There is a lot of talk surrounding when and how an athlete should begin weight training. Simple, when the athlete can perform basic exercises consistently and correctly and at least 10 times in a row.
The fears of lifting tend to entail damaging the growth plates of young athletes. This can be a very true fact. However, it is not true that young athletes should not partake in resistance training. The truth is resistance training can be very beneficial to your athlete! Exercises performed by the athlete need to be taught to them correctly by a professional or someone with a background in youth training. When performed properly an exercise should aim to be done in a safe manner and environment, improve athletic performance, and strengthen bones and joints. With the previous factors in place the athlete will over time become stronger, faster, more coordinated and more confident with their skills.
A young athlete should be able to perform basic exercises and movements before moving on to weight training exercises. This would include bodyweight push-ups, squats, pull-ups and sit-ups. If the player can not do any of the above with good form or perform at least 10 correct repetitions they should look to improve those first before attempting to use weights. Remember, they are in a highly developmental state when in elementary through high school. Taking a careful look at the basics and programming them to reach success in those first will reap more benefits than skipping straight to the weighted exercises. It would be best advised to stick with the basics through elementary school and further their development with resistance training as they reach high school.
As I always say and have heard plenty of times: “strength is the foundation of everything”… but if they do not have the strength to push yourself up off the floor in a controlled manner fairly effortlessly… they need to start there. Remember this, you have to practice an exercise or skill to become better at it, right? So what should you do if you cannot successfully perform 10 push-ups? You got it! They have to practice it just like they practice pitching, batting, and fielding.
To conclude, YES an athlete can lift weights at a young age. But, they need to practice the fundamentals and basics first so they can build a foundation of strength to build upon. Through discipline and hard work your athlete will be highly successful if they master the basics at a young age.
PS… the pics below are me when I was a younger baseball player (puffy red jacket on the right) and me currently. Starting with the basics when I was 13 got me to where I am at today. The basics work!