As we watch our kids grow up, we see varying stages of their development that excite us. We see them get taller, their feet and hands grow, and they get stronger. With this development, we as parents expect more from our kids. What we tend to forget is that as they physically grow, it takes time for the rest of their bodies to catch up. With the recent months of reduced activity and more sleep, many parents have seen their kids go through major growth spurts. “During this time of growth, a child’s arms and legs are longer, hands and feet are bigger making them harder to control until muscle strength and coordination catch up” as stated by Dr. Chris Koutures, 2008 USA Olympic Team Physician. This lag in strength and coordination turns into a child that now looks clumsy at times and does not perform as well in sports and other activities, leaving both the child and parent bewildered.
When growth spurts occur, what are we as parents, coaches and athletic trainers to do? As the body grows, typically, the bones elongate faster than the muscles do. This causes a decrease in flexibility and mobility, which can lead to both decreased performance and increased injuries. So, start stretching one to two times a day. Ken Martel, technical director for USA Hockey’s American Development Model notes that good skaters’ mechanics can go haywire seemingly overnight, so get back to the basics. Things that your child found easy prior to the spurt may now be difficult, so sometimes we need to simplify the process and take a few steps backwards to progress. This also is a good time to get back to basics in the gym focusing on squat mechanics on both two and one leg. Start the squats with little to no resistance and slowly progress the intensity, with proper mechanics being the focus. Balance, coordination, and core exercises should also be a major focus at this time of growth.
Dealing with growth spurts can be trying at times. Understanding that there may be short term regressions and being patient are some key points to long term development.
To read more on this topic from Dr. Koutures, click here.
Chris Phillips is an Athletic Trainer, Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Sports Safety Specialist at Compete Sports Performance and Rehab in Orange County, California.