When to Start Youth Performance Training

Things to think about when starting your youth sports performance program

I have sat before hundreds of youth athletes and their parents. I believe that when someone comes into this setting, there are many misconceptions about what type of training we do and how we do it. So in this piece, I hope to clear up some issues that parents may have by presenting some scenarios and possible resolutions.

Tired Timmy

Tired Timmy is the kid I see that comes into his evaluation with bloodshot eyes and is slightly incoherent. Timmy has been to his pitching lesson, marching band practice, and math tutor, all before he is supposed to give me his full effort in this evaluation. A safe and successful sports performance program needs quality time devoted to it. If MVP is number 3 on the list of after school activities for the day, we may need to reshuffle our time commitments. Youth athletes only have so much comprehension and physical energy available. So please parents, if your athlete looks like a zombie walking into my gym every session, we need to talk.

Little Lucy

Little Lucy is the cute 8 year old athlete that comes in with her Mommy and Daddy. She is just starting organized sports, and Mom and Dad want to make sure she gets a “jump on the competition”. Sports performance training is a great tool to help players become better athletes, yet it needs to be introduced at the proper age. Speaking from years of experience as both a strength coach and father of youth athletes, I have found some cues that might tell you that your child is not ready to start training:

• Your child cannot independently tie their shoes

• Their sport season involves a Snack of Snack schedule for parents

• You have to dress them in their uniforms for games

• They do not keep score in their sports games

If any of these cues ring true to you and your situation, don’t worry. Take some time to let your little athlete fall in love with the sports they chose.  When they can honestly agree on certain aspects of athleticism they want to improve on, then it may be time to look for a sports performance program.

Angry Andy

Angry Andy is just as his name implies. Andy comes in for his initial evaluation and says a total of 14 words. Even my incredible sense of humor cannot get a smile out of the kid. When asked about what he would want to improve on he says “just ask my dad”. When I do talk with dad, he gives me a laundry list of abilities only few mortals on this earth have. There are two things that are at issue here. First the commitment level of Angry Andy is to be questioned. I understand that he could benefit from what we do here, but if he does not buy into the program he will not profit from this experience. Second are the expectations set up by Dad. I am all for setting your goals high, yet there needs to be other goals on the way. One 4 week training block will not produce NFL Combine numbers, that’s just the facts about sports performance training. Attainable goals and full commitment to a program will set the stage for Andy to reach his full potential.

In conclusion, all parents want the best for their children. Nothing could make a parent more proud than seeing their child reach their full potential in sports. When dealing with youth athletics, we need to understand that they are still children.  From 9-19 years old, all youth athletes need to be put into the right situations to succeed. I would hate to have a athlete’s progress hindered due to lack of information on proper sports performance training. My hope is that this article will help parents identify some issues that come up in this field and take the proper steps to progress their children the right way. For more information on this topic, continue to check back to the MVP Blog.


-Coach Wray Watkins