I am a mother of a 12-year old football player. He’s in 6th grade and currently in training for his first tackle team for the spring season. He has been playing flag for the past 4-5 years; he used to partake in CrossFit and had some one-on-one training in lifting and running technique from our previous CrossFit and Olympic Lifting Coach in California. My son is a Quarterback and has a HUGE passion for this sport. I know he’ll continue to play through High School and already has plans for his College choices. So, we’re trying to keep him properly trained and as safe as possible on this journey of his.
Which brings me to CrossFit Football. I have found valuable information on your site. But I do have a couple of questions, pertaining mostly to his age of 12.
1. Your WODs are posted for the off season now, but with my son playing a “Spring” season, is there a way to archive “In Season” workouts? He did 1 month of conditioning, but now he has regular practices 3 times a week, which consist mostly of running routes (throwing for him) and hitting practice. I don’t want him over-trained, but he has had no strength component yet, which I believe will help him with his overall stability, strength and confidence.
2. His nutrition is good. He eats healthy (no junk food…I cook paleo and/or gluten free), drinks whole milk, pretty much sticks to 3 meals a day plus a sizeable snack after school. He takes a “daily” vitamin, but is that enough? At what point/age does he need certain types of vitamins, supplements or protein (we have grass-fed whey, but I’m not sure if he’s ready for that)?
Thank you for any feedback. We look forward to using your program.
I have a pretty big backlog on TTMJs questions, but when this one came in I knew I needed to address it, as there is a lot of noise and misconception on this very topic.
First off, I commend you taking the time to send this and being proactive on your son’s training, food and supplementation.
Let me tell you where I started at his age, I always wanted to lift weights because my brothers were big and strong and as the youngest I wanted to be right there with them. I asked my parents for two things. The first was a gym membership so I could lift weights. But my dad told me that lifting weights was for morons because it consisted of counting to ten over and over again. My mom ended up not telling him and getting me a 24 Hour Fitness membership and dropping me off to do what I believed was training. How far off I was in those days. You have to remember there was no “Googleing” back then, no forums, blogs, or emails. The only training books I had access to were the bodybuilding magazines I saw in the grocery store.
The other was a sprint coach. Even at a young age, I knew I was fast, but felt that my speed limiter was not strength or power, but technique. I knew if I could train with someone that could teach me how to run, I could be fast. Once again, I was told that was a waste of money and my parents vetoed it. I had to wait till I reached high school and joined the track team to get coached on my running.
Once I did start training, I thought I needed supplements. I looked at the bodybuilding magazines and saw these giants hawking everything from protein to caffeine supplements. Being a decently smart kid, I thought if I took those supplements, I could have muscles like those guys. I could not have been more wrong. So once again I asked my mom about supplements and she responded with… pancakes. She said if I needed to gain weight and get bigger, I could supplement with pancakes at every meal. She figured pancakes were as good as any supplement and this started what I have referenced in TTMJ as Wagon Wheels.
My mom is pretty smart and having grown up in a different time, knew that training hard and eating more calories would result in a bigger version of myself. She also admitted to me a few years ago how she regretted not finding the money to hire me a sprint coach when I was young. She knew if I could learn to run, I would be fast and she had no doubt a sprint coach could have helped. I always think what I could have been if I had guidance in those younger years. It wasn’t until a few years later that I started training at Zangas’ garage and was mentored.
I have always thought, what if I had myself as a training mentor to help me avoid the pitfalls? What if I had Charlie Francis, Tom Shaw or Raphael Ruiz as my sprint coach in my youth? I might have been something…
I am going to give you my mentorship as a way of paying it forward for those that helped me.
First off, don’t worry about lifting weights and training programs at this age. Your son needs to learn to play sports and I didn’t say “his sport”, I said “sports”. Make him play other sports besides football; baseball, swimming, basketball, gymnastics, martial arts, boxing and track. Athletes are not made in the weight room, they are made on the field, court and pitch. He has his whole life to follow a training program, but only a small window to get exposed to all the sports and the skills that each one develops.
Let me tell you about a few guys I played with. The first is Andre Carter. Andre’s father, Rubin Carter, was a NFL defensive lineman and defensive line coach in the NFL and college. Andre played every type of sport from the time he was young and was a nationally ranked Taekwondo competitor among other things. Towards the end of high school he told his dad he wanted to play football. His dad agreed and took him out the field and showed him how to play football. It took all of about 45 minutes because his dad had been building the skill set required to be an NFL All-Pro player. Andre played football a short time, got a full scholarship to Cal Berkeley, played there 3 years and was a first round draft pick to the 49ers. He was a dominant player for the next 13 years in the NFL.
Tony Gonzalez was a tall lanky kid from Huntington Beach, CA. After growing up playing basketball and getting pressure to play college football, he accepted a full scholarship to play both sports at Cal Berkeley. He played there for three years, playing both sports, and was a first round draft pick by Kansas City Chiefs and recently retired as the best tight end to ever play the game with 17 years under his belt. If you ask Tony, all the skills he developed as a basketball player helped him become a great football player.
These are just two examples of teammates and friends and what they accomplished.
If you want to make your son the best football player he can be, have him train and compete in different sports; the more the better. I would take him to the local gymnastics center and drop him off. The strength and body control from that training cannot be paralleled. Find him a sprint coach, or a track team to join, with the goal of making him ready for the 2028 Olympics 100 meter finals. I would make him play baseball and to develop hand eye coordination. And most of all, I would play catch with him everyday. There is always something unique about kids who’s parents are involved.
I had the luxury of having two older brothers to emulate. I remember by the time I got to go play football I was elated. I finally got to fight guys my own size and age.
As for supplements, there is no replacing a solid diet. I would make sure to center every meal on meat, add in lots of green stuff (spinach, kale and dark green veggies), potatoes, rice, starchy vegetables and berries. I would feed him nut butters, whole milk, pasture raised eggs with ice cream as a treat; all kids need ice cream. I would make him drink 8 glasses of water a day, avoiding juices and sports drinks.
The single most important thing in his preparation for a potential NFL career is sleep.
I ask one question of you as a parent, is he a good sleeper?
Does he got into his room at night, shut the door and play video games, watch TV and play on the internet till 3 AM before he finally crashes?
Or have you removed all technology from his room, including his phone, and when goes to sleep he sleeps soundly for 8 hours? Do you enforce a mandatory bedtime that puts in bed at 9 PM and wakes him at 6 AM?
If you cannot answer yes to these questions, then you need to start there.
Good luck and let me know how his “training” goes.
I absolutely love this article! I have two, soon to be three young kids. As a dude who LOVES sports of all kinds I want them to play. I have no delusions that any of my kids are going to be professionals (if it’s something they want to pursue then great), but what is not said in the advice here is that if they play ALL sports as a kid not just focus on one, that there are not only physical skills that will be developed but strong mental, character and just plain life skills as well.
Thank you for sharing.
Best article ever as a dad of a 12 year old in the same position this is how we raise our kid. Your advice on playing different sports and especially sleep is spot on, as a wrestling coach I can’t tell you how many sleepy kids we get at practice only to find out they were up till 3:00 playing games. I wish this article could be sent to every school and little league association keep spreading solid knowledge
Volleyball. You forgot volleyball. I forgive you.
Ingo: notice he mentioned baseball, which isn’t even a sport.
Thank you John for this article. I am a father of 6 kids, the two oldest being 13 and 12. The best money I ever spent in this decade was your Crossfit Football Seminar in Hawaii. I learned a lot at the seminar and your articles on TTMJ including this one is gold. I had my two oldest kids read this article too. Play, learn, eat, grow and sleep.
the wisdom in this article. Im not going to go over the top using big words here, but the more I read from you the more you strike me as a genuinely down to earth good man. I have no kids of my own yet but Im saving this for when that day comes.
This mindset needs to be more prolific across our nation.
I’m trying to get my son into sports so that he wont stay inside and watch other people play video games on youtube. I remember playing outside everyday when I was a kid. Things are so very different now. We really ned to encourage sports for kids as much as possible
[…] IronMind Big Lifts: Kaki Kakiashvilis 188kg/414# WR Snatch (Video) Power Athlete HQ | Dear Mom Primal Chinese Orange Chicken […]
What a great article can’t wait for my son to read it. I’ve been preaching this for a while to him maybe by him reading the article it will hit home.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. My son read it also. He’s stoked about taking up Track/sprinting, and although he’s not excited about the idea of gymnastics, he’s willing to go forward with it. Glad you shared the life experiences of yourself and friends….valuable backstories that my son enjoyed hearing about. As for sleep and food, we seem to be on the right track. Going against the grain, my son chooses to keep the electronics at bay and play ball outside instead. We appreciate every piece of information you’ve offered in this article, and every other article here. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on my son’s progress. Attached is a photo of him practicing.
Thank you for this valuable info. My son read it also and is ready to give gymnastics and track a go. We’ll definitely keep you updated on his progress, using your tips and advice.
Awesome. Glad I can offer some direction. And keep us up to date on his progress.