It may seem like it would make sense to do the same exercises and push young athletes the same way that you were pushed or the same way that you saw a coach of another higher level team work their older players. Unfortunately, more often than not, this can be more detrimental than beneficial. Young athletes are still growing, still developing, and still changing. More importantly, they are doing this at an accelerated rate. Young athletes are not miniature adults and cannot be trained the same.
People who intentionally or unintentionally treat their young athletes like miniature adults, may argue that they are making their players better. Depending on the athlete that may be true, but the question I ask is: Are you helping the young athletes be as good as they can be or are you limiting their potential?
Just because you did the exercise when you were younger, you read about an exercise online, or saw a coach do the exercise at a training session does not always mean that you understand when an exercise is appropriate to do. As a coach, you may understand what an exercise is designed to accomplish, but do you fully understand what effects it may have on the developing young athletes.
The potential negative effects of an inappropriate training program may never be reversed as movement and skill patterns developed in younger ages will more than likely develop neurological patterns that will exist throughout their lifetime.
Being a coach or a parent is no easy task. It requires being level-headed with a long-term goal in mind. Training a young athlete is an involved and challenging task. This is why it is always the best option to have the young athlete train under the supervision and instruction of a qualified health and performance professional. There are no secrets or magic training programs for training young athletes. There are no perfect exercises. There are athlete focused appropriate progressions of training program variables by a knowledgeable and qualified health and performance professional to help the young athlete have the confidence to participate in the training program with greater effort and body skill mastery.
What can you do as a parent or coach? Understand that it is always better to under train than to over train. Ask a knowledgeable professional what may be appropriate for your young athlete to do as part of a training program. And pay attention to what your young athlete may do well with and may struggle with, as this helps you know their physical competency and can shed some light into what the young athlete may benefit from in their athletic progression.
Scanlan TK, Carpenter PJ, Lobel M, Simons JP. Sources of enjoyment for youth sport athletes. Pediatric Exercise Science. 1993:5;275-285.
Faigenbaum AD, Meadors L. A coaches dozen: 12 fundamental principles for building young and health athletes. Strength and Cond J. 2010:32(2);99-101.
Available at: http://www.physicalliteracy.ca/what-is-physical-literacy. Accessed August 22, 2015.