Developing Young Athletes for Combat Sports
By Jared Saavedra
We are starting to see the evolution of the combat athlete. In the past, skill sets were limited and toughness was the common denominator. These days, athletes are more skilled, well rounded and have access to top coaches around the globe. However, along with new skill acquisition is the need for total athletic development of combat athletes….and that starts when we are young.
Ideally young children should be active and play.
For example, kids between the ages of 7-9 should be able to demonstrate movements such as:
Most of these can be learned through various games and play.
Many kids these days are rolling, wrestling, boxing and some are even training for MMA at a very young age. We are now seeing the negative effects of “sport specialization” where a youth athlete only participates in a single sport at a young age and only focuses on the movements required in that sport as opposed to developing a wide variety qualities. Young athletes should have a wide variety of stimuli and should be active to develop well rounded athletic foundation. Numerous studies have directly linked the effects of sport specialization to burn out and a huge increase of overuse injuries. The rate of injuries are skyrocketing; kids are experiencing burn out as well as lacking other athletic and movement skills needed to be successful.
Regardless of sport, being a better athlete has tremendous advantages in competition, so it is more important than ever that we organize and prioritize our training at the earlier stages of an athlete's development. Young athletes should have a wide variety of stimulus and should be active to develop well rounded athletic foundation. Specializing at a young age and competing all year round can be detrimental.
If you are a youth combat athlete, focus on becoming the best athlete workout you can be. Learn how to properly move, jump, run, land etc. before getting too specific. As your body is becoming more physically mature, various training methods and techniques can then begin to take precedence in your programming once movement literacy is achieved.
Power, strength, workout ,stability and speed are all qualities that you can train and develop to assist in sharpening your tools in your toolbox. If you are stronger, more powerful and move better than your opponent you will:
- Have the ability to exert more force into your punches, kicks, chokes, throws, etc.
- Develop other aspects of athletic ability (linear and lateral movement) that directly transfer to other sports.
- Keep you healthier and allow you more quality workout training on the mats, ring, cage to get better at your sport. (If you are always injured, can you get that much better?)
In my career working with youth athletes of all sports, as well as high level fighters in various disciplines, I strongly encourage youth combat athletes to participate in a total athletic development program as early as 10 years old. Young athletes need to learn how to control their bodies and require a variety of stimuli to become well rounded. While I encourage some guided activity, it is also important to allow kids to play and participate in a variety of activities.
Coach Jared has over 10 years of training and coaching experience. He holds a Master’s Degree in (Physical Education Sports Administration) from the University of New Mexico. He holds four training certificates from nationally and internationally recognized associations. He has experience working with:
- Variety of Youth Athletes
- D1 Collegiate Athletes
- Professional Athletes
- Navy Seals
- Delta Force Special Operators