Training youth athletes can be highly rewarding.  Helping young sports performers learn the right habits from an early age can have a profound effect on their development.  Often you’ll have a captive audience, a sponge ready to absorb all the information you can throw their way.   Therefore, it’s important to get things right.  Young athletes are not simply mini adults.  There are several apsects to coaching them that are unique to coaching young people.  Here are five pointers that we take into account when training youth athletes.


Biological versus chronological age

When it comes to genetics we are not all created equal.  In fact none of us are the same.  This is never more true than when we are growing.  Young people mature at different rates.  Therefore, two children of the same age can be at very very different stages of maturation.  This is has huge implications for what they can do and how they perform in sessions.  Therefore, at NK Fitness when training youth athletes we work through a series of movement progressions to assess where they are ‘functionally’.  What can they do?


Training age

Aside from their actual age and how mature they are, children arrive with vastly different levels of experience.  This has implications for how we coach them and what we ask them to do.  For instance, the world of physical training has a language all of its own.  Some young performers understand it, others do not.  Again, assessing functionally where the athlete is at is always a good starting point for being able to tailoring the correct training load.


Standing versus sitting height

This is highly related to biological maturation.  We love using it as a demonstration to young athletes on how their body grows.  We compare ourselves standing next the athletes and then sitting.  It provides a great visual representation of the growth spurt.  Peoples grow from the bottom up.  We use that information to explain how some movements can feel more difficult or easier over time as they physically grow.  This can take a lot of anxiety away when it comes to ‘adolescent awkwardness’


Learning styles

We all take on information in different ways.  When training youth athletes we keep things super simple.  Relate it to their sport or everyday life to highlight the importance of a movement.  Assessing how a young person learns best is one of our main objectives during the forst few sessions.  Some like to work alongside their coach, others may need a general picture provided by demonstration.  Many need movements broken down and back up.  From the method used to how its relayed, we constantly adapt our delivery to suit the athlete in front of us.  This is the art of coaching.

Social skills

Without a shodow of a doubt, young athletes like to have fun.  Now whilst this can look different for each child, they need to leave happy.  How we are with them sets the tone for this.  Taking time to find out about them is so important.  What are their interests, how do they do at their sports etc is invaluable.  This is because it builds the coach-athlete relationship.  The trust and mutual respect is built on that social interaction during sessions.  “Did you have fun?”  will be one of the first questions a parent asks their child following sports and training.