Children Fitness Coach is one of those career options for a fitness professional which is highly unexplored and actually may be one of the best paying specialization. I haven’t really heard anyone even talking about being a children fitness coach in India. The reason I could understand were a couple:
- In a country where strength training for kids is still considered no less than a crime, and where people still believe that your height will stop if you lift weights as a kid; training youth is not easy (though the myths are getting shattered now)
- Fitness for kids is still considered a child’s play and simple fun. No doubts the activities for kids should be fun, but there is nothing more serious than training kids.
- Fitness professionals are not foreseeing the future of fitness. Child obesity and sedentary lifestyle in kids is on an all-time high. Parents are looking for their kids to engage in outdoor activities, but have limited knowledge on what exactly is good for their kids. This is where a youth fitness coach comes as a savior.
Remember, physical activity in children is more than just preventing obesity. It’s about improving physical, mental, social, and emotional development.
Acc. to ISSA (International Sports Science Association), “Physical activity should start in infancy and progress into adulthood to promote motor control, balance, healthy growth, bone strength, and cardiovascular health. The simple practice of balance will help an infant learn to walk. Running, jumping, and skipping will help a toddler with coordination. As they move into teenage years, cardiovascular fitness and increasing strength will help an adolescent refine their motor skills and strength as their body undergoes physical and hormonal changes. This is all without mentioning the benefit of a healthy body composition and sound habits a child will take with them into their adult years!
For the health and wellbeing of a child, their physical activity begins as an infant and turns into exercise and athletic performance as they age. The child’s age and goals will determine whether they should be in a youth fitness class, on a sports team, or 1-on-1 with a personal trainer or coach.
- Age 2-6 – The focus is motor control, neural/brain activation (which never stops!), balance, coordination, and building strong bones.
- Age 7-12 – Now, a child can begin to focus on refining motor control, athletic skills, increasing strength, and weight bearing exercises.
- Age 13-17 – As puberty begins for an adolescent, they can begin to work on endurance, cardiovascular strength, and can begin resistance training
The most commonly agreed upon sentiment for youth training is that, no matter what the age of the child or children, the programming must be fun and engaging! Research shows that games and using the imagination is vital to youth brain development and we don’t lose the need for play as we age! Exciting, varied, and engaging play and exercise, team sports, and competition prevents boredom and increases program retention.
A solid youth fitness program will focus on teambuilding, participation, free play, proper form, and inclusivity. As the trainer, keep in mind there is a lot more than organized sports for older kids as well. Consider swim, martial arts, dance, group exercise, or just playing on a playground as ways to keep active. We have a social responsibility to help children find and foster their passions.”
Remember that working with youth requires proper knowledge and special considerations and having basic certifications as credentials is always better to build trust in the clients. Also, children have different needs than an adult. Each child is in a different stage of development, so each child has specific needs.
A youth/children fitness coach, can help normal youngsters get fit and strong, as well as coach kids preparing for competitive sports in improving performance and minimizing injuries.
Here are my list of chosen certifications and institutes which you can opt for to get your certifications and courses, in the order of my preference and recommendations:
- IYCA (INTERNATIONAL YOUTH CONDITIONING ASSOCIATION)
- ISSA (INTERNATIONAL SPORTS SCIENCE ASSOCIATION) – YOUTH FITNESS CERTIFICATION
- NASM (NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SPORTS MEDICINE) – YOUTH EXERCISE SPECIALIZATION
- AFPA (AMERICAN FITNESS PROFESSIONALS ASSOCIATION) – YOUTH FITNESS SPECIALIST CERTIFICATION
- AAHF (AMERICAN ACADEMY OF HEALTH & FITNESS) – JrFIT YOUTH FITNESS PROGRAM
- ACE (AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EXERCISE) – YOUT FITNESS SPECIALIZATION
Now, the reason I listed them in my order of preference was not just the institute or how renown it is, but primarily the content of the course or courses being offered and the research which went behind it.
I chose IYCA as the primary institute to study from if you want to study youth/children fitness, because the entire institute is totally focussed on programs for the youth and the course content is excellent. They offer a range of certification courses, covering virtually every aspect of youth fitness and nutrition. Some of the many are:
- The IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist – Level 1
- The IYCA Youth Fitness Specialist – Level 2
- The IYCA Certified Speed & Agility Specialist
- The IYCA Youth Nutrition Specialist
- Youth Athletic Assessment Specialist
- The IYCA High School Strength & Conditioning Coach Certification
ISSA is the next institute I would suggest. The certification has very good quality course content.
NASM youth exercise specialization is relatively a new one, but has very good course material.
AFPA is another course.
AAHF JrFit is quite an old course and has very good overall content.
ACE though a good institute, but the Youth Specialization course may not be as extensive as the above courses, but still it can be a good choice.
But as I said, you can’t depend on one certification for knowledge. There are some excellent books out there, to study and upgrade yourself more on the youth fitness, to give you a better overall understanding of the subject.