I’ve been watching a trend with young athletes. Kids these days are being asked to pick a sport at a young age, and then practice that sport year round. The arguments for this are that kids are so good at their sport, and the only way to compete is to train year round.

Focusing only on a single sport, especially from a young age, can be more detrimental than beneficial. Children (all humans actually) develop best when exposed to a wide variety of stimuli. The human body learns to adapt very rapidly and learns to become efficient with the demands placed on it. If an imbalance of time is spent on certain movements, the body will get good at some movements while others will suffer.

To develop overall athletic ability, I agree with the founder of the Functional Movement Screen, Grey Cook. Athletic development should look like a pyramid.

Base of the pyramid: Movement Capacity. The athlete should have good movement, and it should be balanced between the left and right side.

Middle of the pyramid: Performance. This portion of the pyramid is supported by the larger base of Movement Capacity and represents the overall strength, speed and performance of the athlete.

Top of the pyramid: Sport Specific Skill. This is the smallest portion of the pyramid and represents the athlete’s ability to perform the skills need for their sport.

How much time in each of the areas are your athletes spending their time? Are they spending enough time on Movement Capacity? Have you measured or evaluated the movements to determine where future problems might lie?

For example, if a sport requires a lot of jumping such as volleyball and basketball, have you evaluated squatting and jumping mechanics? I’ve seen a lot of these young athletes that do not have the ability to track their knees over their toes when squatting (this is called valgus). Squatting and jumping in this manner can lead to serious knee injuries, to include the dreaded ACL tear.

A good sports development program should include all three phases of sports performance: Movement Capacity, Performance and Sport Specific Skill. Evaluate movements and spend time correcting them before adding load or speed to the equation. Fixing movement, without doing anything else can improve performance. Poor movement can be described as trying to drive a race car with clown shoes (pressing on the accelerator and brake at the same time).

Take off the clown shoes and put your foot on the accelerator. Talk to us about the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) or OPEX Movement Assessment and see how we can help you.