For parents in the world of the new aged young athlete, it’s tough to pick out the right training. Strength and conditioning is something that’s really only come to the forefront of mainstream youth sports within the last 20 years. Sure, when we were young we lifted with our team, but that landscaped has completely changed. Today the athletes most serious about advancing in their sport are seeking out private strength and conditioning facilities to help push them to the next level each and every offseason.

So who exactly should you trust when youre looking for the right coach & facility for your athlete? Again this is something totally new to the majority of a generation of parents. Hopefully this helps.
Here’s an excerpt from my book The Parents Guide to Developing Young Athletes

You will encounter different kinds of coaches and different kinds of training. Each coach is going to stick by what they know and what they believe is the right method. Some people are going to kick it old school, going by what they think are tried-and-true methods that have been seen in gym’s since the 1970’s. Others will swear by the “latest” science, thinking they’re following all the newest protocols. There’s a lot of miscommunication and there are a lot of misperceptions about what’s good and what’s bad for athletes. The kicker is, every coach out there knows that for the most part these training methodologies look the same to the parent. And parents are just trying to get their kid the best, safest training possible. It’s the coach’s job to sell you, the parent, that their method is the best option.
But is their training the best for YOUR child?

What is safe?

What should you look for in a coach, a facility and a program?
Here’s a tip that will save you a lot of time: When a coach starts talking about the methods they use, the equipment they use, how much they’ve studied and researched, and how much they know, say “thank you,” and walk out. That coach obviously doesn’t care about your son or daughter.
When a coach asks about your athlete’s life, their goals, interacts with them and get’s to know how they learn, listen and react and then assesses their movement – That’s the coach you want.
All the fuss about Crossfit this, Westside that, Functional Training this, Eastern Bloc blah blah blah….
Let me tell you something – The method should NEVER take precedence over the PERSON.

The best method is the one that your young athlete ENJOYS and is instructed by a coach who will ADAPT to their learning style so they can perform their training SAFELY and EFFECTIVELY.

It’s a shame that this industry is full of salesmen and not more people that care about the wellbeing of their students.

What Are the Methods I’ll See? Are They Safe?

I’ll preface this by reiterating; any method can be effective to an extent. And like any other profession, there are really good coaches that believe in and use each different method but there are just as many bad ones.   I have my own beliefs (some I will get into later) but the main focus should be – does the coach actually listen and adapt their training to fit the learning style and physical capability of their student?

Listed below are the three major methodologies a parent of a young athlete may run into and my pro’s and con’s for each.

I’ll start with the craze that’s taken the world by storm the last umpteen years. Crossfit takes a lot of heat but also gets a lot of praise for certain aspects of its training. Here’s my assessment. Crossfit’s problem is that it comes across as a unified program, when in actuality every “Box” is different and is run by coaches with varying levels and specifications of expertise. Some say Crossfit is dangerous, however, I think it depends on who is running the programs. Like any other profession there are great CrossFit coaches but really bad ones as well.

Pros: CrossFit has made working out “cool” again. They do a great job of creating community and fun. Many boxes make modifications based on the person who is training and some offer quality athlete development programs.
Cons: Anyone can become a Crossfit coach and open a Crossfit gym with a certification that only takes a weekend to get, as opposed to other certifications that require at least a four-year degree. In relation to the number of Crossfit boxes, there are very few with athlete specific programs. A point many boxes try to make is that everyone can do the same workout. This could be disastrous for a specialized athlete such as an overhead dominant baseball or volleyball player.
“Functional Training”

Functional training is the chameleon of the training world. It’s a catch all phrase with no backbone or substance. Any exercise can be “functional,” it really just depends on what it is functional for. Typically, in a place that claims use of functional training methodology, you’ll find a lot of gimmicky tools and training toys i.e. BOSU and Stability Balls, Training Masks, High Speed Treadmills and much more.

Pros: Trainers who claim use of functional training methods typically err on the side of conservative, safe movements that have high carryover to sport.

Cons: From my perspective the pros of functional training are the cons as well. Conservative, at a certain point for any athlete, has diminishing returns when it comes to improvement. When the situation calls for it, and the athlete has proven they have earned the right to do so, pushing the boundaries of strength, power, and conditioning are needed. Also, I’m just not a fan of having an abundance of training tools aside from weighted implements and self-myofascial release tools. I’m a firm believer in the idea that tools should be used as just that, and the best coaches don’t need them to get great results.
Eastern Bloc or “Westside” for athletes

Eastern Bloc and “Westside” based athlete development gyms aren’t as prevalent as the aforementioned methodologies; however, in your quest to find the right training center for your athlete you may come across one or two.  Coaches at these gyms may reference “Westside” or “Eastern Bloc” literature as the basis of their programs. Eastern Bloc refers to methods used by soviet countries post World War II until the USSR collapsed. During this time the Soviet Union invested highly in coaching and dominated the Olympic games with these methods. Westside refers to an adaptation to those methods that Louie Simmons created for geared powerlifters and again adapted for other sport athletes.

Pros: The youth training programs based from this methodological belief system are rooted highly in basic gymnastics and volume of time spent developing specific physical characteristics. They are well rounded and do not rush the specialization or progression of the athlete.
Cons: In my opinion, the practicality of the novice and the elite athlete using these methods are often misunderstood.  Coming from someone who has studied and uses Eastern Bloc training methodology, I can see how less experienced coaches could become excessively focused on the nuances and details of this belief system thus forgetting that young athletes need programs that are simple, effective and time efficient.

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