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It's not uncommon for a father to ask me how his 12 or 14-year old kid can get more pitching velocity, or for a mom to ask how her 10-year old figure skater can add height to her jumps. Because of the incremental, ground-up approach we take, I've several times been asked by an anxious youth parent, "Can we do more plyometric exercise for power development?"
"If you wish to see a child's performance continue to suffer, yes, do more explosive activity when your child is in the weight room preparing for his or her sport." The problem in these cases is almost never the possibility that the kid is not doing enough explosive activity in the weight room. It's just the opposite, in fact. Many times, the kid doesn't have the foundational strength and muscular development to excel in a highly explosive athletic setting.
In the developing young athlete, there needs to be a very balanced menu of activity, both in skill development and in strength programming. Each and every one of those 100 swings he took at baseball practice, and those 70 jumps she landed at the ice rink serve as more than enough plyometric exercise for the pre-pubesent athlete. Would you bang your head against the wall to relieve a headache? Then don't go into the weight room and jump on boxes to try to develop explosive ability if you're an overworked youth athlete.
Instead, supply a steady dose of controlled foundational strength training, focused primarily on form and eccentric control, only loading as form allows. Some variety in skill development might just fix the overuse injury issues so prevalent in many of today's single sport kids and soon produce greater output for the sport of focus. Instead of the baseball player doing fall ball, go and play basketball or football and stop throwing and hitting.
Because of the popularity of Tiger Woods, the Williams sisters, and other individual sport stars who happened to specialize in their sport from a young age, their has been an overreactive movement towards early specialization in sports.
I think this has de-evolved our kids athletically. I am thoroughly convinced that the "average" youth athlete I evaluate nowadays is a worse athlete than the "average" when I was a kid. But how can that be? I mean these kids have personal trainers, spend hours on end with elite skill coaches, both on their teams and individually. Many are eating the best foods possible for them, prescribed by a registered dietitian, and traveling year-round playing the best competition in their one sport of choice. It's partly because THEY ARE BURNED OUT. IT IS NOT FUN.
When I was 12 years old, I had not heard of a personal trainer, I drank a 6-pack of A&W Creme Soda (40 grams of sugar per can) daily to quench my thirst, ate snacks out of a vending machine daily, did yard work for my parents during summer, and played backyard football, baseball and basketball all day. Bo Jackson was my childhood idol - because he could do it all.
As active as my friends and I were, I never had a significant injury (youth injury rates from pitching year round are at an all-time high now), my friends and I could all shoot a basketball, catch a football, and pitch a baseball effectively. AND, easily most important, WE WERE HAPPY. Because of that, I still love sports to this day and have dedicated my career to building the perfect preparation process for sports.
If the kid has fun playing a sport, let him play. Developing the passion for play will eventually fuel the want to prepare for play. If forced into it, the kid will never truly enjoy it enough to become great at it. IF by age 14 or 15 he exhibits, in the eyes of objective coaching, a special ability that warrants full focus, then consider specialization. By then he will have cemented a variety of basic movement skills from playing many different sports, which will serve him in terms of his overall athletic ability.