S P O R T- S P E C I F I C C O N D I T I O N I N G F O R T E E N S
With high-school sports becoming more competitive, the pressure is on for student athletes to excel. To help their teenagers, parents are seeking sport-specific training as an adjunct to team practices and physical education (PE) classes. And to gain an edge over their peers, more and more average teens, following the lead of elite athletes, are utilizing the services of personal trainers and sports conditioning instructors. P e r s o n a l T r a i n i n g . "Parents bring their teens to me with sports conditioning in mind, but the teens first need to be taught general fitness," says Kay Cross, a personal trainer and owner of Body By Kay Personal Training in Fort Worth, Texas. Cross begins with the basics before moving on to sport-specific conditioning. "If the teens were more fit in general, they could do better at their high-school sports activities," explains Cross. When working one-on-one with a teen client, she builds the program around the training the teen is already doing. She also encourages her client to share the program with his or her coach to make sure it coincides with the coach's objectives. Steve Percy, an athletic trainer and owner of the Paragon Club, in Rancho Santa Fe, California, believes education is key when working with teens. "We feed their heads as much as we feed their bodies," explains Percy. He teaches his teen athletes strength training, injury prevention and proper techniques and assigns them exercises to do on their own. His clients range from average to advanced in athletic ability and typically play golf, soccer or tennis. For many kids, training at Percy's studio is a supplement to high-school PE classes, but they reap additional benefits from working with him one-on-one. "Training in a nurturing environment where [teens] don't feel threatened or like a failure helps build their self-esteem and confidence," explains Percy. Evolving Class Formats. The Little Rock Racquet Club in Little Rock, Arkansas, introduced a teen-conditioning program this past February. According to program director Matt Parrott, MS, about eight to 12 teens, mostly girls, meet on Saturdays for one hour. The class bridges the gap between personal training and group exercise, with the format remaining flexible to meet the teens' needs. Since 30 percent of the participants are junior tennis players, they are given specific exercises to work on their shoulders and exercises to improve their game, says Parrott. As youth programmer for Resort Municipality of Whistler in British Columbia, Simon Hudson develops fitness programs for a local school. He created the Youth Triathlon Club in January following a suggestion from an interested teenager. The club now has eight members (4 girls and 4 boys), who train three times a week, doing cardio, aquatic and strength workouts. Hudson, who trains alongside the teens, has asked three school coaches to volunteer one hour a week to provide the sport-specific conditioning the teens need. To educate teen athletes on general fitness principles, staff at the YMCA in La Jolla, California, offer a basic strength training class. Teens are taught about muscle groups and equipment, learning enough to participate in a sport-specific class later on. "Teens lack knowledge about how the body works and how to use the equipment," says Jason Milosh, the Y's fitness director. "Teens are visual learners. They watch someone do an exercise, then do it themselves, but [they] don't know what muscles the exercise should work." Working With Teen Clients. Parrott recommends choosing an instructor who is compatible with teens. He also suggests selecting music that appeals to teens and creating a varied class format with new exercises to keep them interested. Working with teens has its rewards for fitness professionals. "Seeing that you have an important effect on a child, that you are changing [that child's] view, is rewarding," says Percy. "It's really about fitness for life." For Hudson, he enjoys being a kid again and having fun with the teens! Business Benefits. Cross charges the same amount for adult and teen clients. Percy's rates vary ($25-$50 for a 30-minute session), depending on the student's needs and the parents' financial limitations. Parrott began marketing his teen-conditioning classes to the parents at his facility, who then encouraged their teens to join the program. He charges $75 for a six-week session, or $12.50 per session. Most personal trainers and facilities don't advertise specifically to teens, since most teen clients are referred by word of mouth or are the offspring of adult clients or members. Potential Challenges. When teens are working in a gym environment, Milosh advises, you must have a clearly defined supervision policy. To avoid injuries, teens--especially those small in stature--need to be carefully observed when using adultsized equipment. "Teens tend to be sloppy with their form, so you really have to watch them," Cross explains. They also don't communicate as well as adults, says Percy, so you may need to read their facial expressions and posture. Their attention span varies, so exercises may have to be modified or shortened. To succeed with teens, create a program that is flexible, and above all, fun, and they'll keep coming back.
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