Survey: Parents More Concerned About Their Kids Returning To Sports

Posted by SGB Executive | Jul 15, 2020 | FeatureSGB Executive

By Thomas J. Ryan

Only 53 percent of parents expect their child to resume sports activity at the same or higher amount when current COVID-19 restrictions are removed, according to a new national survey from the Aspen Institute’s Project Play initiative and Utah State University. That’s down from 70 percent in early May from a similar survey by North Carolina State University in partnership with Project Play. Read SGB Media’s coverage here.

In the new survey of 2,603 adults, conducted online from June 1 to 26, only half of the parents said they are extremely or slightly comfortable with their child playing community-based sports when restrictions are lifted. In the early-May survey, two-thirds of parents were comfortable with their child playing locally. And just 44 percent of parents now are comfortable with their child participating in travel, elite and club competitions against teams located outside their city or county, down from 52 percent in May.

“It is striking how quickly parents have reevaluated their priorities for their children in youth sport,” said Dr. Travis Dorsch, study director and founding director of the Families in Sport Lab at Utah State University, in a statement. “Although parents held high hopes at the initial stages of the pandemic for a relatively quick return to normal, the extension of youth sport-related restrictions into the summer seems to have parents rethinking the widely accepted model of competitive youth sports in America.”

The survey arrives as the national death toll due to the coronavirus has declined from May to late June, but the virus is now accelerating through several states, notably Texas, Florida, California, and Arizona. Public health officials report a surge in new cases and increases in hospitalizations and in the percentage of tests that are positive.

Project Play’s most recent survey showed six out of 10 parents view their child getting sick as a barrier to resuming sports, and five out of 10 worry they personally will become ill. Black and Asian parents expressed the greatest fear of illness. They were also the least likely to expect their child to resume sports at the same or higher amount (40 percent Asians, 42 percent Blacks, 47 percent Hispanics, 59 percent Whites). Black Americans have experienced the highest COVID-19 death rates – about 2.3 times higher than Whites and Asians, who have the lowest rates, according to the APM Research Lab.

Higher-Income Households More Confident On Sports Return
Sixty percent of parents who make more than $100,000 annually said their child will resume sports at the same or higher level, compared to 55 percent making between $50,000-$99,999 and 44 percent earning under $50,000. The wealthiest parents reported their child spends about 2½ more hours per week in sports activities (free play, games, practices, and virtual training) during the pandemic than low-income families; before COVID-19, the gap was about 40 minutes per week in favor of the wealthiest.

“It is worth noting that COVID-19-related restrictions may be further widening the gap between those without access to free play, organized training and competitive opportunities,” said Dr. Jordan Blazo, an assistant professor at Louisiana Tech University and co-investigator on the study. “The pandemic has really highlighted income-driven disparities in access, whether that be to open play spaces, safe training facilities or avenues through which to compete.”

Survey respondents on average reported spending $928 annually on their child’s sports participation. Sixteen percent of parents identified family finances as the most likely reason their child would stop playing sports, behind health risks (48 percent) and new interests developed by the child (23 percent).

By far, costs (36 percent) are the No. 1 element of youth sports that parents have missed the least during the pandemic, followed by travel (18 percent), extra logistical responsibilities (15 percent), and time spent on the sport (15 percent). This may suggest that parents are ready for more affordable and local sports experiences if they are provided a quality alternative.

Kids Spending Less Time On Sports
Parents reported their child’s time spent on sports has fallen to about seven hours per week during the pandemic – a 48 percent decline from before the lockdown. Kids are participating less in free play (down 32 percent), practices (down 60 percent) and games (down 67 percent). A recent study by the University of Wisconsin found that 65 percent of adolescent athletes reported anxiety symptoms in May, with 25 percent suffering moderate or severe anxiety. Physical activity was down 50 percent.

According to the Project Play survey, when kids do play now, they’re more likely to participate in individual sports such as wrestling, skateboarding, swimming, golf, bicycling, and tennis. Many of those sports and activities allow for more physical distancing than team sports, which could continue to suffer until the virus is controlled or a vaccine is developed and made widely available.

Virtual Training Gains Traction
Virtual training is the one area of sports where youth are currently more involved, with a 16 percent increase in time spent during the pandemic. But families making under $50,000 are only seeing slight increases in virtual training compared to larger growth in this area by wealthier families.

Some sports are benefitting more than others from virtual training. Parents of wrestlers reported the largest time increase spent on online platforms since the shutdown, followed by skiing/snowboarding, gymnastics, volleyball, swimming, martial arts, ice hockey, bicycling, softball, and tennis. Whereas boys spent more time on virtual training before COVID-19, now girls are using it slightly more frequently than boys.

Other findings from the survey results include:

  • Approximately half of the parents reported that their child has participated in new recreational or sports activities during the pandemic. Of those, more than half tried two or more activities. Six out of 10 parents said they believe their child will continue with that new activity once organized sports return. Project Play said this could be a sign that multisport sampling gets a boost from the shutdown – a period when kids have time to try different sports on their own terms;
  • Almost 9 out of 10 parents rated positive physical and mental health as desirable outcomes for their child in sports. Parents’ desire for competition (62 percent) was ranked notably lower than all other outcome goals including fun, peer relationships, social skills, and sport skills;
  • Only 19 percent of parents said they view their child’s lack of interest in sports since the shutdown as a barrier in them returning to play. Still, that’s slightly up from 18 percent in early May, and any industry that could lose 1 of its 5 existing customers faces a challenge.
  • Parents in the Northeast reported they are significantly more likely to spend money on youth sports when restrictions are lifted than any other region. They were also more likely to suggest that their child would return at a higher participation level than before, and they expressed the most concern about their child losing interest in sports. Parents in the Midwest were least fearful of their child becoming ill by returning to sports.
  • Urban children have returned to playing games at significantly higher rates than suburban and rural children. Prior to the pandemic, rural children spent slightly more time on games and competition than other youth. Now, urban parents reported their child spends twice as much time on games and competition (1.7 hours per week) than rural kids (0.82), though the amount of time has significantly dropped for all kids. Rural parents were more likely to be undecided about how much their child would play sports when restrictions are lifted.

The full survey is here.

Reimagining Youth Sports in a Post-COVID-19 World

BY JOHN O’SULLIVAN /  TUESDAY, 14 APRIL 2020 /  PUBLISHED IN CLUB SPORTSCOVID-19YOUTH SPORTS

“When do you think we will play again, coach?”

“Will we finish our season, coach?”

“I sure miss practice, even the fitness!”

“What about tryouts?”

If you are part of a school or youth sports club, these are the questions you have been fielding on a daily basis. Since the state of Oregon closed down schools and sports in mid-March, like many coaches around the country, I have been running virtual practices, trying to stay connected and inspire kids to keep practicing. I have also been the guest on many webinars that are all asking the same question:

“What will youth sports look like when we return to play?” 

And while many people are out there, hoping for a return to normalcy, the question that comes to mind for me is “Do we really want to return to the exact same youth sports system we just had to shut down?” 

This is a question I have been pondering a lot recently, and have discussed numerous times with multiple experts in youth sports development. This Wall Street Journal article highlights concerns that we may lose 20-40% of our youth sports clubs to insolvency, and result in a huge drop in participation. After the 2008 recession, participation of US children dropped from 45% in 2008 to 38% in 2014, and the financial impact of this event will be far worse. It is unlikely many families are looking forward to high-priced, travel heavy youth sports experiences, especially for children still in elementary school. This system had already created a huge socio-economic participation imbalance, with more than twice as many children participating in sports in families with incomes over $100,000 than in the lowest income brackets. Is this what we want to return to?

I believe that this is the chance we have been waiting for to hit the reset button and make our youth sports system more athlete-centered, one that teaches character through sport, provides some semblance of balance, and is inclusive rather than exclusive when it comes to financial and time commitments. Why?

I truly believe that when we return to play, a number of factors will weigh heavily on the minds of parents:

  1. We just had family dinners night after night for the first time in years. I want my kids to go back to playing sports, but do we really want to be running around with our heads cut off 7 nights a week?
  2. My child is feeling healthy and well rested for the first time in years because he/she had some time off. Perhaps we should cut back a bit on the number of sports practices and training load.
  3. My child is enjoying the time-off and pursuing other passions. He/she is also getting better practicing on his/her own for the first time, or playing unorganized sports with siblings.. 
  4. This has been a tough hit financially for our family. Perhaps there is a better, less expensive local sports option.
  5. We already live in an area with millions of people, why do we need to travel by bus and plane to get games when we can get plenty of games close by?
  6. The virus has settled down in our area, but not in other places. I am not sending my child to play games against teams where the virus is not under control.

I could go on and on (and perhaps in the comments you can add some additional reasons). The factors are aligned to cause a major rethink in how youth sports, especially for 12 and under children, will be done. In a great webinar put on by the Aspen Institute Project Play Initiative, industry leaders predicted a summer or fall return to some sort of play, but that there will be a yearning for new models.  As the panelists discussed, the existing model is dysfunctional at best and broken at worst. Parents and kids have rediscovered free play, family activities, and outdoor sports. Will they just want to go back to the old way with no adjustments? As Project Play Executive Director Tom Farrey stated, “It makes me wonder if we’ll see more enthusiasm or create a scenario for more in-town rec leagues and hold off the travel team environment. Instead of sorting the weak from the strong when they’re 6 or 7 years old, (can we) promote more low-cost, local activity that’s more inclusive and more affordable for more families, at least through grade school.”

But here is the billion dollar question:

Will our local leagues, park and recreation programs, YMCA’s, Boys and Girls Clubs, and even travel clubs be ready for this influx of participants looking for local, low cost, high quality programming? 

They, too, are suffering and furloughing staff. But for the remaining staff, are you planning to roll out the same old programming that may no longer work and was inadequate at best, or will you take this opportunity to reimagine your program? As Nate Baldwin, youth sports expert and former Youth Sports Director for Appleton Parks and Recreation told me the other day, “Are they ready to provide a local, high quality experience, or just a return to the same old thing? Because you will never have a better chance to create a viable alternative to youth travel sports than you will when we return to play.” I agree wholeheartedly with Nate.

We need our local leagues, and even our travel clubs, to reimagine what the youth sports experience is going to look like when we return to play. And if we are truly going to deliver a high quality experience, the following things are not “nice to haves.” The are MUST HAVES:

  1. Mandatory coach education and developmentwe must train every single coach not simply on the Xs and Os, but on connecting with kids, winning the relationship game, and understanding the social, emotional and cognitive development of the children they are coaching. We must become athlete-centric in our programming. Volunteerism is NOT an excuse for a lack of professionalism, and this will be even more important in the coming months.
  2. Mandatory parent engagement and developmentOur parents can be our biggest assets, so connect with them, teach them how they can help their children and support them on and off the field. Give them ownership in creating a high quality sideline experience. They are struggling right now too, and will feel immense pressure to keep up with the Joneses when we return to play. What if they didn’t have to?
  3. Creative programming that includes more local play and small-sided games: our kids will have spent months playing 1v0 or 1v1 with a sibling, do we really need to jump straight back to 11v11 soccer or football? Will we even be able to if there are restrictions in the size of gatherings? Or can we create small sided, local programming that actually provides more touches, more decisions, some of the better players spread across multiple teams, and the opportunity to play after a five minute drive instead of a five hour drive?
  4. Delay our desire for talent selection and separationInstead of trying to identify the future “talent” at age 7, which we know is an incredibly flawed process and is more likely to select maturity then ability, be patient. Develop age groups instead of a single team. Provide opportunities to play up, play down, train with similar ability players, and mixed ability. Let the girls and boys play together for longer. Use different game formats. Spend more time on the field and less time in cars because there is “no one left to play” locally. Prevent burnout, injury and dropout. There is a time for higher level travel sports, but not in elementary school, and certainly not post-pandemic for 12 and under kids.
  5. Provide balance for our families: they have just spent a few months having free time, game night, and family dinners, and watched their family connections grow. I am not saying that they won’t want any sports, but will they want a full sports takeover of their lives again? Full time? I am not so sure. 
  6. Transformational values and character development: Sports are not fundamentally good (as I have written about in this article). They are neutral. They only teach character and provide a positive experience when coaches and organizations INTENTIONALLY make that a part of their mission. Every youth sports organization that wants to thrive in a post-pandemic world must put character and personal development at the forefront of their mission. 

When we return to play, it may be on a limited basis. It may be local. It may be small sided games only with no out of town travel. Travel may be limited because of stretched finances. Our transformational programs are doing great work right now, connecting with their athletes, helping them through this rough time physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Our transactional coaches and organizations are struggling, because there are very few transactions taking place right now. Many of them will fade away I think. And for those of us who are left?  

Let’s be better. Let’s not simply roll out the same old, same old and think we will have a different result. This is our chance to do better for our children. 

Please do not waste it. Demand change. Prepare and plan to be better. Use this time off to develop and study a different model, a better model. If you do, you will thrive in the post-pandemic youth sports world. Good luck.

Think Inside the Box

https://www.nll.com/about/thinkinsidethebox/

THINK INSIDE THE BOX

Learn more about how box lacrosse skills and strategy are an integral part of player development

The National Lacrosse League, together with US Lacrosse, provides unprecedented access to top tier players and coaches who share how box lacrosse is an integral part of lacrosse player development.   Think Inside the Box is an interview series and resource for all players and coaches.  Learn how players, coaches, professional, and collegiate players use box lacrosse to support player and skill development.

  • Trevor Baptiste, U.S. National Team Player, NLL Philadelphia Wings:  Be the Best Version of Yourself
  • Kyle Jackson, NLL Halifax Thunderbirds:   Build Interpersonal and Teamwork Skills
  • Mark Miyashita, Men’s Head Lacrosse Coach, Canisius College:  Popularity of Box Lacrosse
  • Taylor Wray, Men’s Head Lacrosse Coach, St Joseph’s University:  How to Achieve Box Lacrosse Growth
  • Matt Brown, Men’s Associate Lacrosse Coach, University of Denver:  Benefits to Exposing Young Athletes to Box Lacrosse
  • Bill Tierney, Former U.S. National Team Coach, Men’s Head Lacrosse Coach, University of Denver, #1:  How Box Lacrosse Showcases the Artistic Part of the Game
  • Bill Tierney, Former U.S. National Team Coach, Men’s Head Lacrosse Coach, University of Denver, #2:  Box Drills to Develop Players

Ready to Think Inside the Box?

Click here for Box Lacrosse 101 and get access to drills and techniques from the playbook of the NLL’s Halifax Thunderbirds.

Ready to Play Box?

Oregon Box Lacrosse is putting teams and programs together for all ages and skill levels. Contact us today for more information!

Why Box Lacrosse?

It’s simple really.  The smaller field and boards keep the ball in play and raise the amount of touches each player gets (5 times or more).  Players also have to play both offence and defense so they do not specialize in one position.  All of this raises the play and skill level of kids much faster than the outdoor game can, and those skills translate to the larger field game and several other sports.

The other reason to play box lacrosse is that more and more college coaches are looking for players with box experience.  They know the tight spaces and speed of the box game benefits every player, and in-turn benefits their program.

Why are we starting box lacrosse in Oregon, and what is the goal?

Box lacrosse programs are starting up across the country, and you can see right away the programs that do play box at just about any tournament.  On top of that, we see box lacrosse as a great way to get more kids playing lacrosse more regularly.  Right now the spring rec programs are working hard to bring more kids into their programs and teach them the sport of lacrosse.  Once the season ends in June only a handful of kids go on the play summer lacrosse.  Much of this has to do with price and skills.  Those that have the skills may not be able to spend the money it takes to play travel lacrosse in the summer.  Then there are the kids who have just started out and simply need a little more time to build their skill level.  Right now there is nothing for those players so they are forced to wait till a spring rec program does an open training session or until the next season starts months and months later.  How can we expect the sport to grow if there are no options for all kids to play? 

Oregon Box Lacrosse wants to be the program that gives all kids the opportunity to keep playing lacrosse so they can get better, and not have to spend a lot of money or travel to do so.  We want every kid that is interested in lacrosse to be able to play and grow as athletes so they have the option to keep playing because of choice not circumstance.

So why 3v3 Chumash?

Of course we’d love to have been able to jump right into this summer with box lacrosse starting up right away.  Unfortunately, we are not able to do that, but we still know that getting kids the opportunity to play is paramount.  That is why we started up the 3v3 Chumash program so kids can get some form of competition, and create a program that newer players could build upon their skills and get plenty of touches on the ball.  Once we are able to, we will move forward with box lacrosse and we can’t wait to see everyone padded up and ready to go!

Lacrosse Wolf Partnership

We’re happy to announce that we’ve partnered with Lacrosse Wolf out of Seattle!

https://www.lacrossewolf.com/index.cfm/category/621/oregon-box-lacrosse-association.htm

They have created a page just for us and will offer up discounted pricing and other deals throughout the year. We’ll also bring them down to the Plex PDX during the season so stay tuned for further dates and information. Checkout their site and the link to our own page and we’ll send updates and sales when they come through.

We also have an apparel shop with our friends at Team Unis here in Beaverton! Check it out and grab your Oregon Box swag today!!

Box Lacrosse is Thriving Around the World

Stephen Stamp

Thursday June 18th, 2020

Action at the 2019 Lax in the Box tournament in Dresden, Germany. The 2022 European Box Lacrosse Championship will be held in Germany, in the city of Hannover. (Photo: Marek Stor, ShutterLax)

International box lacrosse is burgeoning and the evidence of the game’s growth was all over a group call held this week.

On Monday of this week, representatives from about two dozen countries, the European Lacrosse Federation, World Lacrosse, the referee community and other interested observers took part in the 2020 International Box Lacrosse Forum via Zoom to discuss the direction of the game around the globe. The forum is usually held as an in-person event but was moved to Zoom because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0

Some news from the call:

* The second European Box Lacrosse Championship (the first was held in Turku, Finland in 2017) that was scheduled for Hannover, Germany in 2021 will now be held in that city in 2022. Organizers said that while 19 teams had registered for the tournament, they are open to more nations joining for the rescheduled one. Fourteen teams took part in in Turku, so the chance to hit 20 for the next go-round underscores how quickly the box game is growing on the international scene.

* The 2023 World Indoor Lacrosse Championship will also be moved back a year, as are most World Lacrosse competitions. The host for the 2024 tournament has not been selected but Czech Republic did announce their intention to bid for the rights. The Czechs were host to the 2011 worlds, followed by Onondaga in 2015 and Langley, BC in 2019.

* Speaking of the EBLC and the WILC, a discussion was held about whether the nations engaged in box lacrosse should formally present a proposal to World Lacrosse to change the name of the WILC to the World Box Lacrosse Championship. Given that the game is referred to almost exclusively as box lacrosse in every country where it is played, along with the fact that box lacrosse can be played outdoors and field lacrosse can be played indoors, the change would make sense.World Lacrosse CEO Jim Scherr replied that the discussion has been taking place within WL and they will continue to consider the possibility of making the switch to align the language throughout the game.

* At least 11 countries outside of Canada and the United States currently have a men’s box lacrosse domestic league or are close to launching one. At least four countries outside of Canada and the US also host tournaments or are beginning to do so in the coming year.

* Italy is new to box lacrosse but has an advocate working to put together a team for the 2021 EBox tournament in Prague and would like to take part in the ’22 Euros.

* Women’s box lacrosse is growing rapidly. A handful of countries have domestic leagues for women and demand is growing for more.A SHE-Box tournament was planned for women in conjunction with the ’20 EBox but had to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament had 12 teams confirmed with women from at least 15 nations scheduled to participate. Plans are proceeding full speed ahead to offer SHE-Box in ’21.

Schedule of upcoming events in 2020/21

2020 Location, Event, Contact27-30 Aug Prague, Czech Republic European U-20 Challenge psemerak@lacrosse.cz3-5 Sep Prague, Czech Republic Frank Menschner Cup aleshrebeskymemorial@gmail.com9-11 Oct Nashville, USA Nashville Invitational ken@bearpawlacrosse.com8-9 Nov Lille, France Boxmania boxmanialille@gmail.com14-15 Nov Rossford, USA Origins Cup ken@bearpawlacrosse.com28-31 Dec Eilat, Israel Brawl in the Mall scott@lacrosse.co.il

2021 Location, Event, Contact22-24 Jan Prague, Czech Republic Winter Lax Cup laxcup@lcjm.cz22-24 Jan Las Vegas, USA Sin City Box Classic npeterson@battlebornboxlacrosse.com16-19 Apr Prague, Czech Republic E-BOX / SHE-BOX bwitm1@gmail.com22-25 Apr Prague, Czech Republic Aleš Hřebeský Memorial aleshrebeskymemorial@gmail.coTBD Jul Dresden, Germany Lax in the Box boxlacrosse@dresden-braves.deTBD Sep Onondaga Nation LAXNAI info@laxnai.com

US Lacrosse Return to Play

John Strohsacker

Last week, US Lacrosse announced a set of Return to Play recommendations to assist the lacrosse community in following the appropriate steps to mitigate the risk for all participants in the COVID-19 environment. The guidelines were developed by a medical advisory group, with additional input from sport and event professionals.

On Monday, advisory group chair and US Lacrosse vice president Ann Kitt Carpenetti and three members of the medical advisory team hosted a webinar to further explain the recommendations and to answer specific questions submitted by members of the lacrosse community.

The presenters stressed that the guidelines are intended to provide medically-informed guidance in the development of safer return to play protocols, and are grounded in established public health recommendations that address the mitigation of exposure risk to the spread of COVID-19. 

Click below to access a free replay of the June 1 webinar.

The recommendations outline five stages or phases in the return to play. Foremost at this time is the belief that outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities, due to better airflow and ventilation.

“The available research indicates that transmission risk is lower in an outdoor environment,” said Dr. Karen Sutton, Hospital of Special Surgery in New York.

The presenters also noted that it is important to begin with a two-to-four week period of non-competitive lacrosse activity to increase player fitness levels. A progressive and gradual return to normal game play is being emphasized.

“Programs should begin with drills and conditioning and non-competitive play,” said Dr. Richard Hinton of Medstar Sports Medicine. “Don’t go straight to game competition. That’s definitely a red flag.”

Hinton anticipates that the summer months will be helpful in gathering more information about COVID-19 to heighten understanding and shape additional policies.

“I think we’re all in agreement that stage five, which would be normal participation with normal travel and multi-team events is a long way away. We need more information about how the disease is progressing before we can talk about safety in multi-team travel events,” he said.

The presenters also stressed the importance of advance preparation for organized activities by players, parents, coaches and program leaders. One of the ways to reduce the risk of transmission is to come to the field ready to play. Basically, get in and get out.

“Exposure is higher with longer periods of contact among individuals,” Sutton said. “There are ways we can try to limit the contact, like having designated areas for each player’s gear. There should be no shared equipment, water bottles or towels. And everything you bring to practice should be clean. Get on the field and get off the field.” 

“Fortunately, the coronavirus is very easy to kill. You don’t need high-powered disinfectants to keep your equipment clean,” said Dr. Eugene Hong, chair of the US Lacrosse Sport Science & Safety Committee and chief physician executive at the Medical University of South Carolina. “Good hygiene practices just can’t be emphasized enough.”

Keeping the players engaged in activity, rather than allowing them to congregate together on the sidelines, should be a priority for the coaches. Game play modifications, such as small-sided games, are encouraged. Limiting spectators and having an emergency action plan are also strongly recommended.

The full 21-page Return to Play document is available online.

“It’s important to clarify that this is not a rules document,” Hong said. “These are recommendations. We’re all still concerned with the unknowns.” 

“Information regarding COVID is constantly evolving, so our commitment will be to continually review new information and determine if we need to make adjustments,” Carpenetti said.

Categories

TRAIN TO BE AN ATHLETE, NOT A POSITION PLAYER

http://fastcolorado.com/2020/05/train-to-be-an-athlete-not-a-position-player/

By: JC Cole CSCS*D RSCC*D XPS

Our youth sport development system is broken. Everyone can agree on that. We have overeager sport organizers feeding off parents needs to give their young athletes every conceivable athletic advantage at an early age. This is leading to a raft of overuse injuries and burnout amongst development level athletes before they even reach maturation. Society’s need for more, faster, bigger and stronger has permeated our youth and the effect are truly detrimental to our kids.

For us, in the strength and conditioning world, it has affected our profession in a way that is challenging for the professional to navigate. Our customer base consists of parents who desire the competitive advantage for their youth athletes through performance training programs. More often than not, the request is usually specific exercise prescriptions that are geared to the athlete’s sport. This is where we have lost our way as a profession. We all need to change our mindset and approach to success in youth sports.

Training youth athletes for performance should be simple in nature. We need to keep it simple and educate our clients as to benefit of becoming an athlete first, a sport specific player second. What I mean is we need to make them athletic before they can become a baseball, lacrosse or football player. As we know, our nation has cut simple physical education programs in schools. This has left us with a gap in the fundamentals for youth athletes. I’ll give you an example….

More often than usual, I have been approached by parents of youth athletes looking for drills to improve foot speed. They ask for cone and ladder drills that seem to have a following on social media and are easily accessible in video format. As we all agree, footspeed is an important and specific need for success in sport. How we train for it, should not be. My first response to their request is in the form of a question, “Can they jump rope?” Sadly, the top answer is “No” or “They have never tried.” Jumping rope was a staple of physical education during the boomer generation and has slowly worked its way out of common practice. So, I tell the parent, politely, to come back with that footspeed drill request when I have seen the athlete jump rope consistently for 10 minutes. Until that time, specific foot speed drills are unnecessary to begin with, as the simple motor pattern of easy explosive movement cannot be executed and repeated.

Yes, it is a simple intervention, and yes, it’s up to the client to get this done. It does not require a strength and conditioning specialist to build out a footspeed program for the athlete….yet. Additionally, trunk strengthening strategies can be executed by learning and repeating simple plank interventions. Rotational strength and power can be executed with body weight as 9 out of 10 times, the youth athlete does not possess the balance necessary to execute the pattern to begin with, let alone with any type of resistance added. More often than not, I see this going through simple movement preparation patterns of lunging, squatting and stepping.

The solution? Its simple really. Don’t progress the athlete to something specific and sexy until the athletic fundamentals can be repeated and deliberate in nature. Train the athlete like an athlete. Simple movement and stability patterns should be easy to execute and repeat prior to moving on the next evolution of training. In our programming, we like to see an athlete “own” a position and movement pattern before moving on to something more complex. For example, a standard bilateral Olympic deadlift is often common in youth programming. But can the athlete hinge properly? Can they execute a “Standing-T” movement and stabilization during movement prep? Having worked with youth athletes for most of my 25-year career, I rarely see any athlete under the age of 16-17 execute the pattern without flaw.

However, I gain more ground having the youth athlete work on their “Standing-T’s” and Single-Leg RDLs with light resistance than I do with them dead-lifting bilaterally with poor form. I have found that Single-Leg modalities in youth athletes get more results faster than bilateral ones. Why? Single-leg modalities require balance, body awareness and concentration…i.e. good athletic foundations!

I started my Strength and Conditioning career training Competitive Alpine Ski Racers. One of the foundations of our off-season training program was the introduction and evolution of sprint and acceleration mechanics. For athletes that are locked into concrete-stiff ski boot shells for 6-7 months out of the year, these exercises were greeted with disdain from our athletes. They were beyond hard for them to grasp and very frustrating for them. I was often asked by parents and athletes why they were doing them and what does this have to do with skiing? The answer is unequivocally, nothing. It has everything to do sound, athletic, fundamental skills. What does change-of-direction field drills that could be used for soccer or football have to do with Skiing?

Nothing, but it does teach the skier to move like an athlete, not like a skier!

Across the board, you can see the top performing athletes in the world that are not skilled at only the sport they excel in. For example, 2 of the top NCAA Lacrosse players in the world are taking their granted 5th year and participating in other sports. Dox Aitken, UVA’s top Lacrosse Attackman and National Champion is taking his fifth year to play football at Villanova. Pat Spencer, Loyola Attackman and Tewaaraton Winner (MVP for NCAA Lacrosse) is playing basketball at Northwestern. Bode Miller and Mikaela Shiffrin, FIS World Cup and Olympic Medalists and both very accomplished tennis players. And the list goes on and on…

The lesson here is, be an athlete first. When a parent comes to me and asks me for a dedicated Strength and Conditioning program for the off-season of their 13yr old, I have a simple program that I give them. It consists of:

  1. Buy and Mountain-Bike and ride it 3 days a week.
  2. Join a club sport team that is not your main sport.
  3. Climb 2-3 14ers this summer with your family.
  4. Jump Rope every day.
  5. Be a kid. Play in the backyard, get your knees and elbows dirty, run through the woods and play capture the flag. Be a “free-range” athlete!

Its far too simple for us to grasp as a society, but I think we would all agree we have lost our ability to allow for youth athletes to be kids. They have to be pre-programmed and destined for greatness in sport. If you allow them to grow and train organically and enjoy the process of sport learning with simplicity, there are no limitations to where they may go and what range of success they may have. The exposure to different sports and modalities of training may lead them in a direction of success and passion that you never expected.

So keep training for sport simple, not sexy. Youth athletes need simplicity and repetition to groove movement patterns. Allow for game-play and competition scenarios, but keep your eye on the fundamentals and watch them grow, learn and succeed!

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Signature Lacrosse Wall Ball

Dhane Smith Box Lacrosse Wall Ball Warm Up

Signature Pro Dhane Smith is a frequent flyer on the stat sheet of the Buffalo Bandits, the Chaos Lacrosse Club, and Team Canada. His soft hands and ability to control his stick in traffic has made him a menace at the professional level. Below, Dhane shares his lacrosse wall ball warm up for box lacrosse that keeps his hands sharp before lacrosse training, practice, and games. You can always catch Dhane using a Signature Complete Universal lacrosse stick of a Signature Contract lacrosse head and Signature Player lacrosse shaft. Dhane loves the stiffness, lightness, and consistency of his Signature Complete Universal lacrosse stick, and that’s why it’s always his choice when he’s stepping onto the field or hitting the wall.

Ryland Rees Lacrosse Wall Ball Training Routine

Signature Pro Ryland Rees knows that defenders need to be able to handle to rock too, and his lacrosse wall ball training routine is guaranteed to whip you into shape. As a member of the Rochester Knighthawks, Waterdogs Lacrosse Club, and Team Canada, Ryland has shown that he’s a world class lacrosse player with a short stick and a long stick. To be able to play both field and box lacrosse professionally, you need to put in the work on the wall and develop great hands. The lacrosse wall ball routine below is what Ryland uses to get in a quick workout while having fun and improving his stick skills at the same time. And every time Ryland plays wall ball, he uses Signature Premium lacrosse balls that can stand up to the hundreds of reps and still perform consistently.

lacrosse wall ball
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