Many injuries sustained by young athletes playing organized sports can be avoided if the athlete is properly conditioned. As competitive levels increase in younger age groups it is important that parents and coaches are knowledgeable about proper conditioning programs and know when to rest athletes to prevent unnecessary and avoidable injuries. Coaches, athletes, and parents must remember that being physically fit for one sport or position does not necessarily mean an athlete is adequately prepared for another.
10 Principles of Conditioning
- Warm up/cool down- warm up with a light jog or swim a few easy laps to get blood flowing into the muscles to warm them up. It is easier to stretch a warm muscle than a cold muscle. After warming up, stretch the appropriate muscle groups, perform the activity, and then cool down with stretching.
- Motivation- coaches should be creative with workouts and practices to keep the athlete interested and keep them from getting bored. Training is allowed to be fun!
- Overload- work harder than normal to place a stress on your body, within limits, and your body will adapt and improve to those levels as long as they are not too difficult.
- Consistency- workouts must have a regular set schedule to be effective.
- Progression- like overload, this is done by increasing the intensity of a workout (more reps or weight) gradually and within the athlete’s ability over a period of time.
- Intensity- quality instead of quantity. Work hard for shorter periods of time, rather than for longer periods of time.
- Specificity- be specific in your drills to match the skill the athlete requires for the sport.
- Individuality- every athlete is an individual and will need individual attention.
- Minimize stress- push athletes, but give them time to rest and be away from conditioning during the week (at least one to two days off).
- Safety- make sure the environment where the athlete is training is safe, and teach proper technique.
Consult your primary care physician for more serious injuries that do not respond to basic first aid. As an added resource, the staff at Nationwide Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine is available to diagnose and treat sports-related injuries for youth or adolescent athletes. Services are now available in five locations. To make an appointment, call (614) 355-6000 or request an appointment online.