What Age To Start Sports Training?

*Read my latest publication in the Journal of Movement Sciences on Youth Training* — Athletic Development

If you have a young child in sports, I imagine you have considered some athletic training. In my opinion, coaches and parents vastly underestimate and under-appreciate the role proper training can have in developing an all around athlete.

buffalo sports training All sports require a certain level of movement efficiency. The best athletes are those with great body awareness and control. They make difficult tasks look effortless. Being able to run fluidly, change direction, make explosive movements and absorb force safely.

These are all skills that can be learned and improved upon. Athletic development today is a science. We understand how these abilities can be realized and maximized to build a strong, fast, and efficient athlete.

At Fred Duncan Performance Training, we focus on Long Term Development. This requires following certain phases of development for youth athletes from age 8 up to high school/college athletes. While all training is beneficial, regardless of age, there is value in having an early start. Here’s why:


If you look at the chart above, it details the “windows of opportunity” for young athletes. Sports scientists have found that there are specific intervals in a child’s development where the effect of proper training can be maximized.

These “accelerated adaptive windows” are where you can unlock certain abilities of your young athlete. Miss this window and there’s no making it up. Here are some quotes from “Windows Of Optimal Trainability” (Balyi and Way 2005).

“Windows of trainability refers to the sensitive periods of accelerated adaption to training, which occurs prior, during and early post puberty. All systems are always trainable, thus the windows are always open, HOWEVER, a window is fully open during the sensitive periods of accelerated adaptation to training and partially open outside of the sensitive periods”.

“There is full consensus among experts in this area that if physiological abilities are not developed during the sensitive periods, the opportunity for optimum development is lost and cannot be fully retrieved at a later time”.

For example, some athletes are just plain faster than others. They have “it” so to speak. This is what you’d refer to as inherent speed. Now, speed can be improved through proper sprint work and resistance training, but this will not improve inherent speed.


The first window for speed development is 6-8 for females and 7-9 for males. It is during this time that you can actually influence the make up of their muscle fibers and essentially alter their genetic makeup. This is recognized as the first  “critical period of speed development”. The second window for speed development is 11-13 for girls and 13-16 for boys.

My advice? Your athlete practices their sport more than enough. What they truly need is to develop the necessary bio-motor abilities to be a complete athlete whose skills will transfer to their athletic endeavors. Renowned Track and Field coach Dan Pfaff describes it as the 5 S’s of training.

  1. Speed
  2. Strength
  3. Skill/Technique
  4. Stamina/Work Capacity
  5. Suppleness

If one ever looks to reach elite status or truly maximize their potential, these qualities must be addressed and progressed properly. Please visit our link at Buffalo Sports Training, to learn more about the performance coaching we offer.