Developing Athletic Skill vs Conditioning



Over the past 2 years of working here at Athletic Revolution South Shore I have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of young athletes ages 6-18 yrs old. Through these experiences I have learned a lot about how to connect with our athletes regardless of age or skill level and assist them in mastering skills that will help them outside of our facility.

My focus today is going to be discussing the difference between Developing Athletic Skill and Conditioning. Through my personal experiences as an athlete I remember having days at practice being sent through endless cone drills with no instruction other than “Faster!!!” Unfortunately, still today I see online and hear from parents and athletes how they still get run ragged through the ladder and/or cone drills hoping to have an impact on their speed and agility before the next game. I’m here to say this approach is outdated and has been proven to have limited, to no impact on young athletes skill level. Making this approach more conditioned based than skill based.

The ability to learn and master a skill so that it can be used at game speed takes time and does not happen overnight. At Athletic Revolution we understand that mastering any given skill takes time and must be broken down to its simplest form before we can build on it. Build a foundation and set yourself up for success. Through these ideals we tell our athletes “you need to be a disaster before you become a master” or “Skill it, Drill it, Thrill it, Kill it” Making it understood early on that these skills may take time and all we can do is give our best effort and we will get better each and every day.

Ring of Fire 1

The big difference between athletic skill and conditioning is simply work to rest ratio and coaching. I personally love to use Skill it, Drill it, Thrill it and Kill it with our athletes and here is why! When teaching a new skill the first thing we do as coaches is ask ourselves what is our goal? Pick a Skill –  Force Production, Change of Direction, Acceleration or Deceleration Etc…Break it down to its simplest form and develop progressions to lead them towards the ultimate goal.

For example working on deceleration or change of direction my first step would be see if they have a solid athletic stance, aka are they in a position ready for action. From there I may work on static repeats using cues like “step out of box” teaching them to get low, load one leg and be prepared for the next move “Skill it”. Dont over do it!!! Work on it for 10-15 minutes with breaks to discuss what happened and how we can make it better (Art of Coaching). Don’t be afraid to work on the first stage for a few classes before taking next step, building a foundation is key “Drill it”.

Through this process we have  Skilled it and started to Drill it at its simplest form. As I progress the skill it becomes dynamic and continues to develop to reactive as well as make it fun with a mental challenge thrown in. Make sure as each phase is passed, you take the time to “Skill it” and “Drill it” teaching your athletes, as well as giving them the time to work on each phase with proper work to rest ratio before jumping ahead to the next phase.

One of our keys to success is allowing our athletes to tear it up with games at the end of our sessions because it is fun but more importantly we can see our athletes in action. “Thrilling it” seeing if they have transferred any of the skills from class to the game. In this scenario one of our favorite and most well known games is Tag and its many variations. This gives the coaches a chance to look at acceleration, deceleration, change of direction and much more. Through game play it makes it fun for the kids as well as gives you the opportunity to evaluate your athletes to see if they are ready to take it to the next phase. Its great if they can do it through cones with coaching but the skill needs to transfer to the game without coaching.

We have “skilled it” or learned a part of a skill, “Drilled it” by putting it to use over time making it better as we go, “thrilled it” by putting the skill to use at full speed through game play, and most important “Killing it” as they add the skill to their bag of trick and transfer it to life outside our facility and bust it out whenever needed, giving them the competitive advantage we are all striving to give our young athletes!

To sum it all up…using equipment like jump ropes, ladders and cones can be great tools for assisting your athletes with conditioning and skill development, but there needs to be a reason behind it and structure as to why you are doing whatever skill or drill you are doing. Make sure that you have figured out an effective work to rest ratio that allows your athletes to recover between sets showing the difference between conditioning and skill. Also make sure you have done your research, make sure you understand how to teach, cue, breakdown or build up skills before trying to teach them to your athletes. Overall, conditioning and athletic skill development are both important parts of any athlete’s training but make sure you identify your true purpose behind your training allowing for the best possible results.

“Train Smart Not Hard”

Coach Josh

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Speed for 10-13 year old athletes

Speed is an absolute game changer.










Every athlete wants it.

Every parent wants it for their young athlete and that is the number one reason (confidence building is #2) why parents enroll their children in our athletic development programs.

Why do some kids get faster…before their peers?

Why do some kids seem to get slower?

Why do some kids seem like they are not getting faster?

The litany of questions could continue, but I think you get my point.  For the purposes of this short blog post I will not dive into the developmental process of human beings as it relates to athletic performance;  the systematic programming consideration of coaching the skills required to become faster on the field, court or ice;  or the internal and external factors that can positively or negatively effect the process of getting faster…

I will instead paint a picture of a young athlete, allowing you to as a parent, trainer or coach to come to an accurate understanding of the complexities of speed development.

Here is the scenario:

  • 11 years old
  • Awesome kid!
  • Great work effort
  • Male/Female (inconsequential)
  • Multiple team sport participation in one season (3 separate teams)
  • Malnourished (Not adequate calories nor sound food choices)
  • Sleep deprived
  • 6+ hours of school per day (sitting)
  • Academic pressures
  • Reoccurring joint related/soft tissue injuries
  • Social obligations and pressures
  • Recent growth spurt
  • Hormonal changes
  • Physical changes
  • Immature muscles
  • Low training age (Little to know athletic performance training history)
  • 1 Training session per week to work on speed

This, my friend is not the exception…it is the norm.

Let’s for just a moment compare the above mentioned athlete to one of the pro athletes we train at Athletic Revolution.

  • 24 years old
  • Physically mature
  • Hormonally stable
  • 8-10 hours of sleep per night
  • Sound nutrition and adequate caloric intake
  • 1 practice per day (on non game days) for 1.5 hours
  • Medical and athletic training staff to manage injuries and soreness
  • Naps during the day
  • Consistent and systematic athletic performance program including recovery weeks.
  • 1 day per week public appearance or media interview


Clearly the demands of the 11 year old child outweigh those of the professional athlete by a large margin.

The question I have is this…

WHY do we as a society continue to choose quantity over quality?

It is time we, as parents, begin making decisions for our kids that take these illustrations into consideration.

I have watered down this post on purpose. If you do not understand the conclusion being drawn here please comment below!

Wondering what to do?

Register for our athletic development programs that are specifically designed to improve all aspects of athleticism including SPEED. You can try us out for 2 weeks FREE by clicking here.

See you soon!

Coach Dave





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Summer Team Sports Performance Training

Summer Team Sports Performance Training


Bring in your team or put together a team of friends and take your game to the next level..together!  (minimum of ten athletes)

There are certain training principles that are crucial to the short and long term success of any young athlete.  We not only understand this at Athletic Revolution, we live by it.  Our athletes train hard on the skill and proficiency of performing activities that improve speed, agility, strength, power and injury resistance.


*Pick your own days and times

*Build camaraderie and trust between teammates

*Sports specific




*Agility and Quickness

*Flexibility and Mobility

*FUN and so much more!



“The speed and agility training I have received at Athletic Revolution has had a major impact on my Game”

-Kevin Alston

2010 New England Revolution Defensive Player of the Year

2010 MLS All-Star


For more information send an email to


To register your team click here to download our registration form.


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Youth Winter Sports Speed Clinic

YOUTH Winter Sport Speed Clinic

Speed Clinic: Friday November 11th 10:00am

Boys and Girls u10-u12
ONLY $29.00

Developing game changing speed is a skill.  Speed, agility and quickness can be learned just like shooting, dribbling and passing, skating, etc. Take your game to the next level with our cutting edge programs specifically designed for superior athletic performance.  All winter sports welcome!

Speed and Agility Skills:

  • Acceleration
  • Lateral vs. Linear Speed
  • Agility
  • Cuts
  • Braking skills
  • Power and Explosiveness
  • Strength
  • Timing and Rhythm


Pre-registration required.  All payments with the form below must be received by Friday, November 11th.

CLICK HERE for the registration form

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Decreasing 40 times in young athletes

Here is a video I recently shot for the IYCA (International Youth Conditioning Association).  Our mission engulfs making change far beyond the reach of my facility here in Pembroke.  Coaching a young athlete takes much more that drills or practicing a specific activity such as the 40 yard dash in an effort to get a better time.

Watch below a please feel free to leave comments 🙂

Coach Dave


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Training athletes from the back forward

Most training programs for young athletes focus all of their attention on the big pushers and fancy drills.  Bench pressing, squatting, high speed treadmills and the like are the mainstay of many sports performance center.  These ways of helping a young athlete become better are ill advised and not optimal.

The posterior chain is a term that describes the series of joints and muscles on the back side of our bodies.  The glutes, hamstrings (back of the thighs), lower back and upper back to name a few are all a part of the posterior chain.

What is so important about the posterior chain.

Most non-trauma related injuries to athletes (all athletes, not just young athletes) are due to poor braking mechanisms.  Most of the structures on the back side of the body are designed to help athletes put on the brakes.

Examples of Braking mechanisms in sport:

  • Slowing down, stopping and changing direction quickly
  • Slowing down or braking the throwing motion
  • Landing from a vertical jump

All this being said….a young athlete still needs to have fun.  This video depicts on of the many ways we train the posterior chain to increase injury resistance and improve performance:

If you have never experienced the difference at Athletic Revolution and want to take advantage of our 2 week free trial just click here and we can get you started!


See you soon!


Coach Dave

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Speed Training For South Shore Young Athletes

Here at Athletic Revolution, we place an emphasis on making sure your young athlete is as fast as they possibly can be.

Speed and Agility are very important to the success of any young athlete…

… But most Coaches and Trainers make mistakes when it comes to training for speed.

Here’s what I mean:

It is customary to see young athletes being taught and drilled on how to run as fast as possible in a straight line.

Coaches spend hours teaching the mechanics of ‘linear speed’.  Arm drive, hip drive, ankle push, forward lean – all the usual suspects.  Whether on a high speed treadmill, gymnasium floor or football field, anywhere you go, you’ll likely see Coaches teaching the techniques of running fast in a straight line moving forward.

High Speed Treadmill

Now, I don’t really have any fundamental issue with respect to this style of training.  I could (and will) argue that virtually every sport is played in a non-linear format and so spending time on the mechanics of an exercise that a young athlete won’t typically ever need in a sporting situation is paramount to a large waste of time.

But young athletes (as you will read later) need to be exposed to as much training stimulus as possible – in all formats.  In that, no training style should ever be considered ‘not worth the time’ when we’re talking about preadolescent or high school aged athletes.

But the fact that linear speed training is both taught and drilled INSTEAD of more functional and useable styles of speed and agility work is where I draw the concern.

Football, baseball, soccer, basketball, volleyball – you name the sport.  Very seldom does a young athlete need to sprint forward with proper form; and they almost never hit ‘top-end-speed’ for any length of time.  If you look at any of the sports from a positional standpoint, that reality is even less likely.

Sports are multi-directional and varying in speed.  Young athletes must be taught how to move efficiently and quickly at angles (not just forward) and be ingrained with the knowledge and ability of how to decelerate (stop) and shift (change directions) as fast as possible.

Sport speed isn’t about straight lines.  It’s about angular quickness and the ability to re-accelerate.

Come on in and enjoy a complementary ‘2 Weeks Free’ of training at Athletic Revolution in Pembroke and see just how much faster your young athletes are going to become.

Call me directly today – 781.312.7808

~Coach Dave


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Team Sports and Young Athletes: A Must Read

The following article is posted here with permission by friend and colleague Lee Taft.  Lee is THE speed expert.  Lee is a coach, runs his own successful athletic development company and travels the world teaching others how to effectively work with young athletes.

Lee’s thoughts further illustrate why we take the approach we do at Athletic Revolution…


Why AAU is Hurting Youth Sports

By Lee Taft

It isn’t what it was meant to be. Travel sports like AAU, travel soccer, baseball, softball, and volleyball are the perfect example of building specific skill on top of a poor foundation of fundamental skills.

Travel team sports for young, developing players should be about teaching skills, developing game knowledge, and improving function. I see less and less coaching going on with these travel teams and more playing games. Kids are learning to play with poor foundational skill sets.

Granted there are some travel teams that actually spend some quality time on skills development. Good for them! But there are way too many more only focusing on winning the games. They do what they have to by putting kids in positions so the team can win. This doesn’t help the players develop; it just makes the team win.

I have seen top-level junior high and high school basketball players not able to dribble, pass, or shoot a simple layup with their left, or non-dominant, hand. Yet, they are playing 30 to 50 games over the summer with travel sports and never have their limitations addressed.

Travel sports could be a great thing if done in the right context and with intent on improving each athlete’s ability. But, like always, we put playing more games and winning as the top priority.

Here is what I see happening. These kids on travel teams are winning games and developing a false sense of skill level. Then they have to play on a structured school or college program, and their fundamental skills are so limited they fail to meet the success they had on travel teams. This leads to problems, because the player and parents are now wondering why they are not being put in situations to be successful like they did in travel sports.

It all comes back to we want quick fixes, don’t want to work for anything, and expect things to be handed to us when we are unhappy. Sorry! Life doesn’t work that way.

We need to take back our sports and develop our athletes the correct way. I know travel sports are the way to be “seen,” but give me a break. If you can play you will get noticed.

I would much rather take an athlete and limit their off-season game play (still allow them to play, but not as much), and develop their skills to the point they are dangerously serious athletes.

The only way this will ever work is if it is a nationwide effort to change the focus of travel sports to an advanced form of developing athletes.

The response I usually get when I bring this up is, “Kids don’t have to choose to be on a travel team.” That is correct, but the kids that do choose are the ones that we are talking about. These kids lose out on becoming better players, and just because they are on a winning team does not mean they are good.

We are so in love with the flash and the glamour that we have ignored the foundation of improvement and development.

Yours in Speed,


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Youth Speed and Agility Training Success

What defines a successful speed and agility training session for young athletes?

Is it this picture?


Is it driving young athlete’s into the ground in the name of speed, agility and quickness training?

Is it placing cones, mini hurdles and other training instruments on the ground, showing young athletes how to perform a series of drills followed by them engaging in them until they drop?

If your young athletes are tired, exhausted or barely walking that is success right?

In a word…NO

I have two shining examples of how I define a successful speed and agility camp at Athletic Revolution.

The first is the fact that the young athlete’s at our camp this last Saturday were practically begging me to continue with the camp after two hours of intensive SAQ training.  They were alert, energized and wanting more…just the way I want it. 

Keep in mind the young baseball player who began the mantra for more was describing how he could barely finish the workout at another facility just a few days before.  You know…one of those we can teach the kids baseball and take care of the conditioning aspect of training as well…

You see I explained to them at the beginning of camp that the next two hours were not going to be about kicking their butts or running cone drills until they drop.  They were about to experience a type of training they have never experienced.

Our camps are about skill development.  Our camps are about skills – NOT DRILLS.  The drills we use are specifically chosen to teach each young athlete how moving efficiently and safely feels.

Secondly, each athlete left our camp with the ability to tell me what they learned over the past 2 hours and how what they learned will help them in their respective sport.  Once more (and this one is crucial) they all told me what they can use on a consistent basis on their own during practice and competition. 

Self correction.  Beautiful!

Unlike most SAQ clinics and camps, we focus on breaking down the commodities of proper deceleration, acceleration, hip turns and cutting techniques.  These are all skills which can be broken down and coached.  We spend ample time on posture, thorasic spine mobility, hip mobility, ankle mobility, arm action, foot placement and so much more.


We had fun, we learned and we helped some absolutely great kids teach themselves how to gain game changing speed, agility and quickness.

I thank them for the opportunity to work with them and I can’t wait to run our next one.

Stay tuned!

Til next time,

~Coach Dave

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