Do you Teach or Train your young athletes?
If you are like most coaches and trainers I am familiar with, you likely ‘train’ your athletes as a means to elicit biomotor improvement.
You work on various forms of sprints and jumping in order to develop ‘blazing speed’.
You lift weights or perform bodyweight exercises to increase ‘mammoth strength’.
You set out cones and have your young athletes practice elaborate movement drills as a way of improving their ‘stealth-like agility’.
These types of exercises in themselves are not problematic or bad per say…
But they are only quasi-beneficial and extremely narrow-scoped if you aren’t looking to teach your young athletes the skills they need to perform these drills and set them up to improve on the next level.
Early Years – Wrong Focus
We tend to overemphasize the whole notion of winning or succeeding in youth sports.
Translated into what that means from a training perspective – coaches and trainers often look only to this year when considering the growth and evolution of their young athletes. Instead of developing either specific or general skill in a teaching format that will lay the foundation for continued success and future improvement, many coaches and trainers take a narrow-scoped approach and look to make changes now… so that the benefit and gain is immediate.
Incorrect Assessment Styles
This is in large part due to the considerable attention we place on testing and assessing performance markers with young athletes. Many training facilities for instance, conduct both pre and post testing battery’s that will show the degree to which their training regime improved the basic elements of speed, strength and flexibility.
Young athletes, as are their parents, become mentally conditioned to ‘buy into’ a given trainer or facilities training program when they see improvements being made… Even in the pre-adolescent years!
What should become the goal of every trainer, coach, parent and young athlete is to learn and systematically improve on his or her skill levels.
I have long maintained my belief that we, as an industry, must move to a more pragmatic and reasonable method of both programming for and testing our youngsters. In that, I hold firm to the notion that markers for improvement should be monitored by using a system that allows the trainer to observe and record the technical ability of a young athlete during specific exercises.
Rate of Technical Ability
A simple way of doing this is to create and utilize a tracking plan that illustrates an athletes ‘Rate of Technical Ability’ (RTA). Develop a 1 – 5 scale that has technical performance markers evident at each ascending score. In a squat for instance, an RTA scale may look like this –
1 = Knees are valgus (inward)/lumbar spine is either rounded or arched/head is down/weight is on toes or ball of foot
2 = knees are valgus/lumbar spine is either rounded or arched/head is down
3 = lumbar spine is either rounded or arched/head is down
4 = lumbar spine is either rounded or arched
5 = Perfect form
Start with bodyweight squats and teach proper form and execution. Grade your young athletes on a piece of paper as to where they are on your ‘5’-point scale. Progress in volume or load only when they have reached a ‘5’.
This lays the foundation for future developed skill and allows for a safe progression.
Technical/Fun Development In Sport…
There are two relative types of coordination training; General and Specific.
General – This is the basic level of coordination and is based on versatility. In early pre-adolescents, spend a great deal of time creating fun exercises and games that establish a base level of coordination through exposure to all of its elements. Future sporting success and functionality in life will be dependant on developing a global foundation of general coordination.
Specific – Specific coordination is a means by which to improve or increase the ability within a given task or sport. By improving the basic elements of coordination that apply to a particular skill, you can increase the proficiency of that skill. Here are some examples:
* Unusual Positions – Throwing a baseball or shooting a basketball for example. In the early years of training, always teach unilateral skills using both sides of the body. Breakdown throwing and shooting motions into finite skill progressions and spend time teaching them with the non-dominant hand, foot or side of the body. This practice of non-dominance will serve to increase the kinesthetic understanding of the skill and improve the athletes’ ability to perform it with the dominant side and lead to an increased ambidextrous ability, which is very advantageous in sport. Another example of this would be to teach how to swing a bat from both sides of the plate in baseball.
* Altered Speeds – Change the speed of movements to increase an athletes understanding and control. Teach somersaults and jumping rotations to a competent level. After that, start developing exercises that ask for the young athlete to increase or decrease the speed of the turns. This control of speed variance will increase the ability of the young athlete to understand the complexity of the skill and be able to reproduce it with more precise detail and aptitude.
Added Movements – Add movements in the form of rotations, jumps and level changes (i.e. starting from one knee and then progressing into the skill) leading up to or following a standard sporting skill. Again, as with the other two examples, this increased sense of body control and awareness will improve the young athletes ability to perform the specific skill in question. For example, have a young baseball player perform a 360-degree turn with bat in hand before hitting a baseball off a tee. Have a young basketball players dribble a ball towards a basket and perform a jumping 360-degree turn before making a lay-up. Have a young soccer player perform a somersault and then a tuck jump in proper and seamless sequence before performing a corner kick. These elements can also be included in youth training programs. Have young athletes perform a forward roll or 180-degree jump before demonstrating a sprint start sequence.
- Published in Youth Fitness
Here’s what IYCA Member Paul Clarke had to say in response to my question about the biggest problem in youth fitness and sport training:
“The major problem as I see it is coaches that advocate and live the mantra of working harder instead of smarter. Invariably this leads to a quantity over quality approach.”
I couldn’t agree more with Paul.
It’s being popularized in a different circle right now, but for roughly ten years, I’ve been saying…
Any fool can make a young athlete tired, but it takes a real COACH to make them better.
My first job out of college was as a Performance Coach at a training center for professional, Olympic and National Team athletes in Canada.
We also did a lot of work with young athletes.
One of my first meetings as a staff member at this facility is a moment in time that I will truly never forget.
The Head Performance Coach was suggesting that we needed to work a touch harder as a group in order to “beef up our v-factor points” for this coming month.
Being new and open to learning as much as I could, I naturally inquired about what that meant (figuring it had to do with some sort of super secret training system!)
“Shocked” and “confused” are the only two words I can think of when I was given the definition.
A “V-Point” was something that each of us Coaches were awarded when we trained a young athlete hard enough so they puked.
You get my point.
But the truly disturbing thing is that here in 2009, a full decade and change later, there are many facilities and Coaches that still live by that mantra.
Disgusting isn’t the word…
But Stupid comes to mind.
Blunt, I know, but if we aren’t prepared to advocate for kids and teenagers than what exactly are we doing this for?
- Published in Youth Fitness
Regular physical activity is essential for kids to develop strong bones, improve their
coordination and movement patterns and help establish good physical activity habits that
will last throughout their entire lifetime.
Research shows that exercise also helps children performance better academically,
increased levels of concentration, creativity and memory and general brain function are all
benefits of regular exercise and activity! So what are you kids going to be doing to stay
active during the school holiday period?
Rather than staying at home glued to the television or playing their play station, get them
moving with these top 10 tips to keep your kids active and happy during the holidays!
- Learn a New Sport
With the grown in status and awareness of sports such as golf and tennis, get your kids
involved in a new sport. In addition to increasing activity and creating a spark of interest,
sports will always increase a child’s coordination, movement patterns and build confidence
with their peers. Sports such as golf, tennis, basketball, badminton, martial arts are great at
keeping them interested and you will find aspiring champions in every child! Kids are great
- Set a Good Example
If you want your kids to be active, you MUST be active yourself! Lead by example, park the
car away from the entrance of the supermarket, use the stairs instead of the escalator, get
the kids up early and go for a walk before you go to work, do some exercise drills before
dinner like push ups, lunges, squats, or jumping jacks.
- Head to the Park
Bangkok has plenty of parks around for your children to run around and enjoy themselves
with their friends. Load bearing exercise like running and jumping keeps their bones and
- Kids Fitness Boot Camp
A totally new fitness experience for kids, Kids Boot Camp allows children to exercise in a fun
and effective gym environment run by fitness professionals. Kids learn how to move safely
and challenge themselves using only their body weight, exercise tubes, bands, and medicine
balls. Created and run by the professionals at Fitcorp Asia.
- Home Duties
Give some responsibilities around the home while are on school break, such as walking the
dog, vacuuming and dusting. Not only will this help to develop a sense of responsibility, it
will help build strong bonds with your children.
- Family Fitness!
Get the entire family involved for weekend activities. Play catch, or tag around the back
yard or in the park. Make exercise fun, and something you enjoy as well. If you show that
you enjoy the exercise, they will to.
- Fun Parks
In addition to having a fantastic time on all the rides, a day at the fun park such as Dream
World will require hours of continuous walking from ride to ride. Fond memories and great
for the whole family.
- Ask and You Will Receive
Ask your kids what ‘they’ would like to do! More often than not there are influences from
school or from friends which has sparked some interest. Ask and you will be surprised.
- Fun Activities at Home
Crab Soccer, tag, jump rope, Hide and Seek or set up a fun circuit for your kids and their
friends to do. Stair running, hoola hoops, hopscotch, skating, jumping jacks, balance drills,
frog jumps, arm circles and skipping ropes make for a fun and very effective workout!
- Set up a Rewards System
Create a points system for exercise that encourages your kids to exercise regularly. Use
rewards such as trips to the movies, tickets to sporting events, new sporting equipment like
jump ropes, roller blades, exercise tubing. Never use food as a reward.
Daniel Remon is the founder and Managing Director of Fitcorp Asia, an innovative health,
fitness and performance company specializing in fitness for kids and healthy education
programs as well as personal training, fat loss, golf fitness and corporate health programs.
www.fitcorpasia.com Tel: 02 661 7900.
- Published in Youth Fitness