As I can recall going into high school, I had a lot to think about that didn’t include playing sports. Yet, playing sports ended up taking up most of my time throughout high school. But when you are a young athlete and your plate keeps growing, it’s important to simplify in order to be successful. You’ve got to cut down all the excess things that aren’t important and won’t get you to your goals. Some days, going out to the field for a workout is what needs to be done and the 3 hours you spend on Call of Duty will not. If you want the prize, you have to pay the price. So it’s important to decide what are your goals for your 4 valuable years of high school, and then simplify how to get there.
Every athlete, where collegiate or even professional, has certain things that they need to do in order to be successful. The difference between these groups is what role each thing plays and how important each one is at that particular time in their career. Lifting weights is incredibly important for a young, developing athlete and continues to be all the way through college. It becomes less involved (not less important) during professional sports simply because the sport itself is played much more often. But for the youth athlete playing once or twice a week, this is the time you have to build the foundation. There are things that you can to in order to get ahead and stay ahead. There is nothing anyone can do for a young high school kid that simply doesn’t have what it takes to play. But if you find that a sport seems to come naturally, and you’re jumping higher than all of your friends or outrunning everybody in class this could mean a free education somewhere if you really put hard work into what you do. Here are 3 things to make sure you do in order to simplify your path to success:
In order to beat the best, you’re going to need a lot of strength. These kids you are facing are getting huge somehow. Offensive linemen are coming out of high school over 300 lbs. and 6’4″ and above. That means at some point you might have to run away from a small bull with a helmet and shoulders pads. High school basketball players are growing to 7′ tall, so you better make sure you can jump too. High school baseball pitchers are throwing over 88 mph almost consistently in areas known for baseball like California, Texas, and Florida so get ready for some muscular coordination and while your at it generate some freakish torque. No matter what sport you decide to play, your competition is getting more and more talented. It all starts at 6am in that high school weight room with your droopy eyed teammates who also don’t want to be up that early. But you have to realize the prize and get the team to pay the price that day. Learn the basic movements. Everyone on your team should be learning how to squat, hinge at the hip, push with the upper body, and pull with the upper body. Notice I didn’t mention that you should learn to curl the barbell 100 times? That’s because I’m trying to simplify the road to success. You need to cut off what you need and what you don’t in order to beat the competition. The competition isn’t that girl in 6th period that you want to impress, it’s a 6’3″ linebacker named LeRoy that wants his helmet to go into your sternum at some point in the game. So think more about LeRoy’s helmet not getting there and less about the girl in 6th period, she flirts too much with everyone anyway. Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull, Sprint, Jump. Learn those and make sure everyone else does too. It takes a team to win anything, ask present day Kobe Bryant.
2. Nutrition & Supplementation
School lunch doesn’t exactly provide options that are good for what we’re trying to accomplish. You train hard in the mornings and are starving getting to lunch only to find salisbury steak with carrot sticks as your fuel for the day. It’s not exactly “cool” to have your mom packing your lunch anymore, so you’re going to have to man up and learn a little something about nutrition. A growing person in high school needs lots of fuel to feed the furnace that’s constantly burning. Your metabolism is running on all cylinders most of the day and it runs on calories. So, while we want lots of them, we don’t want these calories to come in the form of Big Mac’s. Sorry, but you have to sacrifice the joy a Big Mac brings at age 14-15 for the things you need to develop better. Peanut butter and jelly’s are an option, so I’m not saying it’s all vegetables and no fun. But, you have to make sure whatever you eat is high in protein and carbohydrates. Fat is not really an issue at this point, so don’t avoid it like the plague but don’t embrace fatty foods like milkshakes as a staple of your eating habits. I understand a kid at that age is going to want to have some fun and eat foods he or she isn’t supposed to and that’s fine. Just make sure when it’s lunch time in the cafeteria, you have packed a lunch that is going to give you fuel for practice after school. Chocolate milks are a great way to get some fats, proteins, and carbohydrates so chug those little cartons until you can’t drink another one. Fill up a water bottle all day and continue drinking fluids that don’t have a fizzy sound when you open it.
Supplementation is included in here because we want to supplement your diet with things you aren’t able to get easily. Things like protein are very important and carbohydrates to fuel you during long, hot practices are important. No, I am not saying go to GNC and ask the sales person what your kid needs. Chances are that person is just going to read the labels and pick what sounds the best not really knowing what’s in it or even the organic chemistry behind it. Supplements can be as simple as a gatorade or chocolate milk, technically. You are just supplementing your diet with carbohydrates from gatorades and protein, carbs, and fats in chocolate milk. But people tend to associate the word “steroids” with supplements, due to the media’s portrayal of them in order to make it an issue worth boosting their ratings. Supplements are not harmful when researched and selected carefully.
My suggestion for parents of a young athlete would be to make sure first water is the go-to drink all day long. This is a really difficult task because kids hate water at a young age until their sweating to death in 100 degree heat. So, keep in nearby and convenient for the kids with a water bottle they can take with them and it makes it much easier. Second, make sure the diet is consisting of fruits, vegetables, and meats. Try to limit the amount of bread and sweets that they have around the house. If there are Little Debbie cakes in the pantry, they will eat them and not hold back on eating the whole box. Pringles are a high school kid’s favorite snack and you do not want a kid’s favorite snack to be the one with a slogan involving “once you pop, the fun don’t stop”. It’s better to influence them to try things like apples, celery, and oranges rather than give them the freedom to crush gushers. This is a case of you knowing more than them and they’ll appreciate it later. Third, you can entertain the idea of a sports supplement like gatorade, chocolate milk, or the more specific supplements like whey proteins or fish oils if the first two things have been satisfied. Parents and young athletes make the mistake of starting with number 3 and never handling #1 or #2. This creates a bad habit and ultimately ends up in the athlete being disappointed in the results of the supplement he or she purchased. Simplify what you put into your body and get used to foods that are better for your body than better tasting for the moment.
3. Everything in between
This is probably the most significant thing that affects and influences the daily life of a young high school athlete. Girls, homework, parties, driving, and popularity just some of the things going on for high school kids. To add a sport on top of that only means more stress and less time to handle all the things. This makes it extremely important that you as a young athlete mature quickly and realize what’s important in getting you from point A to point B. Going to a batting cage on a Saturday morning is one of the last things a young kid wants to do, but thank god my Dad made me do it because it put things into perspective. There were many things that I “missed out” on when I was younger because I was practicing a sport. Then, you get older and look back at all of the things you were so lucky to have “missed out” on. Most of those things just led people to problems and getting into trouble. You will have so much time to experience whatever you want to in life later on that for that moment in time, devoting some time to your sport or to your schoolwork is the best thing you can do with your time. Get out of bed early on a Saturday because somewhere there are a few kids that are too. You do it because it’s hard, and when there is something that’s difficult it also means there’s an opportunity to be a part of a small group or a way to separate yourself from those that don’t. You don’t get as many situations like this as you think. This Saturday you decide not to get up because there are so many more and then boom it’s game time and you know deep down you didn’t put the work in. Don’t let that happen to you, because you were blessed with talent to use and not to waste.
Remember that not everyone can be a starter on a varsity team in high school. You can buy every supplement in the world and train with the best professionals in your sport and never be a great athlete. That is the way it works for some people. But, there are some kids who start to notice that their abilities are growing with age and they have a real shot at being a good athlete. Those kids need to realize the opportunity they were born with and make an attempt to use that talent for something great. It can lead to an education and an opportunity to travel and grow with other productive people. To work towards something greater than yourself and to win a championship with other guys or girls is something you will never forget. But it takes the ability to see past the present and focus on what will lead you and your teammates to that trophy. Simplify and then go after what is yours. Pay the price to get the prize.
About the Author:
My name is Cory Ritter and I am strength and conditioning coach in professional baseball. I believe that young athletes are underdeveloped and undereducated in strength and conditioning and need a go-to resource on developing. I am a graduate of Florida State University with my Masters in Sports Sciences and a Bachelors in Exercise Science from there as well. I am also a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association. I have 2 years of experience in professional baseball working in the Seattle Mariners organization.
Follow me @crittfit7 and check like my Facebook page titled “Helping youth athletes”