When Is My Youth Athlete Ready for Sports Performance Technology?

Adding tech can empower coaches to improve their skills and athletes to strengthen their performance.

By Philip Stotter, CEP

In our modern, tech-infused society, it seems like children are practically born with a smartphone in their hands. How many of us have seen toddlers sitting in their strollers casually tapping and swiping on their parents’ digital devices like pros? How many tweens are walking around with their own smartphones? Let’s face it: tech is here to stay, and parents are responsible for deciding how and when to introduce their children to it. 

As a dad of four young boys, I spend most of my time running to or from games, practices, lessons, etc…I’m sure if you are reading this you can relate. I also spend time coaching youth baseball as well as other sports that my kids participate in.

Through my personal experience, I’ve played competitive sports through college and still spend most of my professional career in some aspect of sports. For the past 25 years I’ve worked in sports therapy, owned my own clinics, worked with professional athletes and teams, invented products for sports, and now serve as the Director of Sports Science for V1 Sports, a digital leader in video analysis and ground force technology.

Because of my experience, I’m asked the question almost daily, how old should an athlete be before you add technology to their sports training?

The simple answer is as soon as they begin the sport regardless of age. In a world where children are “growing up digital,” it’s important to include technology in their sports training – the earlier the better – as this is an important aspect of their learning process. Just like schools that have implemented Chromebooks, smart boards or any other digital means of learning, the new normal is digital technology education.

Let’s break this down a little more. What technology is appropriate for the youngest of athletes?

As a parent and coach of youth athletes, I find it extremely helpful to use any technology that can help me communicate the learning process to the player as well as their parents. Video analysis is a great tool that does just that. Not only can your son or daughter watch their sports specific movement on replay, this recording can also be sent to their parents so that they can be part of their young athlete’s training program.

As a parent, I also want to know how my athlete is progressing. Technology can play an important role in communicating objective data, not only to the youth athlete but to their parents as well. Game stats are great, but they only represent historical statistics – not how a player is progressing. Adding technologies at a young age – such as a radar gun for pitching or hitting – allows coaches to have an objective goal to work toward that they can share with their player. Coupling this technology with video analysis adds an element of competition to the practice routine that every athlete likes and thus turns their practices into what kids love best, video games. The big secret here is to use kid-friendly technology that is intuitive and easy to understand. Graphical representation of data with simple goals typically lead to the greatest response from young athletes.

So, when are they too young for technology? Never, and I personally recommend adding technology to your athlete’s practice program because technology is turning practice into gametime and it’s advancing our youth athletes like never before.

Philip Stotter, CEP, is a clinical exercise physiologist and biomechanics expert turned inventor and business developer. He is Director of Sports Science for V1 Sports, a software development firm specializing in integrated video capture and analysis, ground pressure measurement, and game tracking and stat tools to help coaches and athletes improve their game. Find them online at v1sports.com.

Images are compliments of the author and V1 Sports.

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