Would your season benefit from a boost of intensity?
The NFL Combine takes place every February to showcase all the up and coming talent in American Football.
So, on 31st January, I’m organising The Speed Academy Combine in Horsforth!
Open to young athletes from all sports, it will be a series of sports specific tests to see who’s got it and who hasn’t.
It is a massive opportunity for young sports people to work hard on certain universal sports skills and pit their abilities with friends, teammates and athletes from other sports.
This testing event will highlight where they are strong and what needs attention.
Each test has a scoring structure, a bit like the decathlon in athletics. The athlete with the highest total in the 2 age categories (11-13 and 14-16) will receive 1 term FREE membership to Speed Academy (value up to £175) or a half day Speed Camp for their team (value up to £300).
There will also be on the spot prizes of training apparel for outstanding individual performances.
There are no losers.
If you find that your athleticism is holding you back, then you’re in the right place. That’s what we do!
The number of adolescents and pre-adolescents who participate in organized sports has increased over the last couple of decades. With this increase has come a corresponding increase in sports injuries.
Knee injuries are very common in growing bodies and can be devastating for both the injured athlete and their team, often costing a whole season of play. Strategies to reduce the number of such injuries and to ensure prompt and accurate diagnosis are critical.
AS SPORTS PERFORMANCE TRAINING BECOMES MORE AND MORE POPULAR, IT HAS ALSO BECOME MORE AND MORE MIS-UNDERSTOOD.
It seems many people believe that running through an agility ladder for 15 minutes once a week and doing some push-ups and sit-ups is going to deliver long lasting results.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. It would be lovely if we could put minimal time and effort into something and derive incredible results, but the earth doesn’t spin that way. [Read more…]
If you have a pre-adolescent child in a football academy, you may want to read this.
Dr Andy Franklyn-Miller just posted an interesting article from the British Journal of Sports Medicine looking into the relationship between the frequency of football practice during skeletal growth and the presence of a cam deformity in adult elite football players.
The study isn’t ideal and leaves us with more questions than answers but the correlation between training frequency within a professional club before 12yrs and the formation of bony growths on the hip is significant. Here’s the quick science bit from the study. [Read more…]
I was intending to write an article voicing my opinions on the state of youth sports in this country. But as I was doing some research, I came across the best article I’ve ever read on youth sports. It says it all.
In the article O’Sullivan deftly highlights what he feels is the “greatest obstacle to child-centred sports”. Unfortunately, the environment of youth sports is one that measures success in wins and losses rather than excellence. Once again we place too much value on the outcome as opposed to the process. It may seem a daunting task to alter the whole youth sports environment, but it is absolutely necessary to nurture the youth of today to grow into the healthy, active adults of tomorrow. This article will provide suggestions on how to shift the paradigm in small and meaningful ways! Enjoy!
By: John O’Sullivan
“My daughter is the tallest fourth grader in her class and loves to play basketball,” said a father to me recently. “Sadly, I know that she will ultimately grow to be of average height. Since she is now only allowed to rebound and give the ball to shorter-ball handler players on her team, she will never develop the skills she will need to play basketball. After her last game, she told her 5-year old sister that she did not shoot or score because her job is to rebound and play defense, because that is what her coach told her. What should I do?”
The plight of this parent highlights what I believe to be the greatest obstacle to a child-centred youth sports environment.
It causes many children to drop out and quit. [Read more…]
There’s something strange happening to a large number of adolescent and pre-adolescent children on sports pitches every where.
It’s not a new phenomena, but it seems to be getting worse and is occurring right under our noses. If the national media get hold of it it will be labelled an epidemic.
It’s not obesity… or acne… or the sudden personality change. Something far more disturbing.
Young, talented, hard-working sports people across The land appear to be having their bodies snatched, and replaced with the body of someone who has never played sport before.
It’s heartbreaking. One minute your child is an athletic young player enjoying their sport and displaying all the attributes of a future champion. The next they look as coordinated as a new-born giraffe on roller skates.
Years of hard work. Hours of dedicated practice and honing of their skills seems to have disappeared.
Not only that, but they spend most of their time with niggling injuries. Knee pain. Unidentifiable muscle pains. Thigh strains. Shin splints. Back ache.
The doctor tells you it’s growing pains and will pass.
The physio advice is to stretch the tight muscles to regain mobility.
So they stretch their hamstrings, quads and groin. They do it for a while but then give up.
Then on the return to the Physio, there’s a stand-off. The Physio says they aren’t seeing any improvement because they aren’t complying with the stretching. The child’s says the stretching feels like it’s going to snap and saw no improvement so lost the motivation to do it.
In the mean time, your young player is rapidly losing confidence. They have had to adapt the way they move to still play their sport with their new body. And these awful movement patterns are becoming permanently ingrained.
Players who were way behind them on the pecking order are now overtaking them.
The sport they loved is now just a constant source of frustration and inadequacy. Nobody has an answer for them and the coaches that couldn’t do enough for them a year ago, now seem to have little interest in their issues.
As a parent it’s painful to watch. You can see the pain and anguish they’re going through, but feel helpless.
This is one of the key reasons I formed Speed Academy. The majority of young players that come to me are in this exact situation.
Most parents don’t see the need for dedicated athletic development until certain developmental issues highlight the deficiencies in sports training and school PE.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
When you understand what’s happening, it’s actually quite a simple solution.
Even better, if you have kids who are yet to go through this stage, it’s avoidable.
The medical advice that many parents get told is that the bones grow in spurts while the muscles and tendons grow at a steady rate.
So there will be periods, where the bones get too long for the muscles, making them tight.
So the answer is to wait until the soft tissue catches up and you can speed the process by stretching.
I used to advise this too. It kind of makes sense.
But then, when I started working more with young athletes, I actually had a chance to see what was going on.
The kids presenting with Osgood-Schlatter disease and other related knee problems all had the same faulty movement patterns.
Movement patterns that would cause huge stress for the knee joint and tendons. Allied to the multi-directional nature of the sports that they played and you have all the mechanisms for a chronic knee problem.
So what was the nature of this faulty movement pattern?
Why was it happening to young people that previously moved so well?
To demonstrate what’s happening, you need a hammer.
Get a big mallet and hold it in one hand half way down the shaft and lift it up and down using just your wrist.
Your wrist represents the hip, the shaft is the thigh, and the hammer mead represents the additional weight of the lower leg and foot.
Shift your hand a couple of inches further away from the head and repeat. Not as easy, huh?
Now try holding it right at the end.
This is how it feels when your thigh bone rapidly grows.
Where previously, the body could handle the shorter limb through a full range, the now longer and heavier levers create a higher strength demand.
The hip muscles can only control these levers through a much shorter range. Anything outside this range would be beyond the capabilities of the muscles thus leading to possible tear.
So in order to protect them from being torn, the body limits the length available.
With certain muscles shortened, movements have to adapt.
Feet splay out like a clown when trying to accelerate.
When they decelerate, the back bends like a willow tree in the wind. And posture all round is weak.
When they try to run, it looks like their feet are stuck in treacle. It looks like the whole body gets involved in dragging the foot off the floor and through for the next stride. Knee lift is none existent.
This isn’t a flexibility issue.
It’s a strength one.
We need to create a buffer zone of strength in the hip and trunk muscles. Then and only then, will the body will remove the safety restrictions.
Therefore, through this growth period the focus should be on postural awareness, and full spectrum strength through full range of movement.
Basic strength exercises performed with good technique are all that is required here.
With this understanding it is possible to prepare your players in advance so that the growth spurt has a minimal effect on their athleticism and hence enjoyment of sport.
It is criminal that young athletes – even those in professional football and rugby academies – can fall completely out of the system having shown so much promise.
It’s unnecessary if robust training systems are in place and the children, coaches and parents are educated and buy into it.
As part of my ‘Developing The Growing Athlete’ month I’ll be holding an educational workshop for parents and coaches on Thursday 17th April.
If you’re interested in helping your child/ren achieve their potential and continue to enjoy playing sport then please contact me via email, Facebook or Twitter for further details.
If you have found this article useful, I would be most grateful if you could share it in the usual social media channels.
Yours in speed
STEP BACK TO MOVE FASTER
Explosive and reactive on field movements require immediate and efficient action, which is why the following statement is one of the biggest controversies in sports training.
When some Australian scientists at Edith Cowan University had athletes use this “false step” technique to trigger a sprinting motion, the men covered five metres significantly quicker than when they took off by initially stepping forwards.
In order for an athlete to initiate forward movement of the body, their driving foot needs to be behind their centre of gravity in order to maximize the first step.
There are two ways to achieve this:
It has been the eternal argument in speed and agility training. A few years ago, this study, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, appeared to shed some definitive light on the matter. [Read more…]
As far as young athletes are concerned, this is massive for them. It’s their New Year. A time for a clean slate and new beginnings.
Whatever their goal, making the school or representative team, last season is forgotten. Some kids come back from the summer holidays looking, sounding and moving completely differently. Like some one stuck them in a grow bag and fed them steroids for 6 weeks. With some, the transformation is huge. Others may appear to have been left behind.
In a time of new beginnings, there can be a tendency for coaches to introduce the new stuff they learned over the summer. Big mistake. That’s basing training on what THEY want rather than what their athletes need.
This is the perfect opportunity to strip things right back to basics.
Ensure the foundations are solid so that when you introduce the sexy new drills in later, it’s easier to coach.
Let’s step into the kid’s shoes for a minute, you’ve been given a new body that’s bigger, stronger and more powerful than the previous one. Chances are it’ll take a while to get the hang of it. Going back to basics is a chance for the coach to see where everyone is at and for the athletes to get to grips with their longer limbs. [Read more…]