Who Should Be Training Our Kids?

In a staff meeting at Phenomenal Fitness, Sean, the lead trainer, asked all the trainers if there are populations of clients that each of the trainers prefer not to work with.  Another trainer, Galen, raised his hand and answered that he doesn’t want to work with kids. 

Following the meeting, I asked Galen to make me a list of why he doesn’t want to work with youth.  The following is his list:

·         Not coordinated

·         Low attention level

·         Hard to keep engaged

·         Want “fun” versus effectiveness

·         Need very simple instruction

·         Don’t fit into my training paradigm (strength)

·         Do not understand the importance of exercise


Kids are exactly as he described, complex physically and emotionally.


So who should be training our youth?  Although these qualities are not mandatory for training youth, they are highly recommended in order to be effective.


The Tangibles



Obviously a degree in Education is most desirable.  At a minimum, a youth fitness trainer should have some knowledge of educational methods and classroom management, but most importantly in child psychology.


Having a quality certification, not only proves that you have the knowledge to do the job, but increases your creditability as a trainer.


While I’m not excluding any other certifying bodies, I am recommending two quality youth-specific certifications:

1)      A State Teaching Certificate In order to obtain a state certificate, you must undergo extensive education, training, and testing. 

2)      The International Youth Conditioning Association-Youth Fitness Specialist Certification   The IYCA represents responsible, safe, age-appropriate youth fitness practices, shirking the latest fads and gimmicks, and sticking with what works.  The IYCA believes that all youth should be active, not just youth athletes.


The Intangible



“Your attitude determines your altitude”.  This is especially important when working with youth and I’m not talking about their attitude either.  Youth fitness populations can be extremely challenging, physically and emotionally draining.  It takes a special person to work with youth.  But more importantly, it takes a special person who wants to work with youth. 


1)       Unlocking the Big Kid Inside of You.  I love to have fun.  Being active and playing games is fun to me.  In the way that successful coaches do, as a youth fitness trainer, you must have the ability to get inside of kids’ heads and think like they do.  You have to know what appropriately challenges and engages your athletes.

2)      Making It Fun How many people really enjoy doing or saying something over and over until it becomes habit?  I don’t and kids certainly don’t.  Here’s your challenge:  Can you create a game that involves lots of repetitions, increases strength and agility, but is still fun? 

3)      Teach Don’t Train It’s very important to note that many of our PE programs are failing.  Your job is to educate and inspire youth to new levels.  You must be able to instruct them appropriately and also be able to model the behavior you are looking to create.  Keep it simple and to the point.  If your instruction gets too complex, they will simply tune you out.  

4)      Flexibility   It is important to have structure within your training sessions.  Kids must know what to expect, so they may be able to perform to expectations.  As long as a foundation of order has been established, don’t be afraid to acknowledge when something just isn’t working and completely create something new.  Don’t be afraid of offering several “open play” choices that cater to all fitness levels in your group.

5)      Patience   People often laugh when I refer to my Kindergarteners as “The Ant Farm”.  If you’ve ever seen an ant farm, you know what I’m talking about.  Although the ants are contained within a space, but they never stop moving, never run out of energy, and are all over the place.  It can be easy to lose your temper, but it’s not effective.  The trick is to be calm and consistent with your expectations. 


Not everybody has what it takes to be a youth fitness trainer, but the demand is greater than ever.  Our country is in crisis, with youth obesity and the accompanying health concerns that come with it.  Strong individuals need to take action and change the way things have been done up until now.  Do you have what it takes to work with kids?

Jon Kahney is a trainer at Phenomenal Fitness