the prevailing, ‘keeping up with the Joneses” attitude, and the physical, emotional and financial toll this competitive landscape takes on you and your athlete, there actually is one more thing that you should be adding to your athlete’s program: Core and Glute strength training. These underserved muscle groups are fundamental when it comes to making athletes stronger and faster. More importantly, as they mature, ensuring that your young athlete’s Glutes are “firing”, and they operate with a disciplined core, will make them far more durable and much less injury prone.
As a trainer of young athletes and a speed and agility coach, it has become abundantly clear that nearly every athlete I see has developed muscular imbalances and incorrect movement patterns. The coaches for their teams focus their limited practice time on teaching the skills specific to their sport, but if they are not also developing proper running form, movement patterns and including specific strength skills, then your athlete is not maximize their speed, while also putting themselves at risk for injury.
For these reasons, /athlete has developed The Essential Eight—a program consisting of 8 exercises to target the underdeveloped Core, Glute and Stabilzing muscles that will help young athletes start on the path to fixing these issues. These instructional videos demonstrate how to do the exercises properly, so that you can supervise your athlete in ensuring they’re following the proper form. For those athletes without much experience targeting these muscles groups, the movements will be challenging. However, like all of the skills they have developed in their sport, eventually they will become proficient, which will make them faster, stronger, and more durable.
Speed and Agility Training for Youth Athletes
By Tom Hoffman
“You can’t teach speed”. It’s a favorite refrain of coaches in all sports, at all levels. But this old cliché is not only stale. It’s wrong. In fact, not only is it possible to teach young athletes speed and agility, it’s downright fundamental.
Success and failure come down to fractions of inches: Did your athlete snag that ground ball hit up the middle? Did they get the step on the defender to unleash their shot? Were they able to close out and block/deflect the shot? Did they run down that forehand volley? The answer to these questions is how we gauge our kids’ performance, and more importantly, it is also how high school, college, and club/travel coaches are evaluating your child. For this reason, in the ultra-competitive world of youth sports, it’s become clear that the fraction of a second difference is why teaching speed and agility is paramount.
Speed and Agility training comes in many varieties. However, it can and should be tailored to the specific movements found in your athlete’s sport. It’s not enough to just focus on linear speed by running wind sprints. After all, except for Track athletes, your athlete will not play a game where someone screams: “On Your Marks, Get Set, Go!” and expects them to run fast in a straight line. Instead, teaching athletes “unrehearsed” movements, change of direction, and associated cuts and is what will make the difference that you and the coaches will see on the field/court.
While all Youth Athletes should be taught proper running form: Posture, Arm Swing, Leg Drive, to increase their overall speed, it’s the sports-specific movements that show up during the games. Learning the techniques to maximize explosion in their Lateral Quickness (think defending in basketball and soccer), the Crossover Step (think stealing bases and ranging for ground balls), and the ability to Reaccelerate (think any stopping, starting, change of direction), to name a few, is not only the key piece to improve performance, but is vital to creating durability and preventing injury, helping your athlete reach their potential.