Build the Athlete First to Gain Sport Skills

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Question: My son’s coach says he needs to get stronger and faster but he plays baseball all summer and I don’t know how he can play and get better. He plays football in the fall and will be in the 8th grade. Should he not play sports this summer in order to become a better athlete? If he does that will he lose some of the skills from not playing baseball?
Answer: Playing a sport really does little for improving sports skills. Skill improvement for baseball comes from continuing to drill through repetitive hitting, throwing situations and catching. Games present few opportunities to improve. A young athlete can actually improve game skills more effectively without playing on a team. However, he can play on a team and work to improve his abilities as an athlete. His has plenty of time during the day to do both without overworking if he has a schedule to train which coincides with his games and practice times. You, as a parent, are thinking ahead for your child. Skills development comes easier when the child’s athletic abilities are being challenged and developed at the same time. Playing a sport all year with school teams, recreational teams and travel teams does little to improve skills or athleticism. Too often it causes burnout after a few years of playing so much.
Build the athlete first.

  • Work on basics such as, improving strength through a basic weight training routine that utilizes a variety of core, multi-joint, functional exercises.
  • As the strength base develops, add explosive strength exercises.
  • As form and skill in those movements improves and becomes imbedded in the nervous system, movement becomes more efficient.
  • Now add plyometrics and explosiveness in running.
  • Up until this point most of this has been done with basically forward and backward movement. Once these are mastered, add lateral movement into the mix.
  • All this can be done in layers which fit nicely into the time available in the summer.

Make strength training the cornerstone of the program and use conditioning games that develop speed quickness and reaction movement to keep it from becoming boring. Let your child be a child and play throughout all of this. Then when your kid is an adult maybe he or she can actually get to play a game for a living.
God bless and keep training,
Daryl

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