| The Parent Sales Trap

Author / Cheyne Zeller

5-7 Minute read

Parents juggle responsibilities with head-down persistence and self-imposed blinders, solely focused on their child’s success, and rightfully so. As a parent, there’s no greater responsibility than ensuring the well being of your children. This can easily be seen in the market of sports and training camps, tools, programs, and coaches geared specifically towards kids. There’s no shortage of companies offering “guaranteed” tickets to success, and they know parents will pay top dollar with the hopes of their kids getting that coveted D1 scholarship, or even going pro. Companies also know the best way to get to that top dollar is not only by marketing to parents, but also marketing to the kids. With the growth and saturation of social media in today’s world, and knowing kids have a very limited attention span, marketers and companies barrage kids and adults with nonsensical clickbait making outlandish claims. If you’re the loudest voice, and the one people hear the most often in digestible chunks, you win.

In our theme of Battling the Bullshit, we took on the most common fantastical industry claims about youth training and performance, defining, dissecting, and ultimately dismissing them, to help parents navigate this maze. This is the road map to navigate the advertised youth training minefield – a survival guide to the social media dystopia that is now a reality. 

“Sport-Specific”

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Training mimics on the court/field movements. The marketing relies on eye-catching gadgets or training tools (ex weighted basketballs). The added resistance and variables are claimed to improve performance. 

Problem:

More than likely your child already participates in sport-specific training; it’s called practice. No amount of parroting on field/court movements in the gym will ever transfer to performance as well as practicing the actual sport. The idea of youth sport-specialization itself as a way to fast-track success is misguided. Youth injury rates grow as sport-specialization increases when compared to multi-sport sampling (Carder et al. 2850). Youth sport-specialization can pose physical risks as well as psychological hazards (Jayanthi et al. 1040). 

Resolution:

Training youth for a foundation of athleticism will transfer over to any sport/activity. Training must be individualized to the population, but generalized to the goal. By training the child how to move properly, they can safely and efficiently perform any movement demanded in sport.

“Functional” 

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These advertisements usually focus on what an athlete cannot do rather than what they can. Someone standing one-legged on an uneven surface or bosu ball, trying to perform a movement resembles a circus trick rather than a display of athleticism. These marketing schemes are the new infomercials. They often involve purchasing specialized equipment for a problem that you didn’t know existed (because it doesn’t). 

Problem: 

The term “Functional” is misleading and unclear. What is this type of training a function of, and how does it relate to the needs of an athlete? Increasing the mobility of a joint without accompanied stability will only lead to higher risk of injury. The body will adapt to the specific demands placed upon it. Performing barbell back squats on a physioball will only get you better at barbell back squats on a physioball (and possibly becoming more familiar with the route to the nearest emergency room), but it will NOT carry over to sport. 

Resolution:

Athletes’ training should be a “function” of sport demands. The demands of all sports require the athlete to be able to move their body through space effectively. Unless your child’s sport requires its athletes to run on physioballs, the gizmos and gadgets are not a necessary purchase. 

“Buzz” words 

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“HIIT, Explosivity, Power, Dynamic, Toughness, etc”. These advertisements usually look more like the cartoon captions to comic books than describing training methodologies – I half expect to see a “KA-POW!!” thrown in for good measure. The marketing strategy implies that the higher the intensity, the better – the more intense the workout the faster the results. These campaigns involve athletes training at high intensities accompanied with a product; the insinuation being that the product is necessary for the intensity, and the intensity is all that matters for your child’s results.  

Problem: 

While this game plan may have worked for “Spinal Tap”, increasing the volume to eleven does not necessarily mean success will follow. These vague sayings and descriptors are designed to elicit emotional buying opportunities but not results. The marketing meeting for these campaigns must have resembled a Will Ferrell movie, the terms used are so ambiguous that, “no one knows what it means, but it’s provocative… it gets the people going!” 

Resolution:

Any workout can be difficult, but it is how the workouts fit into the overall training design that is integral. Overload is necessary to produce results, but it must be progressive in nature and scope. Slogans and “buzz” words work well for one workout or a meme, but they do not give the context of how to achieve long term results. 

Laying the Foundation

The solution to navigating youth training can be modeled after youth behavior. Any parent on a road trip can tell you, after the “are we there yet?” question is fielded, it’s time for the “why?” game. A child asking “why?” ad nauseam can be frustrating at the moment, but it should be the template to the parent’s outlook on youth training. Why is the coach or company prescribing these movements and rep schemes? Why is the load and speed recommendation appropriate? Why does a particular workout or methodology appear suitable for my child’s age range and needs? The coach should have an objective reasoning behind everything that is advertised and then programmed for your child. The transferability of the training should be science-based and relevant. A purposeful, practical, and prudent training methodology begins with a base, a launch pad to rocket your child’s athletic success.

Power Athlete’s sole focus has been a focus on unlocking the athletic potential for thousands across the world, with an emphasis on movement, not movements. Our new Power Athlete Training Camps are designed not with a single sport in mind, but with the idea of building an athletic foundation for a child’s success, regardless of whatever sport they choose. Our goal isn’t to teach them one thing that will make them the best at their position, but instead to lay the bedrock of sound movement, and set them on a path for long term athletic development and success for years to come. For more information or to sign up, click the link below and start on that path today!

Related Links

TRAINING: Power Athlete Training Camp

PODCAST: PA Episode 523 The Strength Clinic You Wish You Had Growing Up

BLOG: Coaching Kids to Fail by David McKercher

EDU: Power Athlete Methodology

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SOURCES

Carder, Seth L et al. “The Concept of Sport Sampling Versus Sport Specialization: Preventing Youth Athlete Injury: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” The American journal of sports medicine vol. 48,11 (2020): 2850-2857. doi:10.1177/0363546519899380

Jayanthi, Neeru A et al. “Health Consequences of Youth Sport Specialization.” Journal of athletic training vol. 54,10 (2019): 1040-1049. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-380-18

AUTHOR

Cheyne Zeller

Starting his training career assisting in the Biomechanics lab at San Francisco State, Cheyne’s focus on movement, posture, and position have been the foundation of his coaching. His clientele ranges from injury rehabilitation patients to professional athletes, and he has been able to consistently tailor strength and conditioning programs toward specialized needs. As a personal trainer in commercial gyms from California to New York, his hands-on experience gives a unique perspective as to what will and what won’t work in the real world. Since graduating the Block One Coach curriculum in June 2018, Cheyne has utilized the Power Athlete Methodology for developing and fostering athleticism in his clients. Cheyne credits the Block One Coach curriculum for the improvement he has seen in his clients’ body composition, strength, endurance, fitness and overall aesthetics.

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