As “shelter in plhealthsite” orders have been instituted around the world due to COVID-19, parents and children alike have struggled to adjust to the confinement and disruption of a “new normal.” Young athletes accustomed to attending practices, games, and other physical-activity outlets have been forced to take their training into their own hands despite having few resources to guide them.
This unplanned break from competition has coaches, parents and young athletes worried that kids will lose the skills they have developed and will have to regress significantly when things return to normal. While there is no substitute for competition within a sport, taking time away from competition to develop foundational skills involved with coordination, strength, agility and other components of athleticism can actually create long-term advantages.
Before parents and coaches search the Internet for “professional athlete training strategies,” it’s important to note that kids have unique needs when it comes to developing their physical skills, especially prior to puberty. Their brains and bodies are developing, so they are just learning how to use their internal and external senses to put movements together. Training programs should take this into account and focus on introducing movements by letting kids “play” with them. Kids also have to enjoy what they are doing! Making things overly challenging will only frustrate young athletes and may increase the likelihood that they will get injured.
This article features three “at home” workouts ideal for young athletes 5-12 years old. These can be done indoors or outdoors and require little-to-no equipment. While each training session develops a variety of physical skills, each targets the development of either coordination, strength or agility, all of which are critical elements of athleticism. Each workout can be done in about 25 minutes, so young athletes will be able to remain engaged. Videos of the involved activities are included as well.
Fun and unique activities are used in warm-ups, drills, and games. These unorthodox activities are designed to provide childrens’ neuromuscular systems with novel challenges, increasing their rate of learning.
Performing each of these once per week can offer a huge advantage when young athletes return to their sports.
Workout 1: Coordination
In simple terms, coordination is the ability for the brain and body to communicate to accomplish a task in the most effective, efficient way possible. This is an important aspect of becoming a competent, confident athlete in any sport or physical activity.
Developing coordination requires a lot of experience with a wide variety of physical activities, starting at a young age. First, children must learn to use and rely on their sensory system to take in information quickly and then respond with the right movement strategy. As children get older, they practice and refine these movement strategies so they can happen faster and more smoothly.
1. Warm-up (5 minutes)
Movement Sentences
Efficiently transitioning from one movement to another requires a great deal of coordination. In this warm-up, pair three-movement words together. Instruct athletes to transition from one movement to another, repeating for 10 seconds.
Feel free to use more “abstract” movement concepts like some of those in the examples below. This provides movement “problems” for the kids to solve and helps build the adaptability needed for agility.

Skip, Roll, Jump (repeat for 10 seconds)
Push-up, Lateral shuffle, Cut (repeat for 10 seconds)
Gallop, Squat, Spin (repeat for 10 seconds)
Run, Stop, Accelerate (repeat for 10 seconds)

Movement Variables
Start by having children perform a movement skill for five seconds. After that, add an extra “movement variable” to that movement.
Provide just enough instruction for children to understand how to perform the movement, and what the added variable looks like.

Skip (5 seconds), Loud feet (5 seconds), Quiet feet (5 seconds), Big arm swings (5 seconds), Small arm swings (5 seconds), Skip (5 seconds)
Jump (5 seconds), Legs narrow (5 seconds), Legs wide (5 seconds), Side to side (5 seconds), Forward and backward (5 seconds), Jump (5 seconds)
Push-up (5 seconds), Hips high (5 seconds), Hips low (5 seconds), Moving (5 seconds), Push-up (5 seconds)
Lateral shuffle (5 seconds), Hips high (5 seconds), Hips low (5 seconds), Feet touch in the middle (5 seconds), Feet don’t touch in the middle (5 seconds), Lateral shuffle (5 seconds)

2. Sensory Prep
As young athletes begin to understand their basic body parts and what these body parts do, it becomes important to start incorporating the vocabulary that will be used to teach specific skills. When this is practiced frequently during warm-ups, kids will be familiar with the coaching cues associated with those skills when it comes time to learn and practice skills.
Here, they will be learning the specific coordination for doing a high-level skip, so they will need to understand the following coaching cues while performing a march or skip.

Bounce on the toes
Bounce on the heels
Bounce on the ball of the foot
Skip with thigh below parallel to the ground
Skip with thigh above parallel to the ground
Skip with the thigh parallel to the ground
Bend arms to 90 degrees at the elbow
Bend arms less than 90 degrees at the elbow
Bend arms more than 90 degrees at the elbow
Swing hands from back pocket to nose
Swing hands from behind body to the top of the head

3. Skill Development for Coordination: Skipping
Skipping is an important predecessor to proper running technique. Developing the rhythm and body position involved with skipping is an important aspect of coordination for kids to develop. 
Key elements of high-level skipping include:

Arms bent to 90 degrees
Hit the ground with the ball of the foot
Bring the thigh parallel to the ground

Do the following activities to reinforce the coordination necessary for high-level skipping:

Equipment: Ball or balloon
This game requires kids to quickly react and coordinate a movement.

This activity requires kids to immediately respond to a coach’s prompts.

After the athlete has performed the previous activity for four sets of 15-20 seconds, introduce the coordination challenge of “opposites.” In this case, the athlete is instructed to move in the opposite direction of what the coach designates.
7. Movement Circuit
These circuits highlight developing the strength and coordination to transition from one movement to the next. Do the following circuit three times.

Push Up and Roll (30 seconds)
Alternating Cone Reaches (30 seconds)
Split Squat (30 seconds each leg)
Crab Hip Holds (30 seconds)

Today’s Challenge
Can you do 20 jumping jacks, touching your hands together over your head, in 10 seconds?
Workout 2: Strength
Strength sets the foundation for a young athlete’s ability to perform at his or her best while decreasing their likelihood for getting injured. Strong legs, core and upper-body muscles help athletes run faster, jump higher and better control their bodies at every age.
While nearly every physical activity works to help kids get “stronger,” certain activities involved with both sensory and fundamental movement skills can highlight safe, effective strength development that is involved with the most important athletic movements.
1. Warm-up (5 minutes)
Movement Sentences
Transitioning from one movement to another efficiently requires a great deal of coordination.  In this warm-up, pair three-movement words together. Instruct the athletes to transition from one movement to another, repeating for 10 seconds.
Feel free to use more “abstract” movement concepts, such as those shown in the examples below. This provides movement “problems” for the kids to solve. This helps build the adaptability needed for agility.

Jumping jack, Roll, Leap (repeat for 10 seconds)
Squat, Run, Shuffle (repeat for 10 seconds)
Back pedal, Cut, Spin (repeat for 10 seconds)
Jump, Duck, Crawl (repeat for 10 seconds)

Movement Variables
Start by having children perform a fundamental movement skill for five seconds. Then, add an extra “movement variable” to that movement.
Provide just enough instruction for children to understand how to perform the movement and what the added variable looks like.

March (5 seconds), Fast (5 seconds), Slow (5 seconds), Knees high (5 seconds), Knees low (5 seconds), March (5 seconds)
Hop (each foot) (5 seconds), Loud feet (5 seconds), Soft feet (5 seconds), Over something (5 seconds), Backward (5 seconds), Hop (5 seconds)
Squat (5 seconds), Stop and Go (5 seconds), Body wide (5 seconds), Body narrow (5 seconds), Moving (5 seconds), Squat (5 seconds)
Crawl (5 seconds), Hips high (5 seconds), Hips low (5 seconds), Body long (5 seconds), Body short (5 seconds).

Here we use Simon Says as a game to help kids recognize the parts of their bodies and what they do. It can also be used to introduce kids to the more specific movements and body positions needed for certain movement skills. Make sure to incorporate movements Simon doesn’t say. Below are some suggestions.
Simon Says:

Feet as wide as hips
Feet wider than hips
Feet narrower than hips
Weight on your heels
Weight on your toes
Bend your knees to 90 degrees
Bend your knees to less than 90 degrees
Bend your knees to more than 90 degrees
Touch the ground
Reach above your head
Touch elbows to thighs

3. Skill Practice for Strength: Squat
Squatting is a natural movement important for sports and everyday activities. It also helps develop strength of the lower body. Children seven years and older should learn the more technical aspects of being able to do this movement safely and effectively. Once they can do it well, it’s important to find ways to make it more challenging.
As the athletes attempt these movements, make sure they:

Keep heels on the ground.
Shift the hips back so the knees are behind or in line with the toes.
Keep their chest up and out.
Step-up Squat 3 sets of 30 seconds
Elbow/knee Squats 3 sets of 30 seconds
Static wall Squats 3 sets of 30 seconds

This is a great game for all ages to reinforce squat mechanics, particularly lowering the hips and keeping the heels on the ground.

This activity is an opportunity to integrate strength movements into a game. Try the following sequence and feel free to add your own:

Squat
Push-up
Hands to shoulders
Jump
CONE
Jumping jacks
Push-up
Spin
CONE
Squat
Jump
Hands to head
Hands to feet
Jumping jacks
CONE

6. Movement Circuit
These circuits highlight developing the strength and coordination to transition from one movement to the next. Do the following circuit three times.

Surfer (30 seconds)
Wall Squat (30 seconds)
Alternating Superman (30 seconds)
Bear, Crab, Butterfly (30 seconds)

7. Today’s Challenge
The Get-up Challenge

Sit cross-legged on the floor with your arms folded across your chest.
Try to stand up and sit down five times in a row without using your hands.

Workout 3: Agility
A young athlete with “agility” can move quickly and efficiently while adjusting to sphealthsite, timing constraints and other components of a physical activity. Building the skill of agility requires developing sensory skills such as vision, balance, spatial ability, body awareness and rhythm in addition to fundamental movement skills such as running, jumping and shuffling.
1. Warm-up (5 minutes)
Movement sentences
Transitioning from one movement to another efficiently requires a great deal of coordination.  In this warm-up, pair three-movement words together. Instruct the athletes to transition from one movement to another, repeating for 10 seconds.
Feel free to use more “abstract” movement concepts, such as those in the examples below. This provides movement “problems” for the kids to solve and helps build the adaptability needed for agility.

Run, Roll, Jump (repeat for 10 seconds)
Shuffle, Switch, Push-up (repeat for 10 seconds)
Squat, Reach, Spin (repeat for 10 seconds)
Skip, Duck, Turn (repeat for 10 seconds)

Movement Variables
Start by having children perform a fundamental movement skill for five seconds. After that, add an extra “movement variable” to that movement.
Provide just enough instruction for children to understand how to perform the movement and what the added variable looks like.

March (5 seconds), Legs and arms wide (5 seconds), Legs and arms narrow (5 seconds), Hard feet (5 seconds), Soft feet (5 seconds), March (5 seconds)
Jump (5 seconds), Fast (5 seconds), Slow (5 seconds), In a zigzag (5 seconds), Backward (5 seconds), Jump (5 seconds)
Squat (5 seconds), Hands above head (5 seconds), Hands below waist (5 seconds), While moving (5 seconds), Stop and Go (5 seconds), Squat (5 seconds)
Gallop (5 seconds), In a circle (5 seconds), In a square (5 seconds), Body wide (5 seconds), Body narrow (5 seconds).

Here we use Simon Says as a game to help kids recognize the parts of their bodies and what they do. Make sure to incorporate movements Simon doesn’t say. Below are some suggestions.
Simon Says:

Touch elbow to knee
Touch elbow to opposite knee
Hands to floor
Hands above head
Touch hands to thighs
Bring your heel to your glute muscle
Bring heel to opposite glute muscle
Bend your knees
Straighten your knees
Push your hips forward
Push your hips backward
Reach to your right
Reach to your left

3. Skill Practice for Agility: “Elastic” Foot Contact With Popcorn Jumps
Elastic foot contact with the ground is an important aspect of agility. It is also a precursor for improving speed. It’s important that kids ages seven years and older are introduced to the technical aspects of how to rebound off the ground effectively and efficiently.
Perform four sets of 10 seconds.

Agility requires young athletes to have the ability to quickly change direction at a variety of speeds and movement angles. Moving in nonlinear directions is a great way to develop agility in young athletes.
Call out the following shapes and have your athletes quickly move their feet in a small area to create an outline of the shape on the ground. Have them continue to make the shape for the duration of time.
Following is an example of a letter/number/shape sequence (resting every 15 seconds to maintain movement quality):

The letter A (5 seconds)
The letter Z (5 seconds)
The number 2 (5 seconds)
Rest 20 seconds
The number 10 (5 seconds)
The number 237 (5 seconds)
A square (5 seconds)
Rest 20 seconds
A triangle (5 seconds)
The outline of a person (5 seconds)
The word C-A-T (10 seconds)
Rest 20 seconds
The athletes first name (10 seconds)
Spell their sport (10 seconds)

5. My Gears (Using running in plhealthsite or across an area)
Agility requires athletes to quickly change speeds to adapt to the needs of the sport.
Call out the following gears at random time intervals:

1st gear
2nd gear
3rd gear
4th gear
3rd gear
2nd gear
1st gear
3rd gear
4th gear
1st gear
2nd gear
4th gear

Repeat the progression three times.

As young athletes’ vision develops, it’s important they learn how to use their entire field of vision to track and react to their environments. Each bout should last roughly 10-15 seconds; perform three bouts.
Below are other modifications for this activity:

Stand on one foot
Tag across the body (for example, reach the right hand across to tag over the left shoulder)
Move hands to the periphery without letting the head move (must use peripheral vision)

7. Today’s Challenge 
Try to do the following circuit in less than two minutes:

20 push-ups
20 squats
20 jumping jacks

Try doing each of these workouts with young athletes one to two times per week for a total of three to five days. Watch how these skills help improve their sport skills when they return to their teams!

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