Regardless of the sport; as the season comes to a close, it is time to sit down with your child/athlete and have an honest look at what was accomplished by participating... and were the desired goals achieved?
Parents certainly have goals in mind for the player, older players will have their own goals too. Maybe they do not always line up but the question is: “Are you achieving what you set out to do?”
As the young athlete now has (or will have) a bit of time off to relax, heal and participate in some other activities you also need to think about how to augment the benefits of any activity and help prepare the player for the following competitive season. It is easy to get bogged down in what is best for our children (high performance training wise), basically however we need to ensure they are developing in a safe fashion and enjoying themselves. The goal is to develop a high performance athlete and to teach valuable life skills they will carry with them.
Here are seven simple questions to help you along with your young athletes’ journey:
1. Are you doing the appropriate off-season training activity to meet your seasonal sporting goals?
“Yeah, my son does dryland sessions.” Okay. Is your child slow on their feet? Then they need to be working on their agility and explosiveness. Does he/she get pushed off the puck/ball easily? Then they need to be building upper body strength coupled with core. If your workout is not catering to your particular needs, then you are wasting time, effort and money. Of course your workouts need to incorporate overall physical fitness; but as an aspiring elite level player you are likely in pretty good shape to begin with and will be able to focus more on correcting areas of weakness.
2. Are you training with the correct intensity levels?
A hockey player practicing stickhandling for 20 minutes after school doesn’t cut it. A mild twice a week workout schedule consisting of some pushups, squats and a light run will not guarantee a spot on the higher tiered team.
Physical development and endurance require sincere hard effort to see results. When you step on the field/court/ice you should be easily able to look around and know which players are not at the same level you are. This physical change does not happen over night and you must overload your muscles in order for them to grow.
The same goes for the technical skills, you need to practice, practice, practice. If you are struggling with game play you need to be watching video everyday to better understand positioning and tactics.
Remember, for every hour you are sleeping in on Saturday or sitting in the basement playing Xbox; there is some other player working out & trying to take your spot.
3. Are you training safely?
Are you performing exercises correctly & with proper form, balance, timing or are you just allowing your athlete to walk around, trying out a few machines here and there? I am not a weight training professional, if you aren't either than you need to hire one to work with your child/athlete!
Training needs to be safe; you can’t be jerking around in the gym; this will lead to injuries and valuable lost time. If you are serious about helping your child develop then you need to have someone in the gym to mentor and train your child. Period.
4. Are you really trying to be a competitive athlete or just want to be ‘in shape’?
This is a big one, there is a difference. If you are training to be a competitive athlete you will need to have a program designed to maximize the muscle groups you rely on the most. There is also this combination of specialized training and the intensity (as mentioned above) to think about. If your child really wants to be an elite athlete, he or she needs to pin that idea down and go full on into training. You can bet that there is another athlete doing the same thing.
5. Are you training too much?
You still have to rest. Over training will lead to physical, mental fatigue, and real potential for injury. You need to work hard for success, however please remember youth (and adults) need to rest properly in between workouts for positive results.
6. Are your nutritional needs being met for your goals?
This is a big issue, if you want to grow then you need the proper food and proper amounts of it. My sincere advice is to take your son or daughter to a nutritionist and sit down to learn what is needed for proper development. There is also naturally a wealth of information on the web from some major sport/fitness organizations. Get educated and see the results!
7. Is your child having fun?
No matter what our goals are as parents, this has to be stressed every single time. You must ensure your child actually enjoys the journey they are on. If not you need to take a long hard look at what you are doing. You risk turning your child off from the sport all together if they are playing it to satisfy your personal wishes. The player needs to want to be there, has to breathe the sport in order for him or her to excel.