Lessons Learned from Training Young Kids

TAGS: youth, young athletes, coach, strength coach, training

I have spent this past winter training young hockey players, often as young as 11-years-old and often by myself in groups of 12–15 kids at one time. During this period, there are some things I’ve learned that can be applied to training groups of athletes from any sport.

1.  You must get them invested in each session somehow. One way that I’ve done this is to talk to the group before we start each session. I explain to them that how well they pay attention, how much effort they show, and how good a job they do with the tasks I give them will determine whether they get a win, loss, or tie for the overall session. Then, I explain that we want to try to get on a winning streak. This has worked much better than I originally imagined. I have had 11-year-old kids policing other teammates for messing around.

2. The more standing around you have, the more they will fill the time with giving each other wedgies. One way that I’ve addressed this is to require the kids to bring their sticks and a ball to perform various stick handling drills between sets of different exercises. You could do this with lacrosse, basketball (dribbling), hockey, or soccer.

3. Relay races with starts from the stomach are the most effective speed/conditioning work available. Why start from the stomach? It prevents kids from cheating by leaving the line early and also gets them off to a nice low, fast start. Relay races are also something they look forward to each session. I’ve seen 11-year-olds killing themselves not to lose in a relay race.

4. You really only need 35–40 minutes for an effective session. You need to keep the kids constantly involved so an hour may be overkill.

5. Certain movements lend themselves much better to group sessions with young beginners than others. It’s nearly impossible to watch 15 kids simultaneously body weight squat to proper depth with perfect technique. However, I’ve found that almost all kids can do a stationary reverse lunge. Other good ones are push-ups, squat jumps, one leg skating bounds, sprints, and sprint starts.

6. Accept that there will be a little bit of messing around between drills. I used to get pissed every time a kid pushed a teammate between drills or tripped a kid on the way back to the line. By accepting that these kids aren’t in military boot camp, you can save yourself some frustration

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