November 2017

COORDINATION: THE MISSING LINK IN TODAY’S YOUTH CONDITIONING PROGRAMS

 

The key ingredient when working with pre-adolescent and early adolescent athletes is providing a global stimulation from a movement perspective. Younger athletes must experience and eventually perfect a variety of motor skills in order to ensure both future athletic success and injury prevention. Developing basic coordination through movement stimulus is a must, with the eventual goal of developing sport-specific coordination in the later teenager years.

Far too often parents, coaches, and trainers, are too consumed with improving a young athletes bench press, vertical jump, and 40 yard dash that we often conduct “pro style” training camps and practices. We create drills that are suited to the specific sport that we coach, and prescribe conditioning and exercises that focus on improving ones speed and strength.

The mistake with this approach is we neglect the most important ingredient to the success of a young athlete’s athleticism. The ingredient in which I am referring to is COORDINATION. The first thing that must be understood about coordination is that it is not a self-contained system. Coordination is comprised of several physical elements that can be isolated and developed separately. Balance, rhythm, spatial awareness, kinesthetic differentiation, movement adequacy, and reactivity to visual and acoustical signals are all elements associated with good coordination. In the case of young athletes, establishing and mastering coordination habits will lead to an increased ability to learn and master more advanced sporting skills in the future. Joseph Drabik, in his book “Children and Sport Training” states that coordination is best developed between the ages of 7-14, with the most critical time being ages 7-11.

Coordination development is a process that encompasses years of exposure and is based on DIVERSITY and VERSATILITY. Simply put young athletes should be exposed to as much movement and athletic incentive as possible. Young athletes cannot be pigeonholed into sport specific stimulus at a young age and expected to vault into the ranks of elite athletics. This is one of the primary disadvantages of specializing in one sport at such a young age. YOUNG ATHLETES WHO LEARN TO MASTER THE ELEMENTS ASSOCIATED WITH GOOD COORDINATION ARE FAR BETTER OFF THAN ATHLETES WHO ARE NOT EXPOSED TO THIS KIND OF EXERCISE STIMULATION UNTIL ADVANCED AGES.

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