The training of young athletes is terribly under looked and neglected. Physical Fitness is not a subject that is taught at any level of education in the United States. Why? Because we do not have Sport Science as subject material at our universities so how can we be teaching our physical education teachers and youth coaches properly? The answer is we do not! We have heard numerous stories of gym teachers counting half chin ups and “elbow bends” as legitimate repetitions in the Physical Fitness test.
Shouldn’t a gym teacher be THE person in a child’s life who teaches them how to do chin ups and push ups in a full range of motion? Additionally, teaching proper running techniques and other basic exercise techniques is the bare minimum for ANY child to learn. They don’t need to train to win an Olympic Medal in sprinting just not look like the Tin Man with a wedgie. We don’t blame the teachers as many of them are very passionate and caring. We blame the business model of our colleges and the lack of funding for research by the universities. Our Physical Education Departments in America are substandard compared to our EurAsian and Australian counterparts. This centers around the Federal Governments lack of fiscal support for research. If the tax payers don’t want the research there won’t be any research.
Youth Training in Europe
Outside of the United States, Sports Science is an academic program. They teach physical fitness at a young age. The chart below defines the criteria for physical fitness as a huge part of the culture. As a society, they refuse to accept the garbage that floods American grocery stores and fast food restaurants. If you think that we are misguided, check out the adult and childhood obesity, and diabetes and cardiac statistics in our country. We are becoming “Fat America,” and something needs to be done.
Components of Eurofit (1988)
Youth Development at Umberger Performance
Umberger Performance views the development of youth as a very complex process. Boys and girls require different developments at different ages. If the specific windows of opportunity are not capitalized then some modalities are lost forever. Does this mean that the child will never be an athlete? Of course not. For example, speed development should be a focus before the age of 10. After 10 years of age, the impact of speed training is minimized. The end results is much less “bang for your buck” in regards to the results experienced during sports performance training.
Our children compete in structured game way too much and waste an inordinate amount of time playing video games. They do not practice nearly enough nor do they practice physical fitness elements at young ages. As a society Physical Fitness should play a vital role in EVERY child’s life. Physical Fitness would yield two essential benefits: The first benefit would be a healthier society that is fitness focused. The second being a better developed athletic talent. The hidden gem of this model would be a better opportunity for each child to “get a chance” to play sports. Isn’t that what youth sports is all about? The focus on playing too many games weeds many youth out at a young age. We’re not saying that “every child should get a trophy”. We are saying that playing 20 games in a baseball season and having 10 practices for an 8 year old shouldn’t happen. We are saying that playing 80+ hockey games for a 10 year old should not happen in one year, let alone one season. Too many games solely focuses on winning not developing athletic ability, which quietly causes many late developers to slide through the cracks.
Physical fitness elements lead to the general preparation of an athlete. This foundation is essential because it is where special preparation is able to be maximized at advanced stages of sport training. Meaning that any athlete should not special in any form of training until a proper foundation has been establish. Europeans are peaking Premier Soccer(best soccer league in the world) in their early 20's. We are trying to peak our athletes at 16 and 17 years of age. The Umberger Performance training model is aimed at developing athleticism built on top of a solid foundation of physical fitness. With athletic ability having been appropriately developed, sport skill can be maximized. It does not work the other way around.
Children need to be taught proper technique in sprinting, jumping, throwing, and multi directional movement. They need to develop spacial awareness and proprioception. These attributes aren’t developed through “balance training” and unstable surface training. They are developed through movement and drills in a high tempo and fun environment, which develops their aerobic energy system. The aerobic energy system is “long” duration energy system that's used to recover the energy reserves for short bursts as well as endurance type activities.
At Umberger Performance, we specialize in giving children what they need when they need it.