In addition to training athletes in the weight room and on the field, I consult with parents, coaches, and athletes about strategies to prevent injuries. I get questions almost weekly with concerns about young pitchers experiencing arm injuries and/or pain. It’s common for parents and coaches to ask for exercises to improve arm strength and flexibility. While focusing on the throwing arm seems logical, pitching injuries have more to do with overuse, along with deficits in trunk and lower body strength and mobility.
Speed and agility are essential for success in almost every sport, yet few parents, coaches, or athletes understand how to safely and efficiently develop those components. While genetics determine an athlete’s potential for speed and quickness, the nurturing of those innate abilities determines how closely the athlete reaches peak potential.
Studies indicate, and parents can verify, that the creativity of free play—without interference from adults—helps kids learn leadership skills, conflict resolution, and problem solving. And for developing motor skills, core strength, agility, balance, and coordination, free play is essential.
Specialization is defined as intense year-round training in one sport while excluding others. Studies as well as observations from coaches verify that playing multiple sports is best for developing both physical and mental literacy in sport as well as decreasing the likelihood for injuries and burnout.
The following information is meant as a guide to maximize strength and stamina on game day as well as improve overall health and well-being off the field.
A proper warm-up is crucial to improving performance and decreasing the risk for injury. Just as a strength and conditioning program should be functional—mimic movements of sports—so should a warm-up.
Many experts believe and studies confirm that today’s culture of early sports specialization with an emphasis on year-round structured training is stunting the mental and physical development of youth. Until about age 12, general athleticism—nurtured with free play and multiple sports—should be prioritized over sport-specific skills. Even after the age of 12, free play—without interference from adults—remains important.
The simple task of keeping score changes the way we think, feel and act.