Is Sport Specific Training Really Necessary For Spokane Youth to High School Aged Athletes?

As a career trainer and coach in North Spokane (Mead / Colbert area), I’ve witnessed a major shift in youth and high school team sports over the past decade. Working first hand with collegiate and high school athletes (even a couple professional athletes) I’ve been blessed with helping student-athletes set and achieve their fitness goals.

During this time, I’ve witnessed a major growing trend in the competitiveness of team sports, which has carried over into new branches of sport specific training and even position specific training for team sports. Seeing new trainers and groups emerge to meet the demands of the growing trend has led me to ponder; is sport specific training really necessary for youth and high school athletes?

Read on to discover why sport specific training may not be the best training method for your student-athlete and what really is the ultimate, viable solution for your child.

What is Sport Performance Training and Sport Specific Performance Training?

Sport performance training programs should embody a well-rounded regimen of strength/power, speed, agility, core strength, and mobility in order to develop a complete athlete. Initially, a base and strong foundation (technique and form) should be established (this is our youth sport performance training for Mead and Colbert area athletes), and then various training protocols should be applied to continuously graduate the athlete’s performance level based upon the different fitness categories.

However, with sport specific or even position (based on team sports) specific training, there’s an immediate jump into training catered to the functions of that sport. Some programs do this really well, however most jump into this type of training too early and honestly while the athlete’s foundation is still unstable and weak.

Just as a quick disclaimer, we’re not discussing endurance sports, or working with someone on hitting drills, throwing drills or essentially practice. Although, at times it seems like some of these new “sport specific programs” are not doing anything more then accessary “practice drills.” There’s a reason why Tommy John’s surgery is more prevalent in younger baseball players, and knee injuries are on the rise for youth and high school volleyball / soccer players.

Playing numerous games in a day, or throwing repetitively without rest can lead to Over Stress Syndrome and make it very difficult for the body to repair itself. Plus, without completely stepping away and developing the athlete with true sports performance training, the player lacks the muscular support for strong, balanced joints.

As the Mt.Spokane High School Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Coach for most team sports, we believe in Sports Performance Training. The thought and principles are good behind Sport Specific Training, but we’ve often seen athletes who leave our program and go the latter being underserved and losing ground on total performance.

So, when is Sport Specific Training a good idea?

Honestly, most youth and high school athletes are not developed enough for Sport Specific Training until they are of college age. Ultimately, there’s no higher compliment for an athlete to be a total and completely well-rounded athlete. It’s certainly not easy to play two or three sports anymore, but playing several sports well is a phenomenal feat.

By the time one is of age and ready for the next level, that’s when sport specific training should take into effect. Ideally, the body should have a strong, well-rounded foundation and it’s generally rare for one to play a couple collegiate sports.

Is our philosophy valid?

Fortunately, it’s not rocket science. The body can only move and perform in so many ways. In addition, there’s no secret “miracle” exercises for making basketball players jump higher, or football players run faster, and baseball / softball players throw with more velocity. Most exercises cross-over perfectly for all sports.

Here’s some strength, speed and plyometric examples. Personally, my 40 time, vertical, and broad jump were at their best when I was 270 pounds and squatting close to 600 pounds (585 to be exact). If one thinks there’s no direct correlation, then they’re wrong. So, squats should be at the hierarchy of the strength category for all Sport Performance Training programs.

One of my first clients was a professional pitcher for the Anaheim Angels baseball team. Throwing in the 90’s was a breeze for him, and this power started in his base. At the start of his kinetic chain, he could generate enough force and release this through his pitch on a consistent basis. He was also a beast when it came to back squats, plyometric drills and sprints. He didn’t just for light strength and mobility in his shoulders, arms and core, but did it all.

Basketball players, football players, volleyball players, softball, baseball, tennis, and track athletes all need to be fast, strong and “springy.” Squats are just one exercise and a piece of the formula, along with plyometrics, agility and speed drills. This along with how we organize our training days, involve rest periods and cycle (scalable, all-level) exercises develops a winning formula that has been proven highly successful through generations of our Mt. Spokane High School athletes.

Don’t forget mobility

Mobility along with shoulder strength is an area of fitness that has been deemed as baseball and softball specific by some. However, what sports wouldn’t benefit from this training protocol? If a sport has a throwing motion, serve, or swing, improving the athletes range of motion and total / balanced shoulder strength is key for avoiding injuries and improving performance. Just check out the leaders in resistance bands: Crossover Symmetry. They’re product and system was developed by a baseball player, and is widely used by all sports including CrossFit.

Final thought and what really makes a sport performance program successful.

Every sport taxes the athlete’s core, mobility, strength, speed and agility in a certain way. Ideally, finding an experienced program that does a great job of targeting and training towards improvement in all of these areas is best for developing a complete athlete.

At Mt. Spokane High School, we’re heading into our ninth season of our annual and Official Wildcat Summer Sports Performance Training Camp (Strength and Conditioning Camp). This is a great opportunity for a youth or high school aged athlete to improve on their sport and become a better athlete. At this point, if one commits, and shows up consistently, our formula is proven and will equal results.

There are certainly programs that will promise big things, but it’s hard to have proven results with a minimal experience level. It takes constant program innovation and working with countless goals to develop a polished and highly effective formula.

What does this mean for you the parent?

Your time and hard earned money is valuable and should not be wasted. Yes, you can certainly do a number of these exercises on your own and we will provide a number of them in the next several posts. However, if you wish to hire a professional, we will list some trustworthy partners very soon. We can offer this service too, and our rates are really low. Sometimes this seems like a red flag, because the general perception is expensive training equals better results. Just be aware, there’s a number of programs who know parents will pay top dollar for “improving” their child’s performance level.

We personally stick to our original school rates to make our program available to the entire team, not the individual. This in return allows for kids to grow and bond with their peers and develop team chemistry in the off-season and the opportunity to grow in a fun, positive and challenging environment.

Stay tuned. If you feel your program should be a partner, or, if you have any questions, let’s hear them in the comments section below. We would love your feedback. 

Cheers with a protein shake to you and your student athlete’s fitness goals!

Team RundleFit

About The Author

Coach Justin

Justin and Jessica Rundle are Spokane natives and the founders of Workout Anywhere (a Northwest fitness training app for busy parents, by busy parents). In addition, the two are the official strength & conditioning coaches for Mt. Spokane High School. To Learn more about Jessica and Justin Rundle, click here: Meet Team RundleFit.

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