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Strength training creates solid base for young athletes


Many things you believed might be simple take time.

For instance why is an iPad all of a sudden frozen? Then after going through an inventory of passwords, you find out that they are invalid. Despite making a little headway you end up after a long day with a device that is still immobile.

I should have called Patrick McHenry and maybe he could have made some progress.

McHenry is head strength coach and physical education teacher at Castle View High School. He is a member of the National Strength and Conditioning Association Board of Directors and co-chair of the NSCA Secondary School Coaches Working Group.

He isn’t a technology expert but admits some weight training methods are outdated and progress is being made to change those old-fashioned training procedures. It has taken time to convince trainers that overwork can cause injuries.

Integrated and not isolated training is the new way of training.

“Integrated means you are going to add components in,” explained McHenry. “Now we are isolated. Kids grow up and play one sport, never learning to move in other patterns.

“To help avoid getting knee injuries, one of the first things we look at is if they are squatting properly. Sometimes when a person hurts their ACL, it’s because they have weak glutes which are causing their legs to move wrong. It’s often a non-contact injury.”

Growth spurts in teenagers should not be ignored.

“I must pay close attention to whether they are getting taller because growing adds something to the mix,” said McHenry. “A freshman may come into the high school at 5-foot-5. Then he starts growing, which changes his center of gravity. He may have to back off the weights and re-learn the movement patterns.”

McHenry still endorses strength training.

“Strength training is safe, but it’s important that it’s taught by someone who understands pediatric and adolescent exercise physiology,” he said. “That’s a relatively new science.”

Specific sport training where athletes focus on individualized weight training and specific approach is helpful.

“With cross country, for example, I’ll work on stabilizing muscles so they can perform better later in the race,” added McHenry. “Golfers tend to do all their rotations on one side, so I help them work both sides equally.

“Tennis players have to be explosive. I help them work on that. Cheerleading is a sport with a notoriously high number of injuries. Can the base people handle the pressure of catching someone thrown high in the air? They may need the weight room more than most.

“The sport coach can be focused on strategy while the strength coach is focused on strength, recovery and nutrition. It frees up sport coaches to do their sport.”

McHenry, who has been at Castle View for 11 years, also has thoughts on burnout and creating well-rounded athletes.

“Much research says kids get burned out when they play just one sport,” he said. “I see that all the time. Kids don’t want to play any more after high school. In contrast, studies find that kids who play multiple sports will peak later and not burn out early.

“I talk with them all the time and explain that the more sports they play, the more well-rounded they’ll be. You’d never have a student just study math or science all through school. They take all the core classes — math, science, social studies and reading — to make them well-rounded. By the time they reach college, they have a good base and start to specialize.

“Sports should mirror school,” he continued. “We want kids to build on all the different abilities, because they are cumulative. As they get older, they are in better shape to specialize.”

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at jbenton@coloradocommunitymedia.com or at 303-566-4083.


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