1) Play Multiple Sports
If you want your youth athlete to be the best they can be at any given sport, the key to progress and proper development is actually participating in multiple sports for a long time. Like learning any other skill, starting with more general movement then eventually progressing to specific and specialized movement is the best way to insure long term optimal performance. Most athletes achieve their best performance in sport in college or by age 25. It has been shown that athletes that participate in multiple sports through high school perform better in high school and college, and have better body awareness for life.
2) Play More Games & Scrimmages
When looking for the most effective form of practice, after acquiring the required skills and movement patterns to play a sport, scrimmages are number one. Even more effective at improving agility than agility drills themselves, small side games with changes to the rules, number of players, or size of the playing field are one of the most effective ways to improve performance.
3) Strength Train
With the exception of spots practice, strength training is the number one thing an athlete can to do improve performance. Strength training doesn’t only increase muscle mass in athletes that have gone through puberty but it also increases the athletes ability to apply more force into the ground and resist more forces. This allows them to move faster and reduces the risk of injury.
4) More Interval Work
“Just run more” is the typical recommendation when athletes are not in shape for their sport of choice, but we can be a little more specific than that and reap great benefits from these recommendations. Most land based sports involve a series of sprints and or jumps followed by recovery periods. So, logically, interval work is the type of cardio training we want to be doing. I am not saying that low intensity, long duration cardio doesn’t have its place, but most land based sports are power sports and require different aerobic and anaerobic adaptations. Start with 4-6 sets of 10 second sprints spaced with 2 minute low intensity recovery periods, 2-3 times per week. Follow this for 2-3 weeks and you will see a dramatic improvement in the conditioning of your athlete.
Research shows that getting adequate amounts of sleep not only helps with athletic performance but also helps with cognitive ability. While most adults only need 7-9 hours of sleep to function normally and be productive, young athletes are going to need around 10 hours of sleep a day. A majority of that sleep needs to take place during the night and about 5-10% taking place during naps. I know there is homework to do and all kinds of sports practices to go to, but prioritizing sleep is one of the most important things you can do to improve cognitive ability, focus, and sports performance, especially in power based sports. Considering the fact that most land based sports are also power driven sports it only makes sense to make sleep a priority. It has been shown that athletes will set personal records, improve sprint times, and achieve more accuracy with ball placement when getting adequate sleep. Your athlete can’t afford to skimp on sleep.