Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Youth Athletic Development and Why the USA is Wrong

The past two weekends the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) certified me as a Level 1 Golf Fitness Instructor and a Level 2 Junior Coach. Titleist has been paving the way in America for developing “cutting edge” techniques to improve the golf swing, movement patterns, and a junior developmental program that is second to none in the USA. In no way am I trying to become a golf fitness trainer, but TPI’s program can be aimed at almost any rotary sport (volleyball, baseball, softball, lax, hockey, soccer, etc). I quickly learned that being able to help someone to rotate his or her body in a sequential order is no easy task and requires a lot of attention to detail.

Even though both weekends were packed full of an unreal amount of useful information that I have already implemented into my program, the second weekend that discussed training junior’s, ages 5-12, is what really caught my attention.

I’ve discussed before in my blog about how early specialization in sports is killing kids athleticism, and TPI pretty much proved it. In the day and age where club soccer, volleyball, lax, AAU basketball teams, and year long baseball teams are dominating American youth sports, TPI says “You’re 100% wrong.” Do kids need to play these sports? Absolutely! Have them play as many of them in a year as you can! However, if you are limiting them to one or even two sports at an early age, you're the reason why they don't succeed in the long term.

We need more people to adopt a Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD) approach that takes them 10-20 years to develop a mastery of a sport. Hmmmm this sort of sounds like school.....

THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT IT IS! You have 18 years to develop these kids as athletes. No 6 week program that guarantees adding 6 inches to the vertical and taking .2 off the 40 yard dash matters! At a young age have them play and develop multiple skills so when they actually have the physical literacy to play team sports at a competent level, they EXCEL!

In my previous post I talked about the 10 year/10,000 hour rule. This goes hand in hand with LTAD. Just because a 12 year old throws fast now, doesn't mean if you make him throw everyday he will throw 95 mph for the rest of his life. It usually means the opposite. It takes YEARS AND YEARS to develop mastery of a skill/sport. Yet parents think their 7 year old, who some how already knows they want to play baseball in college, is ready for intense training. Meanwhile the kid is spinning around like a top in the outfield waiting for a ball to be hit to him.

If you look at smaller countries that excel athletically such as Australia (20 million people), New Zealand (4 million people), Norway (under 5 million), Austria (8 million), and Canada (35 million), they have LTAD programs that consistently have athletes excel in professional sports and the Olympics. They understand the overall picture. The USA (300 million) hopes has such a large selection, we hope for the Tiger’s, Phelp’s, Jordan’s, etc to just sprout up and save the day. Just imagine how dominant we might be with a great program in place, but the fact we do have some many people, we think our superior genetics is what puts us over the top, and oh how wrong we are.

We need to drop the club sports that play all year round and go back to playing multiple sports, especially for kids under the age of 12!

One last question for parents and athletes who think I might be wrong. Do you want to peak at age 12 or in college and beyond?

For more info on LTAD check out LTAD.ca to learn from the Godfather, Ivan Balyi and/or check our TPI’s 20 minute presentation here….. http://mytpijpc.com/the-program. Click on the parent presentation.

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