It takes a special talent to work with youth athletes to help them build up their strength, to help them make consistent strides in performance.
Much of the challenge of training youth athletes stems from the fact that you have to train for potential. With adult athletes, the idea is to train for results now. For a sixth-grade standout point guard, however, training involves both achieving results now and building habits that will grow with that athlete.
Here are 20 professional trainers who understand this dynamic and can help develop a talented youth athlete today.
Performance coach Anthony Parker is a speed, agility and strength training instructor at DNA Sports Center in Cincinnati. He works with athletes of all ages, and his resume is impressive: He has
coached 12 Olympians,
led the Haitian national track and field team in several competitions,
and has also was a member of the track and field coaching staffs at the University of North Carolina and University of Texas.
Chat Williams is an instructor at Elite Sports University and the director of Youth Performance in Norman, Oklahoma. Williams has studied and written extensively on the particular challenges of training youth athletes, and he speaks at seminars and conferences around the country each year on what he has learned.
Nicknamed “The Professor,” Sara Fusco is the VP of operations and a co-founder at North Texas youth training facility DX3. Fusco is a lifelong athlete and also a high school science teacher, two aspects of herself that help her make strong connections with youth athletes.
“I believe that athletes must grow in knowledge and understanding to truly implement the mechanics and techniques necessary to progress as an athlete,” she says. “By keeping the training fun, intense, and progressive, I strive to engage athletes gaining their trust helping them sharpen their sword.”
Certified specialist Bobby Dattero at Evolution Sports Performance in Easton, Massachusetts, has a master’s in strength and conditioning. While he works with athletes of all ages, he says he’s often surprised at how youth athletes seem to figure things out miraculously, even after days of struggle.
“Athletes will struggle with certain things,” he says. “Maybe its ladder drills. They may have many weeks of confusion and frustration. Sometimes they come back the next week and they can now perform it. I can get into nervous system development and other complicated topics but there are not enough hours in the day. Eventually things will click.”
Rick Howard at Youth Centered Sports and Fitness is both a researcher and practitioner in the field of youth training. And that keeps his schedule full. In addition to working with youth athletes, he is
the Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator for the National Strength and Conditioning Association;
an adjunct professor at West Chester, Temple, Rowan and Delaware State universities;
is the director of fitness and sports performance at the Wilmington Country Club in Delaware;
and is working toward a doctorate in health promotion and wellness.
Sports performance specialist Allie Boudreau trains many of Chicagoland’s youth athletes at TCBOOST in Northbrook, Illinois. Before joining the coaching staff there in 2016, she was an eight-time All-American at Illinois Wesleyan, where she majored in accounting, served as the track and field team’s captain for two years, was named an eight-time Academic All-American, and was the 2015 national champion in the pentathlon.
Darrell Watkins is the owner of X5 Sports Lab just north of Atlanta. Although he specializes in helping young athletes train for strength and conditioning, Watkins has been known to work with some high-profile older clients, too, including members of Outkast and the Denver Broncos.
Nick Maruca at Advantage Performance Training in Flemington, New Jersey, is a Temple University grad and a former member of the coaching staff at Notre Dame High School. In 2014, he joined APT, where he and other coaches work to teach student athletes the fundamentals of strength, conditioning and what it takes to be an elite athlete.
A recent U of L grad, Elizabeth Disney at Everyday Athletes in Louisville has spent a lifetime in sports, both as a competitive runner and as a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She works with several Louisville area middle schools to train and develop their track and field teams.
Matthew Travis is the owner and head coach at Athletic Revolution Metro West in Southborough, Massachusetts. He and his team work with youth athletes from 6 to 18 years old to develop their abilities according to their own needs and stages of physiological and mental development.
So far, so good: The training program Travis uses has been field tested on more than 20,000 youth athletes to date.
Doug Krueger is the owner of Peak Performance Personal Trainers, which has a couple of locations in the Milwaukee area. Peak has a special Teen CORE program that helps high school and youth athletes with their strength conditioning that focuses on teaching fundamentals; improving flexibility, agility, strength, speed and endurance; and just as importantly having fun.
Sam Morrison is a coach at C4 Performance Training, which helps youth athletes throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania build their skills and gain an edge for gameday. Morrison himself is a lifelong athlete, having been wrestling team captain for the Sacred Heart University, where he earned a degree in exercise science.
Paige Affleck is a strength and conditioning coach who grew up playing all kinds of sports and went on to be an All-American softball pitcher at BYU. For more than a decade now, she has been working with youth athletes and collegiate softball pitchers, and she brings that experience to the youth training program at ElevatePHW in Albuquerque.
Tom Bouffard is the director of strength and conditioning at Athletes Equation in Rhode Island. His experience has seen him work with a variety of athletes — including collegiate track and field, golf and women’s hockey athletes at the University of Connecticut as well as youth and high school athletes at Athletic Evolution in Massachusetts. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, and his program has helped scores of youth athletes develop their speed, quickness, explosiveness and agility.
Marc Avery Airhart
Marc Avery Airhart knows plenty about getting youth football players to the next level. A two-time NAIA All-American at Eastern Oregon, Airhart has more than three years of NFL combine training that he can bring to the youth training programs at Ford Sports Performance near Seattle.
TJ Lopez is the founder and director of sports performance at Athletic Movement Protocol in Long Island, New York. “We understand that while we want our kids to succeed in their athletic endeavors, their overall athletic development is the primary goal,” his team writes about its group training program for athletes 11 to 13 years old. “The Youth Athlete Training program at AMP is designed with long-term goals in mind, to help kids develop sound fundamentals in movement, posture, and coachability.”
“Nick is an extremely talented coach who truly enjoys helping our athletes to move, feel and perform better,” the team says at Elite Athlete Training in Rockville, Maryland, where Pham trains a variety of athletes. He’s a certified strength and conditioning specialist with a degree in health and exercise science plus nutrition and wellness.
Al Kraft is an exercise physiologist at Sanford Health, which has sports medicine facilities in Fargo, North Dakota, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to train athletes of all ages and levels. At Sanford POWER, Kraft brings 23 years of experience in sports medicine as well as a master’s in exercise physiology and numerous accreditations and certifications in strength and conditioning, health fitness and functional movement.
Samantha Learch at RedLine Athletics in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, trains all kinds of youth athletes in Chicagoland. A local track and field athlete, she was one of the state’s best runners in high school, running everything from the 100 m to the mile. At the University of Arkansas, where she earned a degree in kinesiology, she was an All-SEC and All-American athlete, specializing in the 800 meter and the 1500 meter.
Paul and Todd Turner
Paul and Todd Turner founded Team GUTS after Todd’s daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome and autism, and the duo were inspired to create fitness programs for special needs youth athletes.
“No more glaring absence,” they write. “While the special needs community has physical, speech and occupational therapy options, fitness options were virtually nonexistent. But now, Team GUTS™ is training all athletes who want to learn to be better.”
At their facility just north of Detroit, Paul and Todd offer one-on-one training, classes and sports camps to all applicants; families in need of financial assistance can apply for scholarships because the business philosophy is to make sure no one gets turned away.
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