A youth football season usually starts at the end of July, but we are starting to see more young athletes training all year round. For some athletes that are not as active during the year, it can take some time to shake the rust off. Also players new to football should try to prepare for the rigors of the season by becoming more active as we approach the start of the season.
Preparation isn’t just about camps and practices during the summer, but also about strength and conditioning and how to get a young athlete’s body ready to handle the demands of a rigorous season.
“Many of the young athletes that we see today have a very good skill level based on the increase of offseason football work. But,  we need a greater emphasis prior to the season conditioning. We want our athletes’ bodies to be in shape in terms of, not just strength, but also cardiovascular health”.
This generation of children is not as active it was  years ago, which increases the need for preseason or even offseason conditioning.
“Society has changed, the days of kids getting their offseason exercise from riding their bikes; playing outside until dark has been removed. Our society today is focused on technology (phones, tablets, video games, and social media) as leisure activities. I think it is crucially important that our athletes are ready for the season in more ways than just an increased skill level or cognitive ability”.
Let's discuss five ways you can help to get your athlete ready.
● Participate in body weight-based activities. Children can use their own body weight as resistance through squats, pull-ups and, push-ups along similar exercises.  
● Strengthen the Legs Squats, plyometric jumps, one-leg leaps, and balance activities all help to provide the base for where athletes will get their strength.
● Explore movement through different levels and pathways. Agility drills, obstacle courses, competitive races (against a partner or time). Run over obstacles, run, and bend under them. Football is a game played at different speeds and movement patterns.
● Play multiple sports. Playing other sports will utilize and strengthen different muscle groups, but more importantly, it will continue to build the competitive nature in your child.
● Run. There is nothing better than good old fashioned running to help get in shape. Distance running is not helpful for training football players. Instead focus on 10-50 yard sprints; with adequate rest between each sprint. You can use a jog (a ¼ mile or less) as a warm-up and cool down.
As with any training program, start small and gradually increase over time. For young athletes who have never trained before, it is always a good idea to consult with your doctor prior to starting the regime.
“By doing a well-rounded set of activities from different exercises, to different sports, not only does it make your child more well-rounded athletically, but it also will lessen the chance of overuse injuries when focusing solely on football-specific drills.”
Keith Croft is the Head Football Coach at Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, RI and Owner of the Elite Football School, RI.
Over the last 9 years, he has guided his team to a record 8 state championships. He also owns and operates a football school that consists of summer camps, group workouts, and coaches’ clinics.
He can be reached at info@elitefootballschool.com