Thursday, February 7, 2008


I've never played organized hockey in my life, but being from the great state of Minnesota, I have played in my share of pick-up games. Yes, I can skate; my Dad used to make us an ice rink each winter growing up.

Hockey, however, is one of the many problems, of youth athletics. Ask any serious hockey player or parent of one, when they or their child started to play hockey, they will probably say something along the lines, "well, I learned to skate when I was 2, and started playing mini-mites at 7 or 8".

... 2?!... 7, 8?!... crazy!

My daughter is four months away from 2 years of age, she still can't jump, and still trips and falls just running around... do I need to put the skates on her already? Am I missing something?

Then to top it off, these kids parents are their coach. Think about that for a second... their parents usually have no idea of the needs of young athlete. (Notice I didn't say hockey player: you are not a hockey player at age 7, you are a young child)

These so-called coaches of these youth hockey programs take it to the extent of having early morning hockey practices before school, in-season training after school, and then spinning classes at night, because the fools for coaches think their "athletes" need to be in great shape for their WEEKLY, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday tournament. (this is a true situation, as a matter of fact)

I've worked with many hockey players... you should see some of them run. You'd swear they had skates on, but they do squat well.

This problem isn't just related to hockey however, it is everywhere. Many other sports are being played year round. Every parent thinks they have the next Tiger Woods, Alex Rodriguez, Lebron James or Serena Williams.

As strength coach, Mike Boyle, has said before, it's organized child abuse.

Then to top it off, we have sports training centers popping up, to cash in on the overzealous parents and their little "superstar".

Now I am all for increasing the activity of our youth, as obesity is an getting to be an insurmountable problem in our society, but most of these centers are just glorified conditioning conveyor belts. They are running kids through the assembly line like bottles of Coca-Cola. C'mon, any body can condition someone.

I would bet most of these places aren't teaching the fundamentals of quality movement. This could start another rant about sport-specific training. If I hear some place offers sport-specific training, I know it's crap. Kids need the fundamentals of movement and lots of play.

I don't know if I will ever coach an athlete who needs something beyond the fundamentals of movement and training. It's rare that athletes are at the level of movement efficiency that they can move beyond the basics.

This also brings me to another thought. Working at the collegiate level it seems to be the norm these days to have movement dysfunction. There seems to be more "jacked-up" individuals than decent functioning ones. Every athlete seems to have a shoulder, back, or knee issue, or all three.

Just as we are rapidly advancing our knowledge in the area of performance enhancement, there is a just as rapid decline in athletes who are truly athletes. Maybe the all the dysfunction is forcing us to get a better understand? But I do know the young specialization and the age of technology are definitely to blame. I sit here at my computer.

I guess it's an inverse relationship, the more we learn and understand, the more "jacked up" we are getting. This isn't even considering the general population. I have spent time working with the general public, and I learned more about dysfunction in that time than I wanted to.

All this leads me to the question: Where do we start?

Obviously this is a loaded question.

My thoughts immediately go to our school systems.

My undergraduate degree is in physical education, and I spent over a year and a half substitute teaching in numerous schools in 10 different cities in Minnesota and North Dakota. Each school is in the same situation; less P.E., more classroom time. Are our youth getting that much smarter from the extra class time? Carla Hannaford's Smart Moves should be required reading for anyone who has a pulse, but especially if you work with kids or are a parent. Hannaford covers every detail on why movement is so important to learning and the well being of everyone.

Plus, I hate to say it, most physical education curriculum's don't do too well in teaching movement, and if they do, it isn't being kept up, because most schools only require P.E. through 9th or 10th grade, and sometime only two times per week for only a 1/2 hour. I guess when we are 16 we don't need to exercise anymore.

The great majority of the athletes that we see excel today, are doing so on top of movement dysfunction. It's rare for an athlete to go through their sporting career without some sort of non-contact injury. But does it really have to be this way?

What if our youth were allowed to grow up without the "coaching expertise" of their parents, and allowed to play the way they want?

What if a child wanted to play in an organized sport, they were required to play in 4 different sports throughout the year? They couldn't sign up to play basketball or soccer, they could only sign up for sports.

What if quality movement was the basis for all physical education curricula? Students were required to learn how to hip hinge, squat, lunge, jump, run, land, change direction, and just to stand properly, to name just a few. Hey... we require kids to learn algebra, write, learn science and history, why can't they be required to learn movement.

What if you had to be able to do all the previously mentioned movement at an acceptable level to graduate?

What if physical education was required everyday of the week for a student's entire academic career?

What if all this were true? What kind of athlete might we have to work with at the collegiate level and beyond?

Maybe this is just wishful thinking. But what if?


1 comment:

Mike T Nelson said...

Preach on brother!
Kids need to learn to be better ATHLETES first, above all else.
Keep up the great work!
Mike N