Training early for lifelong success

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It has become the status quo to take children as early as five years old and decide their course in athletics. My child is a baseball player, football player, soccer player, or golfer! If I make them train in one sport early they are sure to be a success! Not only is this approach a poor concept for sports skill development, it is a poor template for physical conditioning.

Junior fitness and sports specific conditioning has come to the forefront of marketing and advertising in the last few years. It is an enormous market and parents are quick to pay the price for their child to run faster, jump higher, or swing harder in six to eight weeks. The problem with this methodology is the development of a child is not a sprint, it is a marathon. The growth and development stages of a child through adolescence into maturity are many and differ with gender. Any short term gains for the sake of marketing typically put the junior athlete at risk for injury or burnout. High stress and high intensity workout programs early in development are typically more harmful to the developing athlete.

What must be understood by parents and coaches is that a junior should be developing neurologically and building strength through the course of normal daily activities. In today’s society of gaming systems, internet, and cable television juniors do not get the volume of “play” that was once the normative for a developing athlete. Most activities you can name that a junior could perform to build strength, endurance, and balance have been turned into a video game to be played while sitting in a chair. If you take this junior and put them directly into a sport or sports performance fitness program you are surely setting them up for injury. A junior must be prepared for demanding activities through methodical preparation using an age specific fitness program.

A solid junior fitness program is imperative to ensure your junior has safe and effective sports performance. Golf is an incredible sport. Golf teaches many of life’s lessons. Golf is demanding on the body at any age. Golf is demanding on the mind at any age. Building a healthy junior athlete for golf is a great endeavor for the parent and the junior. By creating an environment that effectively challenges a junior appropriately for their developmental stage you are ensuring a progression in sports that will develop the skills of your junior correctly.

Kid doing push-upsHere is some information to keep in mind while helping your junior athlete develop. If you want to build a great golfer, you must build a great athlete. There is no greater mistake in sports than training exclusively for your sport at a young age. Juniors must be involved in a variety of sports and play activities to help their bodies develop greater balance, coordination, speed, agility, etc… Believe it or not, skateboarding and playing basketball will provide a more well rounded skill development for golf than pulling on a rubber band in a golf motion could ever hope to achieve. Young golfers that start swinging a club at five years of age but never explore the motor patterns of movements in the opposite direction of their swing are building physical imbalances. These imbalances over time create an environment for injury and poor performance. It is important that juniors spend time jumping, running, throwing, catching, rolling, shuffling, hopping… you get the point! If you want to be a great athlete, look at the successful golfers of the past and present. What you will find is they are great at other sports as well.

How do I train? There are many ways to enhance your training to improve your golf game and your quality of movement. This article was written to give you some general ideas about how to go about this important skill. When you think of your training, think of movement patterns, not just movements. This means using as much of your body as possible to perform workout activities. You do not hit a golf ball with your back or biceps or legs. You hit a golf ball with the coordinated sequencing of all of your primary muscles and their supporting casts. For this reason, you should seek out exercises that challenge your strength, balance, coordination, and power all at the same time.

Here are some examples for smaller children (ages 5-10): push-ups, sit-ups, weight bearing stretches, bear crawls, two on two soccer and basketball, box jumping, frog hops. This list is endless and only limited by your imagination. The goal is to create activities that encourage the use of the juniors own body weight as resistance, promote simplified team games, and enhance flexibility performing stretches on your feet.

As you move into the 11-14 age division you are encouraged to get your junior involved in other sports to assist with creating a dynamic athlete that has a well developed neurological system. You can now begin to add external resistance as the junior has proven proficiency with maintaining excellent form using their own body weight. Continue with flexibility and increase the structure of the cardiovascular exercise.

Finally, as you begin training the 15-19 age division you are given more liberties with weight training and explosive strength. It is most important that as heavier weights are added and more dynamic movements at high speeds are required, the junior must maintain safe and efficient form during exercise.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Golf Fitness Magazine is the only national consumer publication dedicated to golf-specific fitness, mental focus, and improving ability, performance and health among all golfers. Get cutting edge fitness & mental tips sent to your inbox each month with our free golf performance eNewsletter, Shape Your Game.