Think back. Can you remember your win/ loss record when you were playing U-12 sports? I'm going to assume that you probably can't. We, as youth coaches, need to set aside our need to win in order to emphasize the proper technical mastery of our respective sports. Let me share something with you that you already know: how to win youth sports is different from how to win higher level sports (varsity, college, club, etc.). Typically, the youth team with the fastest runners, the tallest players or the strongest hitters won more competitions. Because of this, youth coaches highlight those physical disparities to win more games and neglect inclusive skill training because 'winning is the objective' (think of a soccer player at 12 years old who never learned first touch or footwork because he or she scored a lot of goals with speed alone... this kid's coach is the one who yells "send it" or "boot it" for most of the match). As we all know, most physical attributes tend to even out post-puberty and wins & losses at higher levels are more dependent on performance-related deficiencies resulting from the neglect mentioned above. Some examples include:
Most coaches would agree that the welfare of our athletes is a top priority. It's important then, with that in mind, that we forfeit some of our youth sports victories to better prepare our athletes for varsity, college and (possibly) pro levels of play. So get rid of the youth sports trophy case and focus on developing your young athletes. The results will be worth it!
Training priorities for young athletes should be:
Are we overthinking it? Did we miss something? We'd love to chat more about this! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect." -Vince Lombardi
Vince Lombardi was one of the greatest motivators of all time. He won multiple Super Bowls, is a member of the NFL hall of fame and is still the standard for football coaches nationwide. The National Football League even named the Super Bowl trophy after him! When he made the above comment, it was most likely to motivate his players to work harder during practice sessions (in addition to leaving residual wisdom for later coaches. 'You'll play how you practice' is still a common theme in all sports). It is arguable that Coach Lombardi considered the science behind the above statement in regards to individual sport performance training.
When individuals perform a movement, the brain sends signals along a nerve pathway to the necessary muscles in order to successfully perform that movement. When signals are repeatedly sent along the same nerve pathway, the nerves become myelinated (insulated by a fatty sheath). Too keep it simple, myelination results in a faster impulse from brain to muscle. Therefore, it is imperative that technique for sport performance and sport-specific movements are practiced with technical precision and perfection. Any discrepancies in running, landing, throwing, kicking etc. will result in myelination along an incorrect pathway consequently causing muscle imbalance, movement inefficiency and/or an increased risk of injury.
The most difficult part of perfect practice is breaking old habits. Applying perfect technique to familiar movements can result in severe frustration as people often 'take 2 steps back to take 4 steps forward'. Whether the goal is to score more touchdowns, increase squat weight or improve sprint speed, the end result of hard work (as it often is) will be worth it.