This is an excerpt from Training and Conditioning Young Athletes-2nd Edition by Tudor O. Bompa & Sorin O. Sarandan.
A sedentary body can, over time, become obese, sick, and diseased. Researchers at the University of South Australia analyzed the change in running speed and cardiovascular endurance in children aged 9 to 17 years from data collected between 1964 and 2010. Results show that running speed and endurance gradually declined as the years progressed (American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, Tomkinson, 2013). Other sources (Bacil et al., 2015; Dishman et al., 2015; University of Strathclyde, 2019; University of Jyvaskyla, 2019) concur with Tomkinson (2013). This decline can be attributed to many reasons, including the prevalence of gaming and other sedentary habits and the overconsumption of sugar-filled drinks. Although the jury is out on the precise effect of obsessive gaming on health, any activity that limits one’s ability to engage in regular physical activity will negatively affect cardiovascular health.
The overall health trend for kids does not look good. Kids are getting fatter and becoming less active. A host of technological advances and behavioral changes such as no longer walking or cycling to school have contributed to our current health crisis. Kids need to get active. We are not talking about long-term athletic development or upper-level sporting camps; we are simply discussing the need for greater movement opportunities. Numerous governing bodies in the United States, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2015) recommend that children get 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity every day in the form of running, jumping, skipping, cycling, and muscle strengthening. The American Heart Association (2020), on the other hand, recommends 30 to 60 minutes of exercise, three or four times per week.
Despite these cultural changes and inactivity trends, “house-league” organized sports can provide a solution. Numerous organizations provide an opportunity for kids to play basketball, soccer, football, hockey, and many other sports for the pure love of exercise and team spirit and without the burden of advancing to a higher league, getting a scholarship, or becoming a professional athlete. If you are a parent who is struggling to encourage your children to become more active and want a suitable form of exercise that will improve their strength and endurance and help build relationships, look to house-league organizations in your area. There is no finer way to get kids active, engaged, and moving and instill the value of being active for a lifetime.
Some benefits of organized sport include the following:
- Promotes healthy living with an emphasis on building skills, strength, and endurance
- Improves mental health and focus
- Teaches important life skills, including self-respect and respect for others, in a safe environment
- Teaches important life lessons about winning, losing, and striving to give one’s best effort
- Provides positive role models in coaches, parents, organizers, and other athletes
- Emphasizes fitness and fun because each athlete gets equal playing time
- Represents a great introduction to sport and exercise in a nonthreatening environment, which may motivate participation, growth, and involvement in further levels of sport and activity
The focus of this book is to provide the tools necessary for training and conditioning young athletes—tools that coaches, parents, and athletes can use to better understand the physical necessities of their sport and how to properly train for optimal performance in the short term and the long term. More than 35 million young athletes in the United States play organized sport every year (Nettle and Sprogis, 2011). If athletes are to progress their training from multilateral development and general training and conditioning to sport-specific training and specialization, a proper training philosophy is important to promote improvement and avoid burnout. This chapter discusses four overarching programming guidelines for young athletes: developing a long-term training program, adding training variety, understanding individual characteristics, and increasing training loads appropriately.