Athletic Development for Teens in Seattle

At Ekstasis Strength & Conditioning we specialize in developing young athletes for elite competition in a wide range of sports including basketball, soccer, lacrosse, football, volleyball, swimming, crew, track & field and baseball/softball to name a few. We help teens develop their athleticism by concentrating on specific qualities young people need, like balance, coordination, running mechanics, acceleration, deacceleration, first step, agility, quickness, jumping, landing, hip movement and core strength.

Most coaches at the junior high and high school level, including coaches at club level sports, just don’t have the time or resources to concentrate on one athlete’s specific needs. Nor do they really understand how to amplify natural gifts to make them even more athletic for the sport and position the athlete plays. The Ekstasis Youth Athletic Development Program takes young athletes to the next level and helps them expand their physical performance past their competition.

5 Reasons Why Young Athletes Should Work on Their Athletic Development through Strength and Conditioning

1) Injury Prevention

A proper strength and conditioning program will address muscular imbalances within young athletes’ bodies so that they move properly and are less likely to suffer a non- contact injury while playing their sport.  A non-contact injury occurs when no outside force such as collision, slide tackle, or helmet causes the injury.

Strength and conditioning helps young athletes develop strong connective tissues within their joints so that they are able to absorb the forces that are put on their bodies during competition.  Deceleration or slowing down to change directions or stop is when most non- contact injuries occur because this is when the greatest force is put on the body.  Strength and conditioning prepares the body to handle these outside forces that happen while young athletes are competing.

Young athletes actually compete in their sports more than they work on their individual skills or athletic development.  This can create bad habits and lead to overuse injuries.  A good strength and conditioning program will help young athletes focus on specific areas in their individual physical development so they will be less prone to injury and will perform at a higher level within their sports.

2) Movement Development

Movement development, movement coordination, or agility according to Jozef Drabik, author of Children and Sports Training (1995), is the most complex among the athletic abilities and is best developed in boys and girls in middle school.  It is the foundation for all other athletic development.  If this athletic skill is not developed adequately at this age in both boys and girls, it may never be developed to its full potential.

One way to define movement coordination according to Drabik (1995) is the ability to accomplish movement tasks that demand cooperation of several parts of the body without mental tensions or mistakes and with a minimum of effort.  Another way to define it is the ability to perform complex movements, quickly learn new movements, and quickly switch from one set of movements to another.  This is also referred to as agility.

Training to enhance movement coordination and/or agility depends on the development and the level of physical maturity of the athlete.  Developing agility is most effective between the ages of 7 and 14 in both boys and girls with the most sensitive period being between the ages of 10 and 13.  During this sensitive period, boys’ and girls’ bodies and brains are undergoing intensive growth in the area of agility and, therefore, should be capitalized on by training.   Just competing in sports will not effectively develop their agility.  They need outside help from a well designed strength and conditioning program.

3) Gender Specific

Boys and girls up to the age of 12 can benefit from the same training techniques.  After 12 years of age, boys and girls require different emphasis in their training due to the difference in their physical development.

According to Drabik (1995) the pace of physical development reaches its maximum around 11 or 12 years for girls and 13 or 14 for boys.  It is associated with puberty.  This is the critical period when boys and girls need different training stress.  Below is the recommended training regiment for boys and girls from the ages 10 to 14.

Programs designed for both boys and girls ages 10 to 12 should include:

  • Technical Movement (Spatial Awareness and Orientation)
  • Rhythmic Movement Patterns (Coordination and Confidence)
  • Flexibility,  Mobility , Stability (Efficiency and Body Control)
  • Specific Speed (Anticipation, Perception and Reaction Drills where Athletes React Quickly to Group Movement with a Change in Pace and Intent)
  • Strength / Conditioning (Building Strength, Endurance and Confidence in Various Movement Patterns)

Around 12 to 14 years of age boys and girls have diverse physical development and need to be trained differently from each other.

Girls have a sensitive point between 12 and 14 when the hormones that are responsible for strength and power development are at their highest:

  • Girls:
    • Speed Power (Plyometrics)
    • Specific Speed
    • Strength
    • Aerobic Development 

Boys do not reach physical maturity until much later than 12 to 14 so there is a greater window for developing strength and power and the focus can remain on: 

  • Boys:
    • Specific Speed
    • Strength Endurance
    • Aerobic Development
    • Flexibility, Mobility,  Stability

4) Biological Power (Athletic Development vs. Skill Development)

One of the biggest rewards of a strength and conditioning program for young athletes is that it will increase their biological power.  This is similar to increasing the horse power of an engine in a car.  Biological power can be defined as the development of the cardiovascular system, metabolic system, hormonal system, and neuromuscular systems within an athlete.  If these four systems are improved upon through a strength and conditioning program, the young athlete will have greater biological power which will help him or her perform better in his or her respective sport.

It is important to identify the difference between skill development and athletic development. Skill development can be defined as the necessary tools used by an athlete to play in a sport.  Such attributes would be throwing, catching, and hitting in the game of baseball or softball.  These skills can be practiced by an athlete and over time the athlete will become more proficient at them, which should help them in a game environment.

Athletic development can be described as abilities that are used by an athlete to accomplish skills within his or her sport.  Such abilities include power, speed, agility, strength, and aerobic capacity.  These abilities can be developed over time so that they become enhanced thus increasing biological power.  This is done through the stress of training in a strength and conditioning program.  If athletic abilities are enhanced properly, they will help an athlete perform his or her sport skills faster and for longer.

5) Diverse Vs. Specific Training

Young athletes should have a diverse range of athletic experiences.  Unfortunately, for many prep athletes this is not the case.  More and more young athletes are specializing in one sport and playing it year-round.  This approach can be detrimental to developing the full athletic spectrum of a young person.

As stated above, 10-12 years of age is a very sensitive time period for both boys and girls as it relates to physical and mental development. Children in this demographic require lots of different stimuli in order to reach their physical and cognitive potentials. If they are only playing one sport at this age, they will miss an opportunity to reach their full athletic potential as well as run the risk of burning out, over training, and sustaining overuse injuries.

Unfortunately, American society has a paradigm set up that does not support a young person experiencing a wealth of athletic opportunities. Today in order to make the high school team, an athlete has to start specializing in one sport at the club level and has to play it year round. Most high school coaches already know who is going to be on their team when students are still in middle school. Those who have been playing a sport at the club level have already played hundreds of games before they even get to high school. This is the reality of American youth sports.

In this current system how do young people reach their full athletic potential?  The answer is a diverse, well planned strength and conditioning or athletic development program that covers all the areas young athletes are missing by specializing too early.