Dealing With Growth Spurts

”Your son can only play for the representative team if he attends all training sessions. They’re twice a week with competitive games every Sunday.”

Sound familiar?

The thing is, he’s already training and playing a couple of times a week with school, training twice and playing once with his regular team. That’s a lot of football/rugby/whatever.

Professional players get low intensity days, specific recovery and injury prevention work, massages, ice baths and optimal nutrition. They wouldn’t be expected to train flat out every day. But that’s what our kids do.

In many cases it isn’t about what our kids need, but more about winning games.

Training young athletes is an art and a science. We have to know how the body best reacts to what we give it – the science. We also have to know how to keep young athletes interested and manage workouts – the art. Along with that, it is extremely important we pay attention to the developmental stages our athletes are in. We have to know when they are growing.

When a child is in a growth spurt there are a lot of changes going on. The obvious change is the bone growth; we see this through height changes. There are also changes being made to the soft tissues of the body that protect the joints. This is when we must be careful.

I AM sinking low coach.

I AM sinking low coach.

 

When the body grows it can result in a variety of different outcomes. Muscles get tighter, joints are unstable, coordination falters, they are mentally and physically fatigued, hormones are all over the place, and so much more. We just can’t continue to train players dealing with all these changes the same way we train players who aren’t going through this.

If an athlete has grown in a 30 day period, slow down and focus more on controlled exercises like body weight strength, stability work, balance and coordination exercises, flexibility and mobility work, and more linear based running.

I love using serpentine runs (fast paced curved runs) for healthy hamstrings and crouched reverse walks for ankle mobility. Lateral work can be implemented, but keep the intensity low, focusing on body position and technique rather than speed of movement.

 

An Ounce Of Prevention

Exercises that should take a back seat during a growth spurt are explosive jumping, and direction change, high demand stability like single leg landings, and any exercises that could force aggressive spinal extension or flexion (these include overhead throws, sit ups, poorly performed press ups to fatigue). To be perfectly honest, any exercise that aggressively flexes or extends the spine should be minimised anyway especially in growth stages.

If you are anything like me you are a low risk person and see no need to put an athlete in jeopardy.

During these growth spurts it’s imperative to emphasise working through a full range of movement. Longer limbs means, longer levers. Controlling those levers requires more strength, so slow it down and focus on great body positions. Find out where they can get to while keeping great posture. They will want to compromise posture in order to ‘get there’ so keep them aware of their posture and the hip strength will sort itself out.

Allow the hip and ankle a bail out mechanism and you’re in for a world of trouble trying to coach that back out of them later.

This way you’ll have a better athlete coming out of the phase and reduce the likelihood of Osgood Schlatters and other growth related problems.

The difficult part comes when these athletes are playing representative and other travelling or school sports. They are going to play fast, hard, and with aggressiveness.

Because we know this is going to happen, we need to be extra careful when training them. You can only control the controllable. If this is the case, I make a point to get the athletes’ bodies feeling better after a game, because they may have knee, hip, back soreness due to the pounding of play and the growth that is occurring.

I hope this post brings awareness and makes you rethink some of the things you are currently doing.

Yours in Speed,

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