Keith Scott holds credentials as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and an Athletic Trainer (ATC) from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association.
Keith studied at the University of Arizona for his Master of Science in Exercise and Sports Science, specializing in Sports Medicine. Over his 13 years in Tucson, he got to know and help hundreds of young high school and college players.
Keith’s areas of expertise included Strength & Conditioning, injury prevention, and rehabilitation after surgery or injury. He spent over 15 years working alongside athletes of various skill levels and from multiple sports. Currently, Keith calls southern New Jersey home.
CB: Keith, how do you draw on your expertise in sports therapy when developing clients’ workout plans and supervising their progress? How do their qualifications in Rehabilitation compare to those of someone with my limited experience?
KS: I have extensive training in assessment, so I spend extra time checking the mobility of all major (and some minor) joints, the strength of muscles and tendons, the integrity of the joints, and the fundamental mechanics of how the body moves.
Sometimes I’ll spend an entire session merely assessing something. I also ask questions about the person’s training background and experience, as well as their medical history and any ongoing issues.
When I have a complete picture of a person’s circumstance, I create a plan for them, like a rehabilitation plan for an injured person. After all, I have never met someone who did not struggle with some issue, imbalance, or physical discomfort.
I begin by compiling a “problem list” and then build the system. I write things down if a patient presents with everyday issues like tight hip flexors, tight dorsiflexion, and poor scapular control. I make a plan centered on those specific issues and work on them immediately. Until we fix those problems or progress toward improving them, I won’t add any exercises in those areas.
Trainers and coaches routinely ignore the limitations of their athletes by having them squat heavy loads before their hip and ankle mobility have been improved.
In my experience, many trainers and coaches let this “problem list” get lost in the program and neglect to address issues that should be addressed. The athlete either suffers an injury or fails to make any progress. Since every athlete is unique, their training regimen should reflect that. Naturally, the trainer or coach must put in more time and energy.
Myofascial work (releasing), self-myofascial work instruction, muscular activation, and hands-on stretching (PNF patterns…contract/relax, etc.) are all parts of my training. For both the upper and lower limbs, as well as for joint mobilization, I am a strong advocate of closed-chain proprioception.
After workouts, I’ve used many more recovery procedures with my athletes. Therapeutic massage, stretching, and application of varying temperatures and pressures.
CB: When working with young athletes, what kinds of muscle groups, lifts, and athletic abilities do you often emphasize?
KS: I coach high school players like I would train an adult athlete, assuming that’s who we’re talking about. This presumes there are no pressing issues that need to be addressed first.
All of my athletes participate in extensive back and hamstring training. Glute exercises (extension, abduction, stability, and the adductor training I think is missing from many programs) are a staple of my routines.
Pulling exercises for the upper body are a staple in my routines, as they strengthen the posterior chain and the rotator cuff (particularly the external rotators, but also the subscapularis, which is often overlooked despite its vital role).
Instead of only working the rotator cuff as internal and external rotators, I focus on stabilization exercises. First and foremost, it must stabilize. I will apply some closed-chain proprioception, PNF patterns, and other such jargon here.
Scapula stability and function will be emphasized alongside the pulling and rotator cuff activities. At other times, it’s as simple as showing the athlete how to move correctly in that spot. Developing proper scapular movement patterns and complex shoulder stability is an excellent place to begin for young athletes.
While I do include pushing exercises in my programs, I disagree that the bench press should be the focal point of every single one.
CB: What do budding athletes genuinely need to succeed?
KS: Young athletes should focus initially on developing sound movement mechanics (for running, jumping, and lifting, among other things).
I put a lot of thought into how I move. Athletes can unquestionably benefit from knowing how to move correctly and using the appropriate muscles to increase their performance and decrease their risk of injury. Afterward, they must perform stability and reactive work on all their joints.
Squats (front, back, split), lunges (sag. Plane initially, and no multi-plane until they master that action), deadlifts, cleans, push presses, rows (seated, bar, db), and medicine ball exercises are all examples of standard lifts.
This will be adjusted somewhat based on the activity, the participant’s skill level, and the list of issues.
Tell me about a regular training session for a young athlete, please.
KS: In a typical session, you’ll start by focusing on whatever needs attention, be that discomfort, tightness, places that require activating or releasing, etc.
When time allows, I’ll perform some releasing techniques (foam rolling, etc.), and the athlete can do the same. Warming up the major muscle groups and working on mobility exercises (lunges, jump rope, push-ups, etc.) Dynamic practices for flexibility and proprioception (work on balance and coordination)
The second step is education; I plan to start by instructing the younger athletes in the proper form for the lifts or mechanics. When working with children, it is crucial to use repetition to establish habitual behaviors.
During a speed day, the athlete may begin with drills focused on speed, footwork, and fundamental agility before moving on to more reactive drills. Resistance exercises (dl’s squats, cleans, presses, etc.) will follow. And then there’s the extra stuff at the end. For more experienced athletes, I will incorporate extensive core training throughout the workout, typically in-between sets.
Static stretching (for example, of the hip flexors, calves, heel cord, hip rotators, and shoulders) and recovery modalities (such as icing) are typically performed as the final phases of most sessions. Afterward, the athlete may or may not engage in energy system work, depending on the time of year.
How different are the programs for young athletes in other sports?
KS: I don’t do a lot of weight lifting. All my athletes will perform squats, deadlifts, presses, and pulls in some form. I train the younger athletes similarly, focusing on major muscle groups with the exact repetition and set patterns.
In my experience, most people have similar areas of improvement needed, and those are the same areas that are crucial in any sport. That being stated, I will incorporate sport-specific components into each application.
For instance, as the competitive season approaches, the training for a wrestler and a basketball player will diverge significantly in intensity, rep/set. A lot of the off-season plans look the same. However, training for energy systems, reactions, and prevention will all be highly sport-specific.
CB: What aspects of rehabilitation, recovery, and prevention do you think most trainers overlook when designing training programs for young athletes?
KS: As I said before, most young athletes merely need to hone their technique. This applies to any weightlifting. Acute and chronic injuries can be prevented with the right approach.
Second, knowing how to activate muscles is crucial for any program, especially one targeting young people. Today’s young athletes have poor movement quality, and I frequently observe “shut-off” muscle groups. When faced with an issue, many trainers focus solely on the need for greater flexibility, to the exclusion of all else.
You should “stretch more” when something hurts or when you can’t do something. This solves every problem. It’s driving me crazy.
These athletes typically need stimulation rather than stretching. Primary and secondary muscular groups alike. Athletes can learn to activate themselves through practice and drills rather than relying solely on manual inspiration from their trainer or coach.
This unusual “prehab” is crucial for maintaining joint stability, creating force, and maximizing output.
Proprioception!!! Not many coaches or trainers seem to be concerned with this. Proprioception, or the feedback loop between the brain and the muscles, joints, and rest of the body, ultimately determines your athleticism and skill level in these areas. Exercise extreme caution when moving. In certain circumstances, sneaky training and coaching can get around the issue, but more often than not, it needs to be discussed openly.
To sum up, recuperation is a central concept in my life. I don’t think this is discussed often, but it’s crucial to society’s development and well-being. A simple ice pack on an injured joint or targeted application of a heating modality can profoundly affect an athlete’s recovery and response to training.
If you’re in pain, you won’t be able to train. You can go forward much more quickly and safely if you deal with pain, stiffness, and discomfort.
Some coaches and trainers seem reluctant to discuss rest and recovery strategies with their athletes and clients. For me, it’s essential, and it does make a difference. You will fail your athletes and clients if you don’t employ recuperation strategies. Of course, getting enough sleep and eating healthily is essential to getting better. Everything must be dealt with.
CB: Do you have any additional broad tips for aspiring young athletes?
KS: It’s easier to form healthy habits early in life. Therefore, it’s best to start eating wisely at a young age. Doing the training and competitive seasons will pay off more than you think.
If you are not currently involved in another sport, you should exercise and condition for at least a month before the start of your season, even if you do not have a trainer or coach. Most of the injuries I’ve seen in my fifteen years and beyond have occurred because players aren’t ready for practice.
Put down the keyboard and go to bed. When athletes fatigue, injuries are common. Muscles develop, and the body repairs itself when you sleep. Most young people today don’t bother to get enough sleep.
While you’re in high school, you should compete in as many sports as possible. At an early age, specialization is unnecessary and can even be detrimental. Most of the Division I athletes I’ve coached were multi-sport athletes.
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