The proper age-specific program may improve your teenager’s sports performance and reduce their risk of injuries.
While parents want their teens to perform well, they also want them to play the game safely. “The number one objective of every high school athlete’s training program should be on learning proper fundamental movement patterns and teaching an athlete the tools needed to reduce the likelihood of injury,” confirms Coach Micah Kurtz, director of Strength & Conditioning and Performance Enhancement at AC Flora High School in Columbia, SC. “While all coaches want the best for their athletes, parents should research their teens’ coach to make sure that they are knowledgeable specifically about how to train high school kids.
“A properly educated and certified strength and conditioning coach knows how to properly progress and regress young athletes, and identify injury risks before they become problems. Uncertified coaches may not have that training or expertise,” says Kurtz, who was named the 2016 National Strength Coach of the Year by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He adds that, “This is just one reason why the NSCA wants every high school strength coach to become a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS).”
“The stronger you are, the less chance you will have an injury,” explains Kurtz who developed AC Flora’s first-ever strength and conditioning program. “My strongest athletes are my most durable athletes.” He adds that teen athletes in certain sports are at risk for not getting enough strength and conditioning training. “Lacrosse is getting more popular. Yet Lacrosse players generally don’t get as much strength and conditioning training as those playing football, basketball, volleyball or soccer. As a result, their injury rates are exponentially higher because they aren’t as strong.”
Kurtz encourages parents to ask questions and to learn about their teens’ strength training program. He recommends that parents always ask their teens’ personal or high school strength coach these questions:
1. Is your program age appropriate? “Programs for kids in 7th and 8th grades should be different than those designed for kids in the 11th and 12th grades. Programs should be adapted as these kids progress and mature. If your child comes home and excitedly announces, “The coach has us doing the same training program as the university”, that is a red flag! Universities are coaching older and more physically mature athletes.”
2. Is your training designed for overall athletic development or is it primarily sport-specific? “To reduce injury risk, a teen’s strength and conditioning coach should focus on overall athletic development. For example, some uncertified coaches may want to start training basketball players on the VertiMax because that’s what they believe will make them jump higher, but kids first need to know how to bend and land properly, so they can absorb the force properly. Next, they need to develop a strength base with age-appropriate movements.”
3. Are you willing to coordinate my teen’s training with their high school strength coach? “Many people think that the more training you do, the better. So, they may hire a private coach for their teen as an addition to their child’s high school strength program. I’m all for my athletes training with other coaches. But we, as coaches and professionals, need to work together. We need open communication. I want to collaborate with the private coach to explain what we’re doing in my program, and what I’d like to see the private coach work on with that athlete individually, so that the programs are married and focus on long-term athletic development. For example, I may want the private coach to focus on proper body positions and techniques for sprinting and change of direction. We work on those skills in my program but I sometimes have up to 40 athletes training at one time. Those skills require more one-on-one attention, which I can’t always give. Reinforcing proper sprint mechanics and change of direction progressions would be a great skill that my athletes could work on with an outside coach in a one-on-one setting. What I do not want to see is my athletes having a hard lower body training day with me and then going to their private coach at night, and him not knowing what the athlete did during the day and again training his lower body. This can lead to injuries and wear down the athlete.”
Enhancing physical fitness is an essential component of reducing sports-related injuries, especially in young athletes. Training our high school youth correctly can set positive associations with physical activity that last a lifetime. Additional information on youth strength and conditioning can be found in the NSCA’s 10 Pillars for Successful Long-Term Athletic Development.
Biography: Micah Kurtz
Micah Kurtz was named the 2016 National Strength Coach of the Year by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is in his 8th year as the Director of Strength and Conditioning at AC Flora High School in Columbia, South Carolina. In the past five years, AC Flora has won 12 state championships. The school was named the #1 athletic program of the year by The State newspaper in both 2014 and 2015.
Coach Kurtz also serves as the Strength and Conditioning Consultant Coach to the 9-time high school basketball national champion and winner of the 2016 Dick’s National Tournament Oak Hill Academy. He is also the Director of Strength and Conditioning for Ken Griffey Jr's new baseball club; Swingman Baseball LLC.
He has also been named the South Carolina Strength Coach of the Year in both 2013 and 2014 by the state coaches association.
Coach Kurtz is an active speaker at strength and fitness conferences across the U.S. and has delivered presentations in both China and Hong Kong. He is the South Carolina State Director for the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).