Get Back in the Game

Preparing youth athletes for a return to sport

Box Squat2 Horizontal
Kawai Chamberlin of Medford is a seventh grader at Hedrick Middle School. He plays football and basketball. Photography by Denise Baratta.

Organized sports have taken a hit during the new coronavirus pandemic. Keeping kids moving is good for overall physical and mental health as well as avoiding childhood obesity. But student athletes who are seeking a higher level of performance may be struggling without the coaches, trainers and equipment they usually have available. Josh Cline, owner of Elite Training for Champions in Medford and a former student athlete, says there are also emotional and mental health impacts on athletic teens if they are missing the camaraderie and adrenaline release they typically get from sport. “It may be a cliché, but I like to say that if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready,” Cline says. “You have to have faith there will be a season coming, an opportunity to perform in front of college coaches, or an opportunity to shine in your sport.”

But leaping off the couch after months of low activity can lead to injury when sport resumes. To get into athletic competition shape takes weeks of strength and condition training before hitting the field, court, diamond or mat. Cline suggests middle and high school athletes build on these basics to get back in fighting shape.


Box Squat1 Vertical Box Squat2 Vertical

Box squat/Chair squat

Cline says squats activate the core muscles and every part of the leg using body weight. Using the edge of a chair or bed, set knees directly above ankles and shoulder-width apart. Curl the toes and dig through the heels to lift body up, roll hips and keep chest in upright position. Squeeze glutes at the top.

Reps and sets: Youth athletes should strive for three sets of 15 squats.

Pushup1Modified pushup2

Kawai Chamberlin, 12, (left), demonstrates a pushup in the classic form, while his sister, Kaili Chamberlin, 17, demonstrates a modified pushup form using the knees.


Get back to basics with this classic exercise. Spread reps out throughout the day when building up strength. Even among advanced athletes, hands are often too far forward, Cline notices. “When you take the position, put the hands directly below the shoulders,” he says.

Reps and sets: Youth athletes should strive for 150 pushups a day.


Straight leg Situp1 Straight leg Situp2 1

Straight-leg situp

“The situp is the best exercise to work the entire core from top to bottom,” Cline says. “Many exercises work either the upper or lower abdominals only. When doing the situp, avoid interlacing or locking your fingers behind your head because pulling on the neck can cause strain. Instead, think of a roller coaster when you throw your hands up. When laying down, extend arms over your head, raise up and reach arms high. Dig in heels to help raise upper body.”

Reps and sets: Youth athletes should strive for 300 situps a day.


Lateral jab step1 Lateral jab step2

Kaili Chamberlin of Medford is a senior at South Medford High School. She is the captain of the school’s girls basketball team.

Lateral jab steps

The body has two types of skeletal muscle fibers, fast-twitch and slow-twitch. While slow-twitch muscle fibers work for endurance, fast-twitch muscles are about quick bursts of power. This footwork activity emphasizes quickness and reaction time to improve those fast-twitch fibers. “This is essential in almost any sport,” Cline says. Standing parallel to a line, start in an athletic position, jogging in place. With one leg at a time, step-tap to the side quickly while jogging.

Reps and sets: Youth athletes should strive for 3 sets of 15 per leg

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