In the past six months I have been providing consulting for a trainer as she writes programming and leads an excellent group of young female swimmers. I have had the experience of working with some of these athletes in the past and have observed their training sessions. The ladies are hard workers, which is evident both inside the gym and from their success in the pool. I have had the opportunity to work with several swimmers, both youth and adult, over the past 12 years along with an extensive number of youth athletes from other sports (baseball, football, wrestling, basketball, etc.). One trend that I’ve seen in recent years is the focus on the sport itself; improving as a swimmer, basketball player, etc., rather than on improving the overall athleticism of the athlete. I understand they need to get their meters and shots in everyday to improve but if they squat and their knees collapse or they lack range of motion in the shoulder, they are not going to be running up and down the court or swimming yards for very long before they begin to experience injuries which will limit them in reaching max performance.
Let me explain. Many of the swimmers and runners I see lack full range of motion in their hips and shoulders. Many of them come to me saying, “when I squat (which resembles more of a knee bend) my knees hurt”. Or, “I haven’t been swimming because of shoulder pain”. When I take them through a Movement Screening I find all sorts of poor movement patterns and immobility. All these things can be fixed in the weight room and honestly are often exacerbated in the pool as well as on the court. There is a finite amount of time that you can drive your car with poor alignment before you have other, more serious issues; your body doesn’t operate much different. In the gym we can fix and strengthen good movement patterns that will only improve and maintain peak performance in your young athletes over time. There needs to be an offseason so that they can recovery from the intensity of season as well as work on weaknesses within movement patterns so that when the next season comes around, you have a finely tuned athlete ready to perform.
As parents and coaches we have to help these young athletes realize what it’s going to take to be a scholarship athlete, as well as what’s best for their health long term. Let’s be honest, most are not going to get a scholarship, even though they may compete in college. Fewer will make a living in their sport. Using a well programmed strength and conditioning program will not only make them better athletes, but teach them the importance of the basics that will make them successful in life. Most will get out of college looking for a great job, we can use sports to show them there is a lot of work to do outside of the public’s eye, like strength and conditioning, that makes someone a great CEO, Doctor, Farmer, Swimmer, etc.