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"Athletic" specific vs. "Sport" specific....Is one better than the other for high school athletes?

In an age when sport specialization is becoming more prevalent, and at younger and younger ages, you might say that the result of this culture shift has led to the creation of all the workout programs, program philosophies, and personal "trainers", we now see. Each with some sort of an endorsement that they will create the next blue chip athlete. When it comes to high school athletes, can we consider training every boy and girl from any sport, using just one over arching program? That is, one that is "athletic specific" and focuses on the components used in all sports: speed, strength, agility, power, balance, flexibility, coordination. 

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Comment by Adrian Bazemore on January 25, 2012 at 10:46pm

Well said Jesse! My coaches have/had way more success training us at pure athletes than trying to make everything "Sport Specific".

Comment by Jesse Webber on January 25, 2012 at 9:04pm

one that is "athletic specific" and focuses on the components used in all sports: speed, strength, agility, power, balance, flexibility, coordination.

Why stop at just high school athletes?  Since, as you say, all sports have these components can't I just pick the best way to train these components and train any athlete that way?

I believe that way a great deal.  Of course, when it comes to specific agility drills or metabolic conditioning I will tailor it to the sport.  I really don't use the term sport specific, however.  If I am setting up conditioning for field hockey and lacrosse, is anything I do sport specific?  Really all I am doing is keeping the energy systems in mind (which are essentially identical in the two sports).  How they practice is sport specific.

A squat is not sport specific to any field/court sport.  Yet, all of our athletes squat.  Why?  Because it is one of the best lower body strengtheners, and is a basic human movement.  Now, that isn't all we do for the lower body, and not every phase of every program has a squat in it.  It is never about one exercise, but how that exercise is programmed.

Getting back to the original question, I believe that at the high school level, teaching the basics of the components you mention is the key.  Focus on good technique and a balanced athlete (muscle balance, mobility, and stability), and great things will come.

Final thought: speed training is speed training!  Proper body positioning, strong stable core, push behind your COG, drive your knees and elbows... it all applies regardless of the sport.  We can get more specific with some of the things mentioned above (agility and metabolics), but don't make it more complicated than it needs to be.

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