A question was recently posed to me about the differences in training young athletes for football and baseball, and what the difference should be. The athlete in question was a junior high football player. The uniformed parent wanted to know the difference in the training of a junior high football player vs. a baseball player. They were under the belief that the training should be completely different for these two athletes and that these two athletes shouldn’t train together.
First off, in young athletes I believe the most important thing to emphasize is development and perfection of movement patterns. Every young athlete needs to be taught how to move first and foremost. It doesn’t matter if the athlete is a baseball player, gymnast, badminton player, or football player. Young athletes need to be taught how to move and move correctly before they incorporate stronger and more specialized training means. They should build a foundation of movement before other motor skills are taught.
The foundation of movement that should be taught refers to sprinting, cutting, decelerating, jumping, basic athletic positions, as well as implementing proper movement patterns such as pushups, squats, RDL’s, lunge patterns, etc. Just because two kids play different sports doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have similar training. Everything that happens in a weight room should be about teaching general movement patterns. The specific activities should occur on the field. Movement patterns are the foundation of athletic development and future training.
Parents should remember that there is no reason to specialize in sports at a young age. The total pool of motor skills developed becomes extremely limited and in essence puts a ceiling on the overall development of the athlete in the future. Not only does this limit athletic potential but causes severe overuse injuries, creates huge imbalances and movement deficiencies at a young age that aren’t easily corrected, and causes burn-out.