A Summer Strength and Conditioning Guide for Parents: 3 Pitfalls to Avoid

It’s about that time of year again!  A time where youth athletes’ are finishing up their competitive seasons and looking forward to the summer.  It’s also a time when parents are looking at enlisting the service of a “personal trainer” or strength coach to aid in the athletic development of their children.  This is a big decision for a parent that warrants a little homework.  After all you wouldn’t give your hard earned money to an investment banker without knowing their background, philosophy and practical experience.   The same can be said for physical conditioning.  Health is the most important investment of all, and to place it in the hands of a competent Coach takes a little investigating.   Below are three pitfalls to avoid when choosing where you’re son or daughter will train this summer.

#1: Early Specialization

Save your Money!  Young children under the age of twelve do not need to be exposed to a systemic, comprehensive strength and conditioning plan.  Save your money and play multiple sports.  That’s right!  Play baseball, lacrosse, soccer, rugby or basketball.  This aids in the development of physical literacy and when it’s finally time to send your child to a competent strength coach, you will make his/her job MUCH easier.  Much of the problem with today’s youth athletes is that they don’t know how to MOVE!

Movement Literacy= Foundational human movement such as kicking, jumping, throwing, receiving, catching, bounding, tumbling and skipping that serve as a foundational prerequisites for advanced activity.

During early development, multiple exposures to various movement capacities allow young child to authentically learn without pre-programmed memorized response.  Physical literacy increases the “data base” of the human nervous system.  Elements such as balance, agility, coordination, and basic motor control can be gained while playing and having FUN.   ”If fundamental motor skill development is not developed between the ages of 8-11 and 9-12 for females and males, a significant window of opportunity has been lost.”  (1) Bottom line: get moving: the less structure the better!

Think of physical literacy as a big oversized umbrella.  As strength coach and therapist Darcy Norman states: “A person with a large surface area umbrella of protection made of mobility, stability and strength is able to move freely under the umbrella without getting wet.”  There would be a lot less chronic injury in today’s youth if movement preceded year round training.

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#2: Randomness: Avoid it like the plague.  Everyone should have a plan!  Let’s go back to our investment guy.  You would never give your money to a person with no plan, no strategy and no tracking measure.  The sad thing is, this happens ALL the time in the training world.  Workout of the day’s, planned randomness and the inability to track progress are all red flags to well established strength practitioners.  Great Coaches have a plan A, a plan B, track progress, and are willing to manipulate.  They always, always, always have a plan.

#3: “Specific” Programs: 99.9% of youth athletes don’t need a “speed” specific program, an “agility” specific program, or an “endurance” specific program.  The truth is they need to get STRONG!  Strength is the bedrock, the foundation for which all other abilities are reliant.  Get strong!  No excuses.  Strength is not a specialized motor ability; it’s general in nature.  Players should not be standing a BOSU ball, blindfolded, with a hockey stick in their hands.  This is not strength training. There are many qualities that cannot be overloaded on the ice, and strength is one of them.  Find a program that balances basic patterns of push, pull, knee dominant and hip dominant activities.  Wash, rinse, and repeat!

“I believe that strength training does not need to be as specific to the sporting action as some suggest.  Speed training needs to have a greater degree of specificity than strength training, and the energy system training has the greatest need of all three for specificity.” –Ian King

General <-----------------------------------------------------------------------------> Specific

Strength Training                     Speed Training                                Endurance Training

There are many other pit falls that parents may fall into when deciding where to send their son or daughter for the summer.  The important thing is to ask questions, and look for coaches who have practical experience, knowledge and provide RESULTS.   Searching is a process, just like finding an investment banker, except now the most important investment of all is on the line, health!


1.)  Long Term Athletic Development, Canadian Sport for Life, Canadian Sport Centres. 2010.

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