The number one request I get from parents is: “I need you to make my kid faster”… I am a strength coach…of course, I want to get your kid faster! My brain begins to fire off a million reasons as to why simply “getting faster” is not a one-size fits all approach. This article is an attempt to consolidate those thoughts into a semi-coherent response…
Most Kids Are Weak
Most kids have poor mobility and very limited absolute strength. Culminate this with stability issues and they are unable to control their body effectively. This has been an ever increasing issue due to the sedentary behavior of most adolescence, lack of proper strength training and playing one sport year round.
Ground reaction forces are very taxing on athletes. In some cases it is 3-6 times their body weight on one leg! This means for an 120 pound athlete, 360 to 720 lbs of force is expressed unilaterally!!!!
How are we supposed to take a kid who cannot even execute a proper body weight squat and put them through an entire sprinting series?
The simple answer is…we don’t. Instead we focus on developing the eccentric strength required to decelerate. From there we can work on the inverse which is the concentric reactions to produce force optimally.
Landing mechanics are a huge portion of our early development program for our young guys and gals as well…simply being strong enough to land with proper posture goes a long way in terms of development.
It is very common for our middle school and high school athletes to always be in season. They are always running, jumping and sprinting. Given the information in the previous paragraph, is it necessary to have these athletes undergo dedicated speed and agility work? I do not think so!
Most importantly, these kids need a solid strength and mobility base to progress to more demanding styles of training… a majority of kids these days, are not strong enough to simply participate in their given sport!
Dedicated Speed Training
The focus of these athletes should be a good strength program with solid mobility work built in…just as long as they are out there competing.
If you have an athlete that has a large chunk of the year off, then a dedicated speed program will be necessary as they are not getting the change of direction/unpredictable nature of sport year round.
However, after years of doing this, I have noticed that all of our kids have improved various athletic qualities in the gym (verticals, broad jumps, 40’s etc…) without dedicated speed programs. I think this is due to our athletes simply being stronger and in return, they have the ability to put more force into the ground!
Why is it common place for training facilities to spend so much time on sprinting and cone work? The answer is…money.
It is easier to set up cones and hurdles for a group of 10 kids then it is to coach them how to lift. Getting kids stronger takes more program writing, more individual cues for optimal positioning and a lot more direct coaching than doing an hour of ladder drills.
Teaching a bunch of middle schoolers to lift weights is the most difficult task as a coach. This high risk vs high reward scenario is off putting to most…the amount of work per session is astronomical in comparison to having them just run from cone to cone randomly….
This is why we have a strength first approach. It is not only better for the kids but it sharpens our coaching abilities better than any other situation possible.
Not everyone needs strength work. Most kids need to improve their posture and strength before they start running and jumping around in an organized fashion.
Simply making your kid sprint more and ignoring all the other factors listed above will make the situation worse.