Specialized training is on the rise within the competitive youth sports landscape. A vast array of small group and individualized programs currently on the market – pitching and hitting for baseball, passing and receiving for football, dribbling and ball control for soccer, shooting for basketball – offer quality structured environments for young players to improve techniques within their sport. However, while sport specific skill development in many youth sports is still the hottest trend , professional strength and conditioning training for athletes ages 14-18 is quickly gaining traction, and young boys and girls are reaping the benefits of a once enigmatic area of youth sports.
Quite frankly, carefully guided weight training instruction is long overdue in youth sports. I recently visited with a few local high school soccer teams and coaching staffs to learn more about their players and their training regimen. Each time I asked the groups of young players if they either lift weights or do some sort of strength training, almost all the athletes (unsurprisingly I might add) raised their hands. However, I was surprised when I learned more details regarding their strength training habits. Several players indicated they worked out in PE class. Others attended large adult gyms like Planet Fitness or Leisure World. Many admitted to following routines they read in magazines or found online, and some, unfortunately, admitted piddling about the weight room randomly working on certain body parts depending on the day.
These anecdotes reminded me of my high school weight lifting experience. My brothers and I attended the local YMCA with little more than a few torn out pages from the latest Men’s Health magazine, and we often just mimicked the curls and presses of the twenty and thirty year old men that surrounded us. I didn’t have a clue what sort of strength training I needed to help me succeed in soccer. Even more regrettably, without coaching and proper supervision, I had little safety awareness and nor an ability to recognize if I was doing harm to my body. As I continued listening to their stories, it became clear that same misguidance regarding weight training remains quite pervasive among high school athletes.
Fortunately, quality weight training is no longer elusive for high school athletes. Along with the help of certified strength and conditioning coaches, Elite FT has created a program specifically designed to help high school and college players of any sport. Leading up to the start of a season, high school and college athletes can train in an effective and safe environment under the guidance of NCAA Division I specialists. Programs are tailored to meet the specific demands of each sport and coaches can register their entire teams to work out together.
This past winter, the girls soccer teams at Alton High School and Collinsville High School enrolled in the Elite FT Training Center and Gym soccer training program to prepare for the start of their seasons. These young athletes trained for one hour, 2-3 times per week in an effort to improve their overall strength, but also specifically focused on their lower body to improve their sprinting, cutting ability, core stability and balance. As female soccer players in particular are prone to knee and other lower body injuries, our program’s concentration on lower body conditioning seeks to aid injury prevention as well.
After completing the program with his players, Collinsville girls soccer coach Clay Smith is impressed with the condition of his team early in the season. “The Elite FT Training Center & Staff gave my girls the strength and confidence of the highest level coming into the season. The players’ fitness levels during the first week of the season were the best my staff and I have seen in the past six years at CHS. The CHS girls soccer program has experienced quicker recovery times between games and sessions than ever before due to the targeted workout sessions provided by the Elite FT Training Staff and Gym.”
Jeff Hayes, Alton High School girls soccer coach, is also noticing an overall improvement in his players’ fitness as they continue their excellent start to their season: “Our preseason strength and conditioning program with Elite FT could not have gone any better. My players are already seeing the results from their hard work pay off on the field. We look faster and stronger on the ball this year more than we have in my previous two years with Alton High School.”
This summer, area high school boys soccer teams will also be looking to reap similar strength and conditioning gains. The coaches at Edwardsville High School, Collinsville High School, O’Fallon Township High School, Alton High School and Gateway Preparatory Academy will work with Elite FT’s strength and conditioning specialists to help their athletes increase their chances for success in their fall seasons. Individual high school players from other sports (baseball, basketball, tennis) are also inquiring about our sport specific strength and conditioning programs. College athletes who will be home for the summer before returning to their schools to begin fall seasons have also contacted Elite FT to help design a strength program for them, or to help guide and implement a program provided to them by their respective sports program.
Sport performance training is growing and the athletes in southern Illinois now have an opportunity to exercise in a safe environment with professional instruction at a convenient location. The notion that good athletes, whether high school or college, are on their own during the offseason is antiquated. Athletes today need the help of knowledgeable, eager professionals in order to maximize their athletic potential.
To register or find more information on our sports performance programs can be found on our website or by contacting Elite FT at 618-972-1830.