Training youth athletes can be a challenge, even for the most experienced Performance Coaches. With the drastic fluctuations in structural, hormonal, and neurological development across adolescence, one of the most difficult things to do is teach youth athletes how to perform exercises (and other athletic movements) with proper technique.

Matt Siniscalchi is one of the best coaches I’ve ever met at getting athletes to move properly, quickly. This is one of the reasons he’s been such a valuable asset for us at Endeavor, and why he continues to be a great learning resource for me.

In this article, Matt shares powerful strategies that he uses to develop youth athletes. Check it out below!

Training Youth Athletes: Optimal Teaching Strategies by Matt Siniscalchi

Teaching youth athletes (12-16 years old) encapsulates:

  1. Knowing Long Term Athletic Development (LTAD)
  2. Teaching Fundamental Movement Patterns (squat, hinge, jumping, hopping, sprinting, push, pull, single-leg, core stability)
  3. Appropriate Energy System Development

A quick word on LTAD

Long term athletic development is a physical and psychological model for understanding what ages certain qualities have the highest potential for improvement in order for the athlete’s to take advantage of their full potential later in the sport’s careers. For a quick overview, check out these articles: Endeavor Endeavor’s Athletic Development Model and LTAD Stages

Fundamental Movement Proficiency

Teaching the fundamental movements is our top priority for training youth athletes. More than likely, athletes between 12-16 years old have minimal training background and may not move as optimally as we would prefer. We first perform a battery of assessments/screens to give us a baseline for each individual’s movement competency/capacity. After we do their movement screens, general strength testing (primarily bodyweight), and conditioning assessments, we create a program with methods to set them to successfully learn proper exercise technique. These include:

  1. Eccentrics for upper and lower body lifts (3-5sec eccentrics): Push-Ups, Pull-Ups, Lunges, squats, and deadlifts are typically introduced with 3-5sec eccentrics. Slowing down the movement helps the athlete grasp what positions they should be in and what they should feel throughout the exercise.
  2. Isometrics or pauses to teach either the bottom or top portion of the lift. Again, this strategy is helpful in allowing the athlete to feel proper positioning in the most difficult portions of an exercise or movement.

1-Arm Cable Stiff-Legged Deadlift Hold

An example of an isometric hold to help a youth athlete feel proper body positioning

Lifting is one piece of the training puzzle for our youth athletes. The other important aspects are sprinting (primarily acceleration/deceleration), change of direction drills, medicine ball throw variations (power), and jumping and hopping (2-leg & 1-leg variations). The principles we use when implementing speed, power, change of direction (COD), balance, or plyometrics are as follows:

  • Get into basic starting positions first to set athlete up for success before integrating a wider variety of starting positions
  • Slow down the movement before ramping up the speed
  • Focus on single jumps/throws/hops at a time before progressing to multiple or repeated jumps/throws/hops at a time


2-Point Start (static starting stance)


Lean Fall Runs (dynamic starting position)

MedBall Throws

Side Standing MedBall Scooop: reset after each one

Side Standing MedBall Scoop Repeats: continuous reloading of hips


KB Vertical Jump

KB Vertical Jump Repeats

These are examples of progressions that we implement to successfully teach our youth athletes to move properly. Everyone improves at different rates, so we either regress or progress according to their level of improvement.

Energy System Development

Energy system development is a hot topic of debate currently with coaches trying to find the best methods to get athletes in shape for their sport(s). Youth conditioning should rely primarily on aerobic/alactic energy system development. There seems to be more sedentary children nowadays than when I was growing up and it’s evident to us as a lot of kids struggle mightily in aerobic tests and/or have high resting heart rates.

The aerobic energy system has the greatest growth potential, meaning we can drastically influence this in our kids, even at young ages. If we create a large “engine” in our youth athletes, then when it comes later in their athletic career, we can start to build the “horsepower” (ability to repeat explosive sprints) much more efficiently. We influence this system by using body weight circuits, tempo runs, or short duration explosive bouts of sprints for their conditioning.

Enhancing our athletes’ potential for success is a “slow-cooking” step-by-step process that requires patience, principle-based training, consistency, having fun, and understanding how each athlete develops as an individual.

Try implementing these strategies with your youth athletes! If you have any questions, please post them below.

-Matt Siniscalchi, CSCS
Performance Specialist, Endeavor Sports Performance

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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“Kevin Neeld is one of the top 5-6 strength and conditioning coaches in the ice hockey world.”
– Mike Boyle, Head S&C Coach, US Women’s Olympic Team

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