Part II: What Parents can do at home to promote proper training, nutrition, and sleep for their children

If you haven’t read Part I of this series, I’d recommend you read that before continuing on to this. In part I, I talked about how parents can help their child’s performance and health through promoting sleep. Using the SRA (Stimulus, Recovery, Adaption) curve, I showed how sleep and recovery fit into a proper training program that helps the body adapt to the stimulus of a workout, which enables athletes to achieve higher physical feats. Keep this SRA curve in mind as we delve into Part II of this series. Through this post, I’ll discuss how parents can promote effective training at home.


First, let’s clarify Training vs Exercising:

What is the difference between training and exercising? They may sound similar but can be the difference between athletes achieving their goals and athletes being left behind. Oxford dictionary defines exercising as “engaging in physical activity to sustain or improve health and fitness.” Training can be defined as using exercises or drills in a carefully designed way to achieve a particular goal—e.g. increasing Squat/Bench/Deadlift/ 1-rep max, higher vertical jump, or faster 40yd dash time. Therefore, it’s important that athletes are using exercises and drills that work towards their goals and not aimlessly exercising just to exercise. Just because an athlete is sweating or tired from a workout doesn’t mean it’s going to help them in competition. Their body adapts to what they demand of it (remember this at all times when you are training). So while their body may adapt to more exercise, it may not show up on the 40yd dash time or their power and strength tests. In order to increase speed, you must train for speed. The same goes for strength, power, agility, decision-making, sport skills, mobility, stability, etc. However, there is a caveat: ultimately, work capacity and strength are the foundation to power, agility/ change-of-direction, and speed. Therefore, one cannot be fast if they cannot produce a lot of force. Here is an illustration to visualize this:

What I want you to get out of this is that if you or your child lacks proper nutrition, work capacity, and strength, the explosiveness, speed, and sport skills will crumble. I’ll give you a real-life example: back when I was an intern at Saint Mary’s University in 2018, I was working with the men’s basketball team one afternoon. The Head Strength Coach and I were consistently measuring their vertical jump height before they hit the weight room. We had a freshman athlete who could jump roughly 30 inches on his good days (this is considered decent for that age). One day, he jumped only 24-25 inches, which is a HUGE drop in performance. During the weight room session shortly after, he had to sit down because he felt faint. Coach Sagar and I talked with him and found out that over the course of the entire day, he had only eaten a granola bar and a smoothie. We concluded that his body had no calories to burn to perform at the level he was usually at. Because of his lack of nutrition, everything up the pyramid crumbled.

How parents can help at home

Now that I’ve covered the background information, we can talk about how you as a parent can ensure your child is training effectively.  My biggest piece of advice:

  • Have your child train with a qualified Strength and Conditioning Coach/Personal Trainer

I cannot stress enough how important this is. I see a lot of training videos on Twitter from coaches and shake my head in disappointment when terrible training is taking place. Kids are giving their all for these coaches, which is great, but so much time and energy is being wasted because kids are being trained so poorly. As a parent, it’s important to do your due diligence and look into who your child’s trainer is at their school or their personal trainer at the private sector. In my opinion, Physical Education teachers usually are not qualified to run a Strength and Conditioning program unless they have a background in Exercise Science, Exercise Physiology, Periodization, and experience training athletes in a weight room under a Strength and Conditioning Coach. With this said, I do know Strength and Conditioning Coaches that also work as PE teachers for their schools and do a great job.  Here are some things to look for to ensure your child is in safe hands:

  1. Education and Certifications: Does the coach have a degree in Exercise Science or related degree? What type of certifications do they have and what did they have to do to get them? Some certifications require only a weekend course (CrossFit for example), while others require a Bachelor’s degree to even qualify to sit down for the test (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, abbreviated CSCS). Don’t be afraid to question coaches or personal trainers as the qualified ones will most likely be happy to tell you. If they seem hesitant or divert the question, that may be a red flag.
  2. Successful Experience: Does this coach produce results? If a coach has been working for 10 years and hasn’t shown improvement in athletic performance in some way, you may need to look elsewhere. Simply asking to look over their performance data over time is an easy way to see if they have proof that their training works. If they don’t have any performance data, that can be a red flag as they are just assuming what they do works. I would avoid looking just at win/loss records as that can be misleading, because a team of genetically gifted kids, compared to kids not so gifted, can influence a winning record regardless of poor training from the coach.
  • Ask your child if they competed today rather than if they worked hard

I was scrolling through twitter and I came across an amazing video from Duke’s women’s basketball coach about the difference between hard work and competitiveness. You can watch it here:

  • Ask if they are having fun!

Why do we play/watch sports? Because they’re FUN! I don’t care if I’m working with a little league player or if I’m working with Aaron Rodgers, if the athletes are not having fun, they will not show effort, lack camaraderie, and eventually quit. Obviously, there’s times when athletes need to get in the zone and do their jobs, but at the end of the day if the athletes aren’t enjoying what they’re doing, you will not get the best out of them.

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