How many unqualified lawyers have you had take on your law issues, how about unqualified accountants to take care of your taxes, anyone letting their kids go to school without qualified teachers? I’m sure you all answered none and of course not to those questions. Why would you use someone that was not qualified to handle your personal issues and take care of your child? You wouldn’t, yet everyday there are unqualified individuals acting as strength & conditioning professionals and attempting to coach your children.
A strength & conditioning coach is no different than anyone else that considers themselves a professional. A strength and conditioning professional should have degrees in a related field to strength & conditioning such as exercise science, kinesiology or physical education. They should also possess certifications from accredited and well respected organizations within the field. The Collegiate Strength & Conditioning Coaches Association, The National Strength & Conditioning Association and The United States of America Weightlifting are a few of the respected organizations out there. Experience is something else that you might want to find out about too. Who have they worked with, where have they worked, do they have references that support their efforts.
There are so many reasons why it is important to have a qualified strength and conditioning professional be the one that is actually working with your child, but I will only discuss a few here.
The first one is so blatantly obvious, but it bears repeating, they are qualified to do the job! They have done the schooling, received the certifications and have the work experience. Are you hiring someone that does not have the proper degrees and certifications to be an architect to design the building of your home? Of course you aren’t so why would you use someone that is going to help build and develop your most prized possession, your child? You wouldn’t, end of story.
Second, which plays off the first point somewhat. The biggest thing about being in a profession is you are continuing to learn new things about your industry on a daily basis. It has been said that taking a year off from the strength and conditioning field would put you years behind the rest. There is that much to learn every year! So if you are not continually learning and improving your skill set, you are falling behind. It is a consistently changing field that requires a deep understanding of the material and how to properly apply it. A 100% commitment is required to be a professional in any field, strength and conditioning is no different.
Third and I’ll finish with this point, when unqualified individuals attempt to run a strength and conditioning program the chance of injury goes up exponentially. One of the most difficult things to do is “give credit” to how some injuries present themselves. Chronic issues will not appear immediately (duh) and might not even develop until a few years down the road. A chronic issue could develop because an athlete might be asked to perform a movement they are not ready for; they shouldn’t be doing at all or are asked to do too much too soon.
Injuries, whether acute or chronic are unfortunate, but something that is caused due to chronic repetition of improper form due to poor coaching or the athlete not being able to physically perform the movement could take an extremely long amount of time to correct. There is a saying that goes, for every wrong repetition you do, you will have to do it properly five times. So think about doing something wrong for two years and add up all those repetitions, it’s not correcting itself over night. The proper movement pattern has been broken down so much that the repetitions that are needed to fix it will be substantial. Do not let these poor movement patterns lead to a broken athlete.
When it comes down to it, I want all young athletes to receive proper coaching and be able to increase their strength, power and speed while reducing their chance of injury. Every strength and conditioning professional should be able to tell you why they are doing everything in their program, if not, find someone that can. Make sure that your young athletes are getting what they need and deserve.
Have you ever noticed young children outside playing? I mean really, really payed attention to every detail. You would have noticed a few things. First, and foremost they have a tremendous ability to squat down and pick things up with near perfect form. They possess the skill to lunge forward, push and pull objects and are beginning to gain the ability to balance pretty well. Overall their movement looks pretty awesome! Second, they are learning new skills; jumping, running, skipping and climbing, to name a few. What else you might notice is that they are having fun. Physical activity is fun!
The one thing we really need throughout our whole lives to be happy and healthy is physical activity. Unfortunately the time that is made for physical activity has decreased not only for our adult population, but it has been significantly limited for our youth population. Elementary and high schools have decreased their requirements for daily physical activity to the point where some students are no long required to even partake in any physical education sessions at all in high school. I guess once you reach a certain teenage year physical activity is no longer deemed as important.
There are a few options to deal with this problem, although I do not know how the logistics would work when you bring in political and social intervention. We know people are very hesitant to change their ways, especially when it doesn’t seem to benefit them.
First, increase the length of the school day so everyone has to participate in physical activity every day. Sure everyone had to work a little longer, but the pay off would be huge. Second, make it a requirement that all students must play a sport during the school year. Many private schools already make this a requirement and I do not see why it should be any different at the public school. Third, have your child participate in an activity outside of school. Whether it be a youth sport league or a youth training facility, make sure that they are getting the physical activity they need.
Just as important, if not more, make sure your children are learning good nutrition habits. You are the teacher and role model. Make good decisions about what you and your children are eating. Keep it simple; fill up on a lot of vegetables, protein, healthy fats and some high fiber fruit. If you are confused about what you should be eating, seek out a professional for help.
Let’s help get our next generation get headed in the right direction for a healthier, more enjoyable life. It all starts with developing physical activity and healthy eating habits at a young age.
SPU's Alex Drayson and Matt Migiano write the SPU Athletic Performance Blog.
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