Training Young Athletes

By October 29th, 2019 Movement & Fitness

Optimum3 Strength & Conditioning Coach Jack Daysley works with young athletes both amateur athlete and those on elite pathways with huge potential for progression in to the elite sporting/athletic world, enhancing their athletic performance. Preparing them for the next level.

Here Jack covers some of the approaches to S&C/Performance he adopts with his young athletes from rugby players to tennis players.

Strength and conditioning for younger athletes is very important to ensure they progress gradually over time and master the fundamentals of exercises enabling them to excel in their chosen sport. In this blog we will discuss what is involved within youth strength and conditioning, the benefits and rationale for the importance for strength and conditioning within the younger generation of athletes. Lets take a look at  my approach to youth strength and conditioning and the benefits it brings to a young athlete looking to unlock their full potential.

Performing S&C aims to help an athlete become fitter, faster, stronger and develop in all aspects which can increase performance in their chosen sport. Within my youth sessions the aim is to develop the individual all-around and this involves mastering the fundamentals, ironing out any weak points, implementing effective injury prevention strategies and adding to the athlete’s physical literacy as much possible.

My approach for this all revolves around one focus, which is making the athlete as adaptable as possible because as they progress and they reach the higher level in their sport it is the individuals who can adapt to the training easier and can move very well across the board who become the elite athlete. Implementing all these strategies within sessions and ensuring the athletes enjoy the sessions is crucial.  The training should become something looked forward to and not seen as a chore. Involving games and encouraging competition always engages young athletes, the work needed can be still be done just in a non-pressurised fun style of training. Building rapport with the athlete is key to develop a relationship and build trust, improve communication within sessions and become more approachable. Building this relationship encourages this happy, fun yet motivated coaching environment. A happy engaged athlete is one who will make progress and enjoy the process.

Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) is a huge part of youth athlete development and provides a great framework for coaches to follow. LTAD is composed of seven different stages which are based around the individual development of the athlete, chronological age can be used to inform certain phases of the LTAD, but the individual development is key as growth spurts may occur at different times for everyone. There are seven stages which make up the LTAD model which are; Active start, Fundamentals, Learn to Train. Train to Train, Trian to compete, Train to win and active for life. These stages are designed to ensure the young athlete is progressed within their training in an organised and calculated process which is enjoyable yet effective. The beginning stages focus on learning a range of motor skills and fundamental movement patterns in a fun non pressured environment. They the are progressed into a gym environment as the stages go on, greater focus on specific physical attributes and the competitive aspects are slowly introduced and increased as the athlete matures. Intensity of training becomes more influential in later stages as the athlete is reaching that elite level. After following these stages religiously, the individual should be ready to excel in any sport and be very adaptable creating the ideal athlete.

An example would be the fundamentals stage of LTAD will be performing a different sport involving a wide range of motor skills, in a fun environment with minimal competitive elements involved. On the other hand, someone who is in the train to train stage will now be starting to take advantage of the athletes response to training and applying greater focus on developing key physical characteristics of an athlete such as speed, strength and power, the competitive element will be a lot greater than in previous phases.

Within my portfolio of athlete’s different athletes are going through different stages of physical maturity and therefore each programme is different. Some individuals in terms of physical maturity and chronological age should be towards the later stages of the LTAD model but they are regressed to ensure the fundamentals and key motor skills are developed and refined to maximise their athletic potential. The common reason for athletes lacking in the competency of the fundamentals and key motor skills is due to early specialization in their sport meaning they become very one dimensional and find it very tricky to adapt to different stimuli and be comfortable at moving in different patterns.

In terms of injury prevention strategies this again is very specific to the individual and the volume/type of training they carry out throughout the week. However, common strategies involve a lot of uni-lateral exercises to improve balance and erase any imbalances the athlete may possess, an extensive and specific warm up to improve mobility in key areas such as the hips, shoulders, spine and ankles,  being mindful of the push to pull ratio is also key for strength and posture purposes. Different strategies may be implemented such as specific hamstring and glute strengthening exercises if the athlete is lacking strength in these areas which could potentially trigger an injury in the future.

I hope this piece helped to give you an insight to my approach to youth training and highlighted the purpose of strength and conditioning. If you feel your child or a young athlete you know would benefit from some strength and conditioning, get in touch by emailing jack@optimum3.co.uk

If you have any questions or would like to read more about Strength & Conditioning at Optimum3 you can read one of my other strength & condition/performance blogs here.

Unlock Your Body’s Full Potential

Jack Daysley

Strength & Conditioning Coach | Personal Trainer

James Brereton

Author James Brereton

More posts by James Brereton

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