Goal Setting For Young Athletes

Back in high school the biggest question that anyone had access to iron was "How much can you bench?" It didnt matter if the weight bounced halfway off of your chest just as long as you got it up. I am sure that still goes on in weight rooms across the country with young bucks today. something to hone in on. I like for young athletes to have a competitive attitude. Hell, I still have a competitive attitude at age 32. My partner & I will challenge each other in the weight room on a daily basis. I have learned many of life's lessons through the pain and joy of athletic competition.

I want to talk about goals that young athletes should have and how to help them aveve those. I think it is great that athletes today constantly want to improve themselves and continuously get bigger, faster, and stronger. It is important to set goals for the young athletes that we train. It does not have to be "How much can you bench?"

Yes, this question may still arise but the more important focus is to make goals with these young athletes.

When I start an athlete on a training program, I talk to him about what he would like to see happen. Most of the time, the answer is the same. "I want to get hyoooge." After I tell them that that is a given training with me (just kidding), we talk about some of their more serious goals. I talk with them about the things that they want to achieve on the field. Run faster, hit harder, be stronger than their opponent. After they tell me about their sports related goals, I talk to them about the training we are going to do and how training in the weight room has a direct effect on their goals on the field. Once they understand this, it is easier for them to take weight training more seriously. Working on muscle imbalances with them takes on a whole new meaning once they understand how strength training can make them a better athlete overall.

When I establish this kind of relationship with the athlete, it improves their training program that much more. Here is where the goal setting in the weight room comes in. If you look at some of what Louie Simmons does and the theories behind his famous Westside method, it has a reccurring theme to it. For the max effort days of the week, Louie talks about trying to top that max number from the previous week. It does not have to be a 1RM but any max effort lifts that you do try to beat the number from the week prior. This to me is a big component of goal setting. If you go into the weight room with no agenda except to workout then you will not achieve much. If you go in with the intention of beating a specific number from the last time you did that lift, then you have a pretty good chance that that workout will be more productive. Even if you do not hit that mark all the time, at least you are trying to improve on a weekly basis. This attitude has a direct effect on your performance on the field. I find this to be an integral part of a young athletes training program.

When I design a program for a young athlete, I design the program with the specific athlete in mind taking all their past training history along with their present condition in mind. I design the program to fit their needs on their designated field of play. What this means is not all athletes do a 1RM or a 5 RM for that matter. This does not mean that there are no goals set for that exercise.

Whatever the athlete's program calls for, there should always be that attitude of breaking records in the weight room. If an athlete is brand new to training and has never lifted weights in his or her life, then he or she is certainly not going to do a 1RM in ANY exercise. However, what I will do with that athlete is have them work on breaking their previous goal. For example, we are doing a wall squat with a newbie and the first time he did the wall squat he could stay in a solid position for 12 seconds, the goal for the following week would then be to break that 12 second mark. As long as he beats that number, the athlete is progressing, even if he breaks it with a 13 second hold. I would much rather have an athlete who is brand new to training take smaller, more frequent jumps than to have him progress quickly and then plateau. If you can get the athlete to think like this, he or she will stay in the training game much longer.

Training goals should vary during each training session. I teach my athletes to think SUCCESS. No one specific lift in the weight room is going to make them the best on the field however if we teach athletes to increase the amount of time he or she succeeds in the weight room this will make him or her a better, well rounded player on the field. If the athlete continues to break all types of exercise records you can rest assured they will be ready to play when the time comes. Success in the weight room could mean a max bench, squat or deadlift. It could also mean the total number of pullups, push-ups, kettlebell snats he or she can do. You can put a time limit on the drill or you could take the specific time it takes to finish a 40 yard farmers walk. There are endless ways to increase the amount of successes an athlete has during his training.

The success in the weight room will have a direct effect on how that athlete perceives themselves on the field. They will have more confidence which will increase the desire for competition. They will learn how to be aggressive beasting goals which will allow them to push harder and be more aggressive on the field. They will develop mental toughness by breaking barriers that they might have thought impossible to break in the weight room. Take a freshman in high school who has never lifted weights before in his life and has played some pop warner ball but lacks the confidence that athletes need to succeed. By setting small attainable goals in the weight room he will start to develop confidence in himself. I have seen it too many times for this not to be true. Once they break some weight room records it's like a snowball effect. This kid becomes more aggressive in the weight room and takes it right out onto the field with him. It is a joy to watch.

To summarize, set realistic goals for these young athletes. We are in a position to help them achieve goals that could help mold their lives. Make it a point to set goals with the exercises specific to them. Relay the importance of setting goals, breaking them, then helping them set new ones. Setting goals in the weight room is what I call training. There is a difference between training & working out. Athletes need to be taught how to TRAIN. To go into the weight room and workout is one thing but to go into the weight room and TRAIN, well that is an entirely different arena. When athletes train is when they will see progress. Teach the young athletes of today how to TRAIN not just workout. Instill in them what was so freely instilled in you, making you feel so composed to work with young athletes. It is our duty as strength coaches.

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