The All-Round Athlete

 

Long Term Athletic Development

Long Term Athletic Development Model Used by Speed Academy

 

ATHLETE development is a must – the benefits last a lifetime.

Think about how coaches and parents could enhance their kid’s experiences if they invested in athletic development training in the off-season rather than playing more games and having more practices.
 
Would it help decrease the drop-out rate of females at an early age?
 
If men and women had been taught to run, jump, and throw, would more of them join local league netball, play recreational 5 a-side, play vets rugby, or pick up a golf club or tennis racket at a later age? 
 
Would we see more parents, especially mums, happy to participate in a kids vs. parents game at the end of the season if they had the agility, balance, coordination, or speed to at least avoid being embarrassed or getting injured?
As John O’Sullivan from Changing the Game Project says, “We have the opportunity to serve our children better. We have the responsibility to help them become better athletes by encouraging them to become all-round athletes.”
 
Why can’t ‘all-round athlete’ last from primary school to adulthood — from youth leagues to adult leagues?
The reality is that athletic ability trumps skill.
 
If we teach and train our kids and our players in the fundamental movement skills and ABC’s, that will help them score more points/goals and help coaches win more games.
 
A better athlete will always find a way to shut down a great striker and a great athlete will be able to slice through any defensive strategy a coach has implemented.
 
Better athletes
• pick up new skills quicker and are easier to coach
• are much more resilient to injury
• transfer skills to a variety of sports
• are less likely to drop out of sport
• perform with greater consistency
 
These factors remove much of the stress felt by young sports people and thus allows them to enjoy their sports much more.
 
The ‘all-round athlete’ lasts from primary school to adulthood — from youth leagues to adult leagues.
 
If we invest in developing all round athletic ability, we have an opportunity to enhance the enjoyment of sport for all kids, not just the superstars. And last time I checked, there is no reason to put an expiry date on enjoyment.

Youth Performance Testing Competition

THE 2016 SPEED ACADEMY COMBINE!

 

 

Agility Test

Flooded pitches!      

              

Cancelled matches!          

          

Cancelled training!

 

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. 

  • SPEED – 10m Sprint (electronically timed – the only way this can be timed)

  • AGILITY – Illinois Agility Test (again, electronically timed)

  • POWER – Standing Long Jump (reliable measure of explosiveness)

  • STRENGTH – Pull Up, Press Up and 1 Leg Squat (very reliable tests of strength to weight)

  • ENDURANCE – Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test (more sport specific than the bleep test)

Train hard for each event and reinvigorate your season!

 

SUNDAY 31ST JAN 2:30PM

 

This unique event replicates many of the tests used by the very top professional academies in rugby, football and the EIS.

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.

WINNERS?

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.

LOSERS?

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!

WHEN?         Sun 31st January 2016     2:30pm-5pm 

WHERE?      White Rose Crossfit, Lister Hill, Horsforth

WHO?           Male and females aged 11 to 16

HOW MUCH?     £10 –  £7 before 22nd Jan  

 

Maximum 30 Places!

 

SIGN UP HERE!

Knee Injuries in Youth Sports – Part 1

knee injuries in youth sport

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

[Read more…]

The Enemy Of Excellence in Youth Sports

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

Source: http://changingthegameproject.com/the-enemy-of-excellence-in-youth-sports/

 

“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…]

Growing Pains

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

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.

Get after their Number 8. He looks like he’s going through a growth spurt.

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

RG

SPEED TRAINING TIP No2 – STEP BACK TO MOVE FASTER

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.

Taking a step backwards will actually help you sprint forward—faster.

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.

The Mechanics

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:

  • allow your bodyweight to fall in front of the feet
  • rapidly and explosively step one foot backwards (plyo step)

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…]

Back To School, Back To Basics – Part 1

Back to schoolOr in the case of my daughter Emily, 1st day at school.  She took it all in her stride, as did all her friends at the gate. It’s us parents who get all worked up about it.

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…]

Reduce Injuries This Preseason

Is it really August already?
I can’t believe the Football League has already started with the Premiership to follow.
For most amateur football and rugby clubs, it’s pre-season time.
Everyone’s excited about the season ahead. It’s a clean slate. You just want to get pre-season out of the way and start playing.
Everybody dreads pre-season. It’s those never ending running sessions. The endless press ups, burpees, piggy backs and anything else the coach can think of in order to break the players. Some coaches even take pride in the fact they made players throw up.
The only guarantee are the injuries. Why do we do it?
Coaches tend to blame the players for not looking after themselves.
Whereas players blame the coach for the torturous training sessions.
Both have a point.
I have a problem with the way pre-season is generally done.
Traditionally, the idea is to build a broad platform of general fitness to then get more specific, using matches in the latter stages to get match sharpness. Most coaches and players would agree that the only way to get ‘match fit’ is to play matches.
Is that the only way? Or just the way it’s always been?

[Read more…]

Youth Training Tip No 1

Youth Training Tree Climb

Do Something Different This Summer

The football and rugby seasons are over. The best thing a young athlete can do to improve their football or rugby is to do no football or rugby.

Yes, that’s right NONE.

Their body needs a break from the repetitive movements of the sport which can lead to overuse injuries in growing bodies – as an aside, if your child has had a none contact injury then this is paramount as it should never happen.

The summer is an opportunity for them to move up to the next level. Do you think that will happen if they keep doing the same thing?  Would you want your school to ONLY teach Maths or English in the hope to make the kids fantastic at those subjects alone? Young bodies as well as young brains need to be challenged. They also need variety to prevent burnout, both mental, physical and emotional.

All the top sports stars are great all round athletes. Look at Michael Jordan who had a dabble with baseball, Roger Federer who’s quite handy at football (as is Andy Murray), Gary Lineker had to choose between football and cricket.

When the focus is purely on one sport, the athletic foundation of that child will be narrow. Meaning the height of possible performance will be reduced. Challenges are few. With fewer challenges, they will not be able to fulfill their potential.

On the other hand, if that child were challenged on areas of weakness or different movement patterns, they will return to the sport a stronger, more capable athlete. More than that though, their attitude to their chosen sport will be enhanced for the break.

Tennis and other racket sports challenge the upper body in ways that football and rugby can’t. Working on striking movements, hand eye co-ordination, lateral footwork, torso strength and linking upper and lower body.

Cricket involves powerful throwing actions and again, striking. Track and field offers a world of opportunity to get faster and stronger. All these summer sports truly complement the winter ones.

On top of this, climbing trees, swinging on ropes and just free play will improve strength, balance and body awareness.

Summer. Use this time well and you’ll really see a forward leap next season.

Are You Training Or Developing?

If you want your young players to fulfil their potential and get maximum enjoyment out of sport, you need a developmental system. 
  
Training for speed regardless of the sport, has to be developmental in nature.
  
With younger athletes (6 – 9 years old) training for speed is a matter of allowing them to explore various aspects of movement from a self-learning perspective. Remember that it’s not about trying to make them fast NOW. 

Think of lifetime performance potential as a pyramid. These early years are where the base is set. You will never have another chance to lay this foundation, so if you want to build high in the future, you’d better start broad.

As a Coach or Trainer, the objective is to create games, drills or situations that provide this broad-base of movement. The central nervous system is very plastic at this stage, so the more different situations and challenges you expose them to, the more ‘memories’ are created in the nervous system, thus providing a broader base from which to work. 

By limiting the stimulation of movements to one sport, you are narrowing the base of their foundation. Running, jumping, landing, skipping, hopping, crawling, balancing, reaching, throwing, catching, striking, pushing, pulling, bending, manipulating. It’s important that they are exposed to all these movements regularly in a challenging environment where they have to figure it out for themselves. Playing football all year round will lead to a very narrow base. You may have a very good junior player who may even get into an academy. But with such a narrow foundation, the height of the performance pyramid has been limited. 

The result is that many get frustrated and drop out of sport as they become less dominant figures. The ones that stick at it end up being injury prone. 
  
It is important to resist the urge to ‘over-teach’ or ‘make perfect’ the way youngsters are performing these skills. Babies go from lying on their backs to crawling then walking and running in a logical progression without any input from a coach. They’re very good at working things out for themselves. A coach’s role is to inspire in them the desire to learn.

Young nervous systems must be given the opportunity to learn through a trial and error process, what quality movement feels like. 
  
With pre-adolescent athletes, training efforts can become more teaching based. The focus will shift to honing movement habits and and putting into more complex scenarios. a strength component should be introduced here to facilitate the skill progression. This is important to understand. We are not trying to get really strong or build muscle. Pillar/core strength is of utmost importance to make skill progression a smooth process. It allows for better manipulation of their centre of mass (agility) and control over limbs.

Eventually as we reach 14-18 there will be more repetition of specific skills and they can be made much more sport specific. The ability to reproduce the skills under the pressure of higher speeds, loads and fatigue need to be introduced.
  
Do not be fooled into thinking that young athletes and more mature athletes can learn the skills associated with speed & agility in the same way. Programming must have a plan. 

There’s a reason they don’t teach Shakespear in Primary school. Speed and athletic development is no different.

Yours in speed

Rob

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