Sunday, December 22, 2013

Top Youth Sports Trends for 2014

It’s that time of year again when we can look back on the previous year and analyze the goals we set out to achieve over the past 12 months. Hopefully, you hit on some real game changers that improved the lives of your family and community.

Last year at this time I wrote about the top health and fitness trends heading into 2013. [1] So how did that turn out? For the most part the trends held up particularly those dealing with nutrition, specifically the trend of gluten free diets and consumers avoiding grains and starches due to the Paleo craze.

Also consumers have continued to push for transparency when it comes to what they are feeding their families. There was a big national push for rules that would force the food industry to disclose whether or not their products contained genetically modified organisms (GMO).

That said right here in my community I noticed a lot of convenience stores and quick serve chains popping up all over the place. So at the end of the day there is still strong demand for quick stuff (I hesitate to call it food) no matter what it is.  We are all still trying to be to many places at one time and when we rush we back ourselves in a corner and the answer is inevitably dinner at the drive-thru. So if one of your goals was to slow down and appreciate life a bit more odds are we struggled to accomplish that one.

More sit down restaurants are supporting farmers featuring seasonal and local items on their menus. I know there is a small minority that this is important to but lack of interest by the masses makes this very much a small niche in the market. It’s a positive trend but it’s moving at a snails pace.

From a fitness point of view I thought big box gyms (Planet Fitness, L.A. Fitness and the like) would continue to pop-up in every community. That has certainly been the case but I still find it odd that despite all of these options we are still as unfit as we have ever been. More options are not the answer but better options are definitely the answer.

On that note there has been an explosion in high intensity forms of training for adults and kids alike. Great concept, but this shouldn’t be an entry point for most folks and you can’t train at high intensity for 12 months out of the year. In a related trend physical therapists and orthopedic surgeons are flourishing.

That was last year what about the year ahead?

Kids call the shots!

 Kids influence nearly 80 percent of purchase decisions by families. [2] We know kids are strongly influenced by popular media and that it drives their desire to fit in and be cool. We all want the best for our kids and want them to have positive self-esteem. This feeds off of the idea that we are always in a rush running children from one event to the other and we end up settling for lesser nutrition options and other purchases that may be used to appease children when we are tired and stressed from a long day at the office and car pool.

Girl Power!

The emergence of the “IndieWoman” will continue to drive the demand for convenience options. Media analysts have so dubbed women whom are 27 and older, live alone without children and spend $50 billion on food and beverages each year.

Convenience doesn’t have to be a bad thing. We all a would like to do more with our valuable time and quite frankly not everyone likes to cook, go grocery shopping or plow the driveway. Delegation is an option so long as we have resources that are reliable and trustworthy. Ideally we continue to hold the food industry to a high standard and our demand for quick and healthy options becomes mutual.

Sports Safety

Diagnosis and media coverage has definitely played a significant role in making us more aware of sport related injuries such as concussions but I do feel they are occurring at an increased rate than in decades past. Even in sports like baseball teams have become extremely conservative (smartly so I might add) before allowing athletes to return to action. Though not unexpected it has become commonplace over the last year or two in the NFL and NHL for a rash of players to miss significant time due to head trauma concerns. This increased concern and awareness is a positive trend that will benefit all competitors in the long run and young athletes in particular. Most scholastic and recreation programs have adopted concussion policies in some form as a condition for participation. This is crucial because youth sport injuries may lead to adult brain disease. [3]

Wanted: All Around Athletes

More teams will go out of their way to scout/recruit/develop versatile athletes. Related to the concerns of sport injuries roster depth is being seriously challenged in all sports. Coaches will be on the look out for athletes that can play multiple positions to insure their teams against injuries to key personnel. In the pro ranks the crack down on steroids and other performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) have also lead to athletes requiring longer recovery times. Unfortunately, this recovery time isn’t compatible with long and brutal professional seasons (don’t forget the crazy “workloads” for some youth sports either!). Without the added boost of PEDs athletes are breaking down more than ever because they simply don’t have the opportunity to regenerate their bodies adequately.  Early specialization for young athletes is also a problem because their one-dimensional development has left their still developing bodies vulnerable to over-use and fatigue related injuries. The single sport athlete isn’t very versatile and they aren’t very durable either, because their athletic foundation is to narrow.

Speed and Athleticism over Strength

Teams are starting to realize that speed and overall athleticism are qualities that can get you over the hump. For example look no further than the Detroit Tigers. Last season they were a one-dimensional baseball team. They were over-reliant on the big guys in their batting order slugging the ball out of the ballpark. When it works it’s an awesome sight but it’s also a dangerous way to live because brute strength manifests itself in spurts, it’s very unreliable especially against advanced competition. The Tigers may have seemingly taken a step back in “Star” power but they have brought in faster and more versatile athletes. Their management realized that to get over the top they needed to become more consistent. Speed and athleticism is like an insect that’s buzzing around your head. It’s not going to knock you over but it will drive you nuts because you’re always aware of it and you just can’t shake it. Speed and all-around athleticism places pressure on the opponent and often forces them into making mistakes. On the flip side speed and adaptability also allow those that posses them to overcome their mistakes. As it relates to baseball no more PEDs has also deflated the era of over-powered sluggers. Out of necessity teams have been forced to reexamine the art of scoring runs. [4] [5]

Teens Obsession with Body Image

Six in ten 13-year-old girls, compared to four in 10 boys the same age, are afraid of gaining weight or getting fat. [6] Pro athletes cover models and Hollywood action stars with the means (artificial and otherwise) have grossly distorted what kids and adults perceive as healthy and strong. It should come as no surprise that young male athletes aren’t the only ones experimenting with PEDs. More than 1 in 20 high school girls has already used anabolic steroids and the number of female users is increasing. In fact, the fastest growing user group is young high school girls. [7]

My Hope for 2014

If I could see one fitness trend take shape in 2014 it would be the reemergence of basic physical education. We have done a very good job in this country of teaching/exposing our kids to sports. At the same time we have neglected the real value of a basic physical education. Sports are great and I love them, most kids have found one that they enjoy but just as many haven’t. It’s my strong belief that we need to teach kids how to take care of themselves. Every child should have a basic idea of how to put together an exercise program that fits his or her needs. This would include the kids that play sports as well. A broad physical education will support and enhance all athletic endeavors while also providing kids that just aren’t into sports the physical outlet they need to become healthy adults. I have a few ideas on how to make this happen and I plan to share them in the New Year.

Happy Holidays!


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