By Coach Kim Rockey
Wow – we as a society surely have dropped the ball on the age 8 to 18 population when it comes to proper functional fitness and athletic development.
Much of the blame can be directed to the systematic removal of physical education in the public schools. Due to budget cuts, our kids are less exposed to proper training when it comes to physical fitness. Instead, we are relying more on a growing segment of volunteers as a group to coach our youth in a variety of sports.
Hats off to the volunteers for their time and dedication to the kids. However this coaching group is leaving a large gap in applying proven modalities of functional fitness to help promote proper alignment, movement, stretching, etc.
Injury in this age range has skyrocketed in the past 10 to 15 years. Not proactively addressing the childhood obesity epidemic has complicated this issue further. The result: kids are having more significant injuries that have long-term consequences.
I will note, however, that there is a bit of a socioeconomic factor built into this equation. Those families that can afford proper training outside the traditional academic setting will have an advantage for their children.
Addressing the issue on a broad scale, let’s focus on:
- Proper progressions for developing, age-sensitive bodies
- Good fundamental biomechanical movements need to be taught from the very beginning to instill sounds habits of good form
- Cross-training/cross-sport/free play – all these elements are equally important for physical as well as social development
Going forward, we should aim at the following goals for these age groups:
- 8- to 12-year-olds – zero in on specific athletic development skills such as basic functional movement and coordination
- 12- to 16-year-olds – introduce weight training with specific protocols
- 16- to 18-year olds – mentor them to take physical fitness to the next level