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Keeping student athletes in the game

As a coach and facility owner, I believe it is crucial to help parents, coaches, and athletes understand how important a solid strength and conditioning program is for their athletes and kids. With injuries at a higher rate than ever, the need for a good strength and conditioning coach is as great as it has ever been. With the ever-growing amount of information that is available, it is becoming more confusing for athletes, and parents of athletes, to select the proper training regimen. Let’s look at some of the reasons why a solid program is critical for a young athlete.

Injury reduction

Injury rates for young athletes are at a higher rate than ever. Over 70 percent of ACL tears in the United States come from athletes between the ages of 13 to18 years old. This is due in part to less physical activity outside of their sport; thinking the sport itself will get you into shape; specializing in one sport too soon; and the lack of implementation of proper strength, conditioning and cross-training methods. We need to make athletes aware that physical fitness is the foremost effective way to reduce the risk of injury. They should also understand that specializing in one sport increases their risk of injury due to continuous use of the same movement patterns. If an athlete chooses to specialize, then he or she must understand that cross training, by implementing a strength program, is even more important.

Improving athletic performance

Athletics at the junior and high school level are becoming more competitive every year. With competition there is much more demand on the athlete tosucceed. I do believe every child should be given the opportunity to participate in a sport and should never be discouraged from playing a sport. Having fun and learning life long values such as discipline and hard work are always a priority. At the same time there is a point of reality where the best players move on and play at a certain level, whether it is trying to make the JV basketball team, or earning a scholarship to a college. Talent is usually a large determining factor, but hard work does pay off. Working hard at a solid strength and conditioning program will help the student become stronger, faster, more powerful, and a better conditioned athlete to participate in their chosen sport.

Sometimes these factors can be the difference between more playing time and continuing on to the next level. If an athlete is seeking ways to improve his or her ability to earn playing time, or move on to the next level, the difference is usually hard work and a solid strength and conditioning program.

Learning physical fitness: Life after sports

After I graduated from high school and decided not to continue to play at the college level, I quickly realized I needed to find a way to stay in shape and stay active. I was fortunate to have participated in a decent strength and conditioning program in high school, and that sparked my interest in continuing to work out and stay healthy and fit.

Unfortunately not all former student athletes continue to stay active after their playing days are done. It is a very well known fact that overweight and obese children are on the rise, and our current generation of kids may be the first to be outlived by their parents. I think the best way to change that is to implement other forms of exercise to keep kids from becoming sedentary.

When I train young athletes, I not only try to help them become better at their sport, I want to give them knowledge, skills, and motivation to continue to stay active for the rest of their lives. Educating our youth about the importance of exercise should be the main goal when introducing them into sports.

Correct exercise technique and program design

With so much information available about exercise, it can become quite confusing to decide which exercise program is best for an athlete. That is where a qualified and educated strength and conditioning coach comes in. An athletic trainer is there to take care of injuries, a basketball or soccer coach is there to help improve the team and athlete’s basketball and soccer skills, and the strength and conditioning coach is there to help the athlete become stronger, faster, powerful, and more resilient to injury. A strength coach’s first goal should always be to teach a young athlete proper exercise technique and to keep them in a safe training environment.

A well rounded program should consist of foam rolling, stretching, dynamic warm-up and power drills such as plyometrics, Olympic lifts, strength training, core training, and conditioning should round out a proper training program.

The bottom line is that a good strength and conditioning program is the best form of injury prevention and means improving athletic performance. Teaching our youth that there are other forms of exercise than sports is crucial in order to help then continue to stay active and lead a healthier lifestyle.

Written by: Justin Grinnell. Grinnell, B.S., CSCS is a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the co-owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing. You can reach him at 517.708.8828.

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