Friday, December 10, 2010

Injuries in Sport – Soccer & Beyond by Vern Gambetta

It seems that when you read the sport page today it is a medical report rather than a report of game or match performance. It seems paradoxical that with all the advances in athletic development, sports medicine, and sport science that we are seeing the type of injuries, number of injuries and the severity of the injures that are occurring. Certainly it is a great concern to all involved. The human and economic costs are astronomical.

Let start with a couple of problems where there is universal agreement:

1) The extended competitive season that does not allow for an off-season where training can done to both build and rebuild the athlete as well as recharge the batteries. Top players in some sports have gone as long as three years without more than a three-week break from competition in their sport!

2) We are now bearing the fruit of down side of early specialization and the lack of physical education at younger ages. These athletes are a product of their background. They arrive at the highest levels of their sport with poor general athletic skills but finely honed sport skills. It is a house made of cards. They have the sport skill but not the fundamental movement skill base to stand the test of the competitive cauldron. The strong and gifted sometimes survive and the weak are cast by the wayside

The solutions are rather simple, but certainly uncomfortable, there will have to be some radical changes. There is no quick fix. Realistically the extended competitive schedule will not change, we can not turn back the clock. Money is the driving factor here. That being the case then all those in athletic development, sports medicine and sport science need to unify our efforts, in essence get on the same page (or at least in one room) and come to some consensus regarding logical solutions to the problem. Because the problems are systemic the solutions must be systemic. It certainly is not more hamstring prevention or rehabilitation programs, or more or less small-sided games. Rather we need to look at the whole performance team, including the composition and structure of that team as well as the development pathways and see what can be done in the short term, medium term and long term to develop and implement a bottom up systematic development approach. The goal at the end of the development journey is simple: When the athletes arrive at the elite level all physical limitations are eradicated, fundamental movement skills are thoroughly developed and they are ready physically, psychologically, technically and tactically to thrive in order to compete to win in the competitive arena. The task is to turn those words into action.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Obama helps kids eat healthier

The House of Representatives on December 3 joined the Senate by passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act ending months of deadlock and significantly improving opportunities for low-income students to get healthy, more affordable school meals.

If President Obama signs the bill into law, as expected, there will be $4.5 billion in new child nutrition funding over 10 years and schools will:

  • Serve more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.
  • Get help meeting new standards for healthier school meals.
  • Have to follow national nutrition standards for all food sold on school grounds.
  • Strengthen their wellness policies.
  • Get funding for farm-to-school programs.
  • And expand the Afterschool Meal Program to all 50 states.

While valid concerns remain about nutrition and hunger programs for low-income families and crucial work must be done to ensure that Congress and the President restore funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), passage of this bill is a huge victory in the battle to end the epidemic of undernourished and obese children.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

More evidence that strength training can benefit baseball players

There are still some coaches that either:

1) Don't believe that strength training will help/benefit baseball players;


2) Go about the wrong way.

Here is a quick abstract that challenges the first debate.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Don't you dare call me High Fructose Corn Syrup any more!!

Press Release from the Corn Refiners Association
Washington, DC – In an effort to help clarify the labeling of food products for consumers, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) today petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow manufacturers the option of using ‘corn sugar’ as an alternative name for high fructose corn syrup.

“Consumers need to know what is in their foods and where their foods come from and we want to be clear with them,” said CRA president Audrae Erickson. “The term ‘corn sugar’ succinctly and accurately describes what this natural ingredient is and where it comes from – corn.”

Contrary to widespread consumer belief, high fructose corn syrup – a safe and affordable natural sweetener found in many popular products on grocery shelves – is not high in fructose when compared with other commonly used nutritive sweeteners, including table sugar, honey and fruit juice concentrates. Like table sugar, it is roughly half glucose and half fructose and is metabolized by the body in the same way as regular table sugar. In fact, the high fructose corn syrup that is used in many foods, such as baked goods, is lower in fructose than table sugar.

But independent research demonstrates that the current labeling is confusing to American consumers.

For example, independent research indicated that despite the fact that high fructose corn syrup and table sugar contain approximately the same amount of fructose, nearly 58 percent of respondents believed high fructose corn syrup has more fructose than other table sugar.

Corn sugar – or high fructose corn syrup – has been used for more than 40 years to enhance flavors in foods and beverages and maintain freshness.

A continuing series of inexact scientific reports and inaccurate media accounts about high fructose corn syrup and matters of health and nutrition have also increased consumer uncertainty.

Yet, the facts are straightforward. For example, in a December 2008 report, the American Dietetic Association confirmed that high fructose corn syrup is “nutritionally equivalent to sucrose (table sugar)” and that the sweeteners contain the same number of calories per gram. The ADA found that “once absorbed into the bloodstream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.”

As Americans grapple with an “obesity epidemic,” well-renowned nutritionists question whether sweetener confusion could lead consumers to make misinformed decisions about sugars in their diets.

“The last thing we want is for Americans to think that avoiding high fructose corn syrup is the answer,” said Registered Dietitian Carolyn O’Neil. “All added sugars should be consumed in moderation – corn sugar, table sugar, honey and fruit juice concentrates. These sugars contain an equal number of calories that must be burned off– or the body will convert them to fat.”

“We hope that the FDA will act positively on our petition in the interest of consumer clarity,” said Erickson.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Top 12 Thoughts on Strength Training for Kids (part 2)

7) The variation of "stuff" that a kid can use to get stronger will yield more results than the traditional machines found in gyms. It is widely accepted that the more stimuli a child is exposed to, the greater the long term adaptations (which is why it is also a good idea to let your kids play as many sports as possible at a young age). The tools they get exposed to at ASF include:
* Dragging sleds
* Bands
* Medicine Balls
* Kettlebells/dumbells
* Tires
* Pneumatic resistance
* and of course bodyweight.

8) Puberty has a way of evening out the playing field at times; who was once the small, slow kid is now the fast, bigger kid. Once kids accept that puberty gives them the tools to get where they want to get, they can enjoy the process of learning how to do everything correctly. Personally, I was very small until 18 (135# as a senior in high school) and then in college put on muscle like I was on steroids! I know all of my years of free play and sports gave me the foundation to really take off (albeit after high school ended). So, parents and kids should trust in the natural, progressive way of the human body and be patient while building a neurological library of information.

9) Believe it or not, overweight kids thrive when it comes to strength training. It does not involve the things they are not good at, or do not like: running, jumping, teams, gym class, getting picked last in games, etc. It is one-on-one activity. The extra weight that has been a "burden" to this point actually prepares them to be somewhat stronger than average weight kids. I am not suggesting to become overweight to get stronger, but I am saying that if you cannot find the activity that suits you because of your size, try strength training. It will certainly lead to #10...

10) Let's face it, getting stronger makes you perform better. It also improves your performance from the neck up by helping confidence, body image, self-esteem, discipline, pain tolerance and healthy competition ("what's your bench?!"). I have seen kids in one hour improve their attitude just by increasing the amount of weight that they lifted compared to their previous session. That is priceless.

11) Similar to #10, I truly believe that kids can also become more aggressive with strength training. Sports are hard~physically, mentally and emotionally. Aggression can pull you through even the most challenging obstacles. Before I go further, my definition of aggression always involves sportsmanlike conduct, respect for the game and your opponents, and playing within the rules of the sport. Aggression does not imply fighting, cheating or bullying. It is a mental tool to use when needed: when you need to attack a defender, grab a loose ball, win the race, or always being ready. I use the word "aggression" quite often as I see more and more kids going through the motions but not really attacking that particular drill or exercise.

12) Finally, strength lays the foundation for longer term consequences. Statistically, most kids will not play sports in college and even fewer will become professional athletes. However, if strength training is introduced correctly at a young age, it can be done forever. Conversely, if it is used as punishment ("drop and give me 20!"), do you really think a child is going to want to do that voluntarily? We are in a position to affect not only the present, but the future and how healthy this generation becomes.

There yo go....I am sure I missed a few, but these are the big ones. Now, GET STRONG!

Teens May Mistake Sports Drinks as Good for Them

Teens May Mistake Sports Drinks as Good for Them

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Top 12 Thoughts on Strength Training for Kids (part 1)

I was recently watching a group of kids struggling the other day and was trying to figure out why. Was the drill too tough? Were they too tired? Did I not coach it correctly? As I left that night, I came to the conclusion that there could have been any number of reasons, but the fact that they were all physically not as strong as they should be stuck out more than anything else.
In looking at our program design layout, you will notice that we always perform strength and power training after our movement skills. Effective and efficient movement of the body is priority number one. However, I am convinced that movement patterns, especially speed, will only be reinforced and improved through gaining strength. So, I am going to modify our training protocols to include more strength than we have before.
Here are some thoughts as to why strength training is so good for young kids:

1) Before the onset of puberty and during puberty, the Central Nervous System can be thought of as moldable, or plastic. It is still capable of being introduced to a stimulus, adapting and starting the process of changing relatively quickly. Older athletes and adults are capable of this also but not at the level of young children. These tools will form the foundation for which further changes can occur.

2) We can move a kid as we strengthen them. Typically, strength training is limited to the space of the equipment in use, but in our world of bands, sleds, climbing, crawling, etc, the movement patterns and the strength patterns happen simultaneously. An example would be a walking sled press instead of a bench press, or a sled march instead of a squat. That doesn't mean we will not use those exercises, but there are options beside the traditional means.

3) While it is a cliche, balance of the body is important for performance and injury prevention. Generally, balance will involve front/back, side/side and top/bottom; it will not always mean an equal ratio, however. For instance, our baseball players will always perform 2 to 3 posterior upper body movements for every anterior movement. Runners may perform more hip extension than hip flexion. Jiu Jitsu players and wrestlers may do core work on their backs more often than a football player. Once the body is looked at Generally, it can be broken down Specifically and Competitively based on the demands and needs of the sport.

4) Strength, more than any other motor skill, seems to have the greatest transfer to improvements in all other motor skills. As strength improves, acceleration, deceleration, jump height, jump distance, and speed typically improve. Couple that with proper teaching of the mechanics of movement, and the athlete is poised to be a dangerous weapon.

5) Similar to #4, as strength improves, force production and force absorption also improve. Sports, in the big picture, rely on producing and absorbing forces, either into the ground, an object, or a person. Take running for example: As an athlete accelerates, he/she must be able to apply enough force into the ground to create the desired speed over a desired distance. If they are not strong (enough), they will not get to where the want to go as fast as they should (this is a very simple overview). Conversely, if they need to decelerate and change direction, they must be able to control their bodyweight, absorb any forces needed and slow down momentum, and possibly re-accelerate.

6) Many times strength is measured by how much an athlete lifts in the weight room, and rightly so. If Athlete A squats 400 and Athlete B squats 300, Athlete A is stronger...or is he? In powerlifting, that is true. Weight room strength is a tool that must be able to transfer into sport. Much has been debated about how weightlifters and powerlifters can hang with sprinters for the first10-20 yards of a race based on their strength levels, but don't win the race. That is for another time, but strength for strength's sake is only as good as the degree of transfer. Athletes should see a positive correlation between improved strength and improved performance. Also of importance is the concept of relative strength. There are a few interpretations of relative strength:
* Strength relative to bodyweight;
* Strength relative to their maximum or absolute strength (expressed as %1RM);
* Strength relative to the forces found within a given sport (ground reaction forces, for example).
Athletes obviously need both relative strength and absolute strength to be successful.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Inactivity 'no contributor' to childhood obesity epidemic...which comes first: obesity or inactivity?

Fatness leads to inactivity, but inactivity does not lead to fatness

A new report from the EarlyBird Diabetes Study suggests that physical activity has little if any role to play in the obesity epidemic among children. Obesity is the key factor behind diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

EarlyBird is based at the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, UK, and has been observing in detail a cohort of city school children for the past 11 years.

A review published in 2009 of all trials using physical activity to reduce childhood obesity showed weight loss amounting to just 90g (3oz) over three years, and the EarlyBird study wanted to know why the trials were so ineffective. So they challenged some popular paradigms.

It is well known that less active children are fatter, but that does not mean – as most people assume it does – that inactivity leads to fatness. It could equally well be the other way round: that obesity leads to inactivity.

And this is the question EarlyBird was uniquely placed to answer. With data collected annually over several years from a large cohort of children, it could ask the question – which comes first? Does the physical activity of the child precede changes in fatness over time, or does the fatness of the child precede changes in physical activity over time?

And the answer, published recently in Archives of Disease in Childhood, was clear. Physical activity had no impact on weight change, but weight clearly led to less activity.

The implications are profound for public health policy, because the physical activity of children (crucial to their fitness and well-being) may never improve unless the burgeoning levels of childhood obesity are first checked. If this cannot be achieved through physical activity, the focus has to be on what – and how much – children consume.

EarlyBird has already shown how the trajectory leading to obesity is established very early in life, long before children go to school, and how most childhood obesity is associated with obesity in the same-sex parent.

While portion size, calorie-dense snacks and sugary drinks are all important contributors, early feeding errors seem crucial - and physical activity is not the answer.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New source of information - exercise updates

New source of information - sports medicine updates

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

then and now by Vern Gambetta

I have seen and heard much discussion regarding how different kids are today. I hear that they are lazy, not fit, disrespectful, they just won't do the things that kids did forty or fifty years ago. Since I am still involved in day to day coaching of high school athletes I also have given this issue much thought. I guess the perspective of coaching 41 years at all levels of competition gives me some insights that others who started later may not have. I also have been a classroom teacher, history and geography, a teacher of physical education and a coach of multiple sports. A few preparatory points are necesaary1) The older you get the easier it is to remember the good of the good old days and forget the bad. 2) We live in an entirely different world today than 41 years ago. Those points being made please indulge me as I attempt to explain what I see in kids today.

Lets look at then first:

Students rode bikes or walked to school

Kids had mandatory daily physical education

Most kids started playing three sports in elementary or middle school and then narrowed it down to two by high school

Family structure was still there

You seldom saw a latchkey kid

Less litigation

No high fructose corn syrup

No professionalization of youth and high school sports

Sports were centered in the schools and recreation departments

Parents were interested, but not directly involved

There were virtually no competitive opportunities for girls

Coaches were usually trained teachers, often physical education teachers

Coaches were the experts, because in many cases they were

Coaches did not specialize they coached multiple sports

A sporting event on TV was special because there was not many of them

No national high school or youth championships

You wore Converse or Keds, black or white was the choice of colors

There were strict transfer rules – no changing schools in midyear because you did not like the coach or you were not starting

Let look at now:

Students ride to school

No mandatory physical education and no recess

Kids specialize in one sport from an early age

Sports are centered outside the schools

Coaches are not trained as educators; in essence anyone can be a coach

Parents are involved; they run and have ownership of school and club programs because of fundraising

National championships in youth sports and high school sports

Sports are on television 24/7

Our diet is worse than most third world nations

Kids spend hours a day on computers and cell phones

The only time many kids play is at organized practice

We have more knowledge in sports medicine and sport science

We have significantly better facilities

Unlimited competitive opportunities for boys and girls

If you are not a starter or a star you either quit or transfer

So what the conclusion? First of all you cannot separate sport from society. I have always felt sport is a reflection and in some ways a magnification of what you see in society, both good and bad. We are a nation of consumers, instant gratification and fast money. So a logical step as a reflection of society is to use kids to make money and build reputations. The shoe and apparel companies really do not care about kids they are concerned with the bottom line. In your face ads and smack talking sport stars sell shoes. With sports on 24/7 the kids imitate their role models good and bad. We live in a throwaway world, national champion at 13, nobody at 16. Who cares? Essentially we - adults, parents, coaches and administrators have created a monster. What we see in today’s kids is the result of an over indulgent culture. We have lowered the bar, eliminated behavioral expectations and compromised sound educational principles to chase a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that is not here.

So is it all l that bleak, all gloom and doom? No way! We need to stop and take a long look at what we as parents, coaches, administrators, in short the adult authority figures need to do. We need to raise the bar, set a higher level of expectation for the kids in areas that matter. I see the kids that I work with day to day achieve at a very high standard, just like the kids I coached 40 years ago. I have the same standards and they know what they are and reach up to those standards. Lets stop blaming the kids and look at ourselves in the context of society. These kids are crying out for teaching, structure, and firm fair discipline, they want the special experience that real coaching can provide. Lets not cop out and blame the kids, we all need to look in the mirror and raise our standards.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ohio Senate lifts exercise rule from obesity bill

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — At the urging of school groups, the Ohio Senate has removed a provision from a childhood obesity bill that would require students to get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day while in school.

Groups representing teachers and school boards told a Senate committee last week that it would be impossible to implement the measure without money to pay for it. Most schools will see state funding cuts or freezes next year.

"We can't solve every social problem at the school door," said Darold Johnson of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. "We need to do what we do well, and that's educate."

Jeff McCuen, treasurer of Worthington City Schools near Columbus, said the 30-minute exercise requirement would cost the district $4 million and take time away from core classes.

Other provisions in the bill would increase nutrition standards for a la carte food and beverages served in schools and require students to get body-mass-index screenings.

State Sen. Kevin Coughlin, a Republican from Cuyahoga Falls, agreed to take the exercise requirement out of his bill and instead allow districts to obtain a waiver. But he added that society rightfully asks a lot of public schools.

"While I share the view that parents have responsibilities on all these things, I can also have the view that our schools should be doing the right stuff while our students are in there nine months a year, seven hours a day," he said.

One in three American children is overweight or obese, increasing their risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses, and contributing to high health care costs.

First lady Michelle Obama has made a campaign against childhood obesity. A government panel issued a report last week recommending 70 specific steps that all levels of government, the private sector, schools, parents and others can take.

Some of the recommendations call for updated federal nutrition standards for meals served at schools and more school-based nutrition education.

Obama has said her goal is to solve the problem within a generation so that babies born today can come of age at a healthy weight.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

STOP aims to curb youth sports injuries

Dr. James Andrews, Sam Bradford and John Smoltz team up to join the movement to curb injuries in youth sports. Check out a quick video right here.

what would you do?

interesting moral and competitive dilemna - follow the rules exactly or "bend" them a little.....

full story here

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thursday, May 6, 2010

interview with Dawn Weatherwax - part 1 (audio only)

Owner of Sports Nutrition 2 Go, Dawn Weatherwax, discusses how she got into sports nutrition, some case studies of athletes utilizing her services, supplements and more.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

this could explain a lot!

Ever wonder why people will use steroids? Supplements? Fad diets? This study may help shed some light...

When faced with a choice that could yield either short-term satisfaction or longer-term benefits, people with complete information about the options generally go for the quick reward, according to new research from University of Texas at Austin psychologists.

The findings, available online in the journal Judgment and Decision Making, could help better explain the decisions people make on everything from eating right and exercising to spending more on environmentally friendly products.

"You'd think that with more information about your options, a person would make a better decision. Our study suggests the opposite," says Associate Professor Bradley Love, who conducted the research with graduate student Ross Otto. "To fully appreciate a long-term option, you have to choose it repeatedly and begin to feel the benefits."

As part of the study, 78 subjects were repeatedly given two options through a computer program that allowed them to accumulate points. For each choice, one option offered the subject more points. But choosing the other option could lead to more points further along in the experiment.

A small cash bonus was tied to the subjects' performance, providing an incentive to rack up more points during the 250 trial questions.

However, subjects who were given full and accurate information about what they would have to give up in the short term to rack up points in the long term, chose the quick payoff more than twice as often as those who were given false information or no information about the rewards they would be giving up.

In a real-life scenario, a student who stayed home to study and then learned he had missed a fun party would be less likely to study next time in a similar situation — even if that option provides more long-term benefits.

"Basically, people have to stay away from thinking about the short-term pains and gains or they are sunk and, objectively, will end up worse off," says Love.

While psychologists have long studied how humans make choices, this is among the first research that examines how people measure "what could have been" when they make repeated decisions that affect their future state.

Love says he believes the long-term benefits of specific decisions can be reinforced by tangible rewards, such as a good grade, a raise or promotion, which can serve as markers of long-term success and help overcome short-term biases

"If there no were no conflict in our choices, this wouldn't be a problem. But everything has that conflict between short-term and long-term goals," says Love. "It's really hard for a learning system to disentangle what's good for you in the short term or long-term."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Are crunches effective? Harmful? Harmless?

Dr. Stu McGill, the back"expert" weighs in on the crunch and alternative methods that may be more effective and safer.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Does the 40 yard dash really matter?

Interesting post from Mike Lombardi...I tend to agree that the 40 and other tests are not true reflections of a football player's potential.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The world according to Paul Chek...

Whether you have heard of him or not, agree or disagree with his controversial yet very insightful views, he always makes you think. Read on for an excerpt of a recent interview....

When I consult with an athlete or anyone for that matter, the most important thing I do is find out what their dream is. This is actually a four-step process.

Friday, January 29, 2010

does caffeine affect performance?

The International Society of Sports Nutrition just released a position stand on the subject. You can access it right here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Youth Sports Safety Summit

There have been 115 sport-related youth deaths since January 2008 in America. To address this growing problem, the NATA recently organized the Alliance to Address the Youth Sports Safety Crisis in America and held a summit on Jan. 12. The purpose of the Alliance, comprised of 30 healthcare and sports organizations, is to raise awareness, advance legislation, and improve medical care for young athletes across the country. A major goal in this endeavor is to help put an end to what has been labeled a crisis.

To read a summary of the event, click here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

thoughts on steroids and the "confession"

I have had a lot of conversations over the last week regarding Mark McGwire's "revelation" concerning his drug use. Because of my connection to bodybuilding, many people assumed in the past and still ask me today about the topic. The general public is still largely misinformed about steroids and other performance enhancing drugs; how do they work, why do they work, what are the side effects, etc.
I have been around steroids since 1990. I have never taken them. I have seen guys (and girls) inject them, swallow them, sell them, and distribute them. It is much more prevalent than you would realize. Many of my friends have taken them. I am not an advocate of steroid use, but I do advocate making intelligent decisions. If you are going to put something in your body that may harm you, at least inform yourself of what the potential side effects are. Please don't read into this that I condone steroids use; people will use them whether you tell them to or not. I have an obligation to help them make a decision if they ask me for help. Here are a few other thoughts about steroids and other drugs:

* They work...but not for everyone. Judging the effectiveness of the results by the people who I know took them, they will work for 80% of the people who try them. By using the word "work" I am implying that they make you stronger, bigger and more aggressive.
* They work much better for people who have good genetics to begin with. Steroids don't change your DNA, per se; they won't make your collarbones wider or your hips smaller. They will target certain receptor sites located all over the body and flood them with signals to grow at accelerated rates.
* They will not replace poor eating habits, poor exercise habits or poor work ethic.
* They are psychologically, not necessarily physiologically, addicting.
* They won't necessarily make you into an a-hole; but they will make you a bigger a-hole if you were one already!
* They have legitimate medical purposes and uses, especially for muscle-wasting diseases.
* The biggest market for these drugs in the future may not be athletes, but (older) men whose natural testosterone may be too low (similar to women and Hormone Replacement Therapy after menopause).
* Most, but not all, elite physique athletes have taken, or currently are taking, performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids, growth hormone, insulin, erythropoietin, methamphetamines, and pain killers, among others. The sports that have the highest rate of use are bodybuilding, powerlifting, weight lifting, track and field and football. While cycling also has a high rate, they are very specific to the types of drugs they use.

I believe that the next wave of enhancing performance will be gene doping, or changing what genes we turn on or off to achieve a desired result. It is currently being studied and used in animals. Humans will be next, for better or worse. It is our natural desire to want to be the best, blindly turning our minds away from the potential consequences. If a pill or a needle holds that hope, that gold medal, that world record, that trophy, then we will do it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

thoughts on strength - part 2

My last post (thoughts on strength - part 1) received a lot of good reviews, so here is part 2.

Before I go into detail on my opinion of strength training for youth, there are a few more highlights to share that will help strengthen my point (pardon the pun). As I mentioned, I started lifting weights when I was 13 or 14, I can't remember exactly. It never stunted my growth, I never broke a growth plate, I never was injured playing sports and I never committed random acts of violence because of my new-found passion. Had to get that out of the way to squash some myths :)
As I entered high school athletics, I realized that, while I was strong and fast, I was smaller than just about everybody else on the field, diamond, court and mat. So, just to compete, I had to attack the weight room with even more fervor and intensity. I remember the first time I could bench press 100 pounds...what a feeling! But, that only made me want to do more. Fast forward to my senior year: I was now a powerlifter in the 125 pound weight class with personal best's of 235 in the bench, 315 in the deadlift and 300 in the squat. Keep in mind I was 125 pounds soaking wet.
I was gaining strength weekly, it seemed. I gradually weaned myself from my love of playing sports to only concentrating on my lifting. In my senior year, I was hospitalized for a month for various ailments, but still managed to lift. I would lie under my bed and do push ups with the bed frame, put two chairs side by side and do dips. I would load up my book bag and squat and deadlift with it. Yes, I was a little nuts. When you find your desire, no one can take that away from you. As I entered college, my powerlifting transferred into bodybuilding. My body finally hit puberty around 18 and I was adding muscle by the week. I entered my first of 17 bodybuilding shows and the rest is history...

When I look back at the tools that were forged via lifting weights, the one constant that never stopped growing was my self-confidence. I was a classic under-achieving student and a pretty good athlete, but was also aware that I never quite fit in with everyone else. High school can break a young kid if he/she let's it. The ironic thing is that while I was using weights for my own selfish gains, I also became more popular. It was purely unintentional, but it happened. Strength and muscle have always had a cartoonish or cult like-quality to those that admire the athletes that partake in it. Weights then had a two-fold purpose: the obvious one of strength gains but also gaining acceptance among my peers. It felt phony but I didn't care.

The reason I bring this up is to show the wide ranging effects that strength training can have on a growing boy or girl. In short, strength training can:

* Improve self-esteem, self-confidence and body image perceptions;
* Decrease injuries by making connective tissue, joint structures and muscles more resilient to potential trauma;
* Improve ALL indices of sport and athletic skill development. This is the biggie. If you want to:
Jump faster....stop quicker....tackle harder....kick further....swing faster, etc. then strength is the one component that will help every other component of athleticism.

Every sport relies on one major aspect: the production and application of FORCE. From hitting to kicking to swimming to throwing to jumping to running and everything in between, the constant is the application of force to an object, whether it be a ball, a person, water, or the ground. In order for force to improve, strength must improve.
If you think your son or daughter is too young to strength train, think again. They will be exposed to more dangerous conditions while playing sports then through lifting weights. Gymnastics? Strength training! Football? Strength training! Baseball, soccer, jungle gyms, swing sets, recess, phys. ed., running, cutting....all involve the application of force, thus are forms of strength training! The negative perception of strength training stems from junk science from several years ago outlining the dangers of strength training for young kids. This has since been updated to reflect new research. All forms of activity come with risks, but lifting weights, under supervision, has one of the safest track records relative to sports such as soccer, football and gymnastics, among others.
Notice that I am not using weight training in the same context as strength training. They are not necessarily synonymous. The strength training that I advocate for youth consists of medicine balls, bands, ropes, tires, sleds and, of course, bodyweight. There is room for light dumbell and kettlebell work as well. To be blunt, kids are weak (it hurts me to watch kids struggle with their own bodyweight as resistance). I have several theories why that is, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter how they got that way; the question then becomes, "What are we going to do about it!?"

I hope that you enjoyed this and maybe even learned something. Strength is an unbelievably powerful tool that can transcend the weight room, playground or athletic world. Get strong. Stay strong.