My Thoughts on Youth Training

As many of you already know, a huge section of our clientele at IFAST is young athletes.

With kids as young as 11, up to those finishing off their high school career, I can say without reservation the most enjoyable part of my day as a coach is working with these kids.

Let me tell you a little bit about my background as an athlete, before we go any further.My Sporting Background

Growing up, I lived in the country and didn’t have a ton of other kids around.  In fact, I’m pretty sure my next door neighbors were already 80 at this point in time so chances are Junior wasn’t in shape to whip the baseball around!

Luckily, I had a strong imagination and a basketball hoop, which I could shoot on for all hours of the day.

Sports were always a huge component of my life.  In high school alone I lettered in basketball, volleyball, baseball, and even cross country.* When I went to college and played in the intramural system at Ball State, that scope got even wider.

(*Cross country was definitely NOT by choice. The basketball coach was also the cross country coach, and we had to run CC to “get into shape.” This also led to my worst year of basketball ever. But that’s a story for a different day.)

Looking back, the thing that left the strongest impression on me was how different the coaching styles were.  Some coaches were great tacticians but poor motivators, while others were quite the opposite.

One of the best coaches I ever had, though, seemingly always knew how to put us in out best position for success.

And that’s a huge component of why I wanted to participate in developing the IYCA High School Strength and Conditioning certification.

IFAST and Young Athletes

I love working with our athletes.

I love watching them grow up right before my eyes.

I like watching them develop both physically and mentally.

I like seeing the changes in them as they start to realize how good they can be when they really work hard to develop their body.

And most importantly, I know and understand that as a strength/performance coach, I am giving them skills they will utilize for the rest of their life.

So when Brian Grasso asked me to help out with this project, needless to say I was floored.

With an opportunity to help out thousands of coaches world-wide, and then all of the athletes they come in contact to every single-day, how could I say no?

The IYCA High School Strength Certification

The project was a bit of a challenge for me, personally.  I had to write an entire chapter on strength training for youth athletes (with references!) in a little under a month.

Now that may not sound too hard, but the goal (for me) was to balance not only scientific research as my references, but practical application as well.

As Charlie Weingroff would say, I’m not so much a fan of evidence-based practice as I am of practice-based evidence.

In other words, what do real-world, in the trenches coaches do with their athletes to help them develop to their maximal potential?

Perhaps more importantly, how do they develop a foundation that a young athlete can build off of for years to come?

I’m not interested in marketing and hype. I don’t care if you can shave time off their 40 or add inches to their vertical in 6 weeks or less.

Can you work with a broad variety of kids, giving each one what they need to develop a strong foundation?

What type of set/rep schemes are best when training young athletes?

How would you train a rank beginner versus a high-school senior who is moving on to play at the next level?

This was what I strove to write about in my chapter.  World-famous strength coach Joe Kenn calls it “slow-cooking” your athletes.

Laying the foundation, developing their movement skills and awareness, so that you build a complete athlete over the course of months or years.

The Bottom Line

As of right now, the IYCA High School Strength Certification page offers up a free audio interview between myself, Eric Cressey, Wil Fleming, and Brian Grasso.

We’re all guys that make a solid living actually training high school athletes.

This interview is no fluff, and it gives you some insight as to how we write programs for our young athletes.

Tomorrow, the certification goes live. If you work with young athletes (or you have a desire to in the future), I can’t recommend this project highly enough.

Just like athletes need a foundation, every COACH needs a foundation as well.

This is the foundation you need to become the best coach possible.

Just like when I was a kid, your kids can’t decide who their coach is.

But you can decide (as their coach) to give them YOUR best, and thus the best possible chance for success

Here’s to their success, as well as your own.

IYCA High School Strength Certification

All the best


(Lead Photo Courtesy of


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  1. Mike,

    So glad to hear you are a fellow runner!

    In seriousness, however, it’s very cool what the IYCA has done and what they continue to do. Emphasizing the development of our youth intelligently is hugely important. Hopefully the idea will catch on a little more than flavor of the month programming in the coming years.

    Carson Boddicker

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