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Saturday, August 25, 2012

part 2 of 2 on How to build an Athlete

In PART 1 of How to Build an Athlete  I left off with the crucial ingredients to building an athlete:
  • Mobility
  • Agility 
  • Speed
  • Power
  • Well being [replaces strength]

MOBILITY. This may come as a shocker but, just because I mentioned this first doesn't mean it is the most important. However, it is essential as an athlete develops to maintain the prerequisite mobility for their respective sport. Ages 5-11 years of age is the crucial time to begin working on mobility since this is the critical stage for enhancing flexibility. Gender does make a difference. Boys between the ages of 9-12 begin to lose forward trunk flexibility. Girls accelerate flexibility gains at the age of 11. Maintainence of flexibility should be preservered through adolescence.

AGILITY is the most under researced in adolescent sports performance and paradoxically it is the most important for developing athletic prowess. Agility development should be targeted at prepubescence  and adolescence. Limb strength and running speed are key components of agility, thus it is important coordination and movement patterns are taught in the early years. That is why I strongly recommend the park for introducing agility. This playful environment allows for the commencement of neural enhancement i.e. coordination. Prepubescent has already been established as a key stage for strength and speed development.

SPEED may be developed through maturation which means speed is trainable throughout childhood and adolescence . Prepubescents neural activation for speed includes high levels of plyometerics and sprint training. Adolescents responded more to neural and structural development ie. strength and plyometerics. I would encourage prepubescents to work on technical competency, speed work and plyometerics to provide an infrastructure for existing physical qualities. Adolescents, on the other hand, should focus on strength training, plyometerics and sprint training for overall speed gains.

POWER development commences at adolescence and continues throughout adulthood. That is not to say this stage cannot begin in the prepubertal phase. However, the rate and magnitude of development  may differ before and after the onset of puberty. I disagree with the implement of 'popular' training programs to introduce power. Since strutural maturity is not completed during this stage the chance for injury is high.

WELL BEING is the most underrated in developing the young athlete no matter how talented. I am reminded by the recent comments made by Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer who dominated this year. He said "After my last Olympics, I was burned out and didn't want to swim anymore...." Now, for the lay person, this was a shocker but, what he expressed is very common among high performance athletes in our field. We call this a Low Positive Cell. (save for another blog). Yet, it is important for parents to preserve a healthy well being when your child is maturing and the demands of athletic training and competition increase. It is important that the child's intrinsic drive is greater than extrinsic forces (parents living vicariously through their kids). I have seen this more times than I can count.

As long as development is augmented and re-calibrated to meet the maturation of neural and structural components, and the child feels positive about their progress in mastering tasks for being a good athlete, well being will be maintained. Task mastery is associated with increased enjoyment, perceived competence and beliefs that effort causes success. This alone will result in transferable life skills. As long as their is variability, progressing and challenging training environments.

Kids are NOT little adults! The training of young athletes should not be taken lightly. This blog has content based on years of established research and experience. The components described in this blog are to be taught by degreed and certified/qualified persons with an understanding of adolsecent development.  This doesn't mean programs like Crossfit, Insanity or bootcamp type classes and the many other programs out there not designed for this young group. A safe age for increasing training complexity is 13 and older

1 comment:

  1. This one is very interesting and meaningful article. Children have large scope of learning how to build their body fit. I inspire my little boy to take exercise. Thanks for arranging this nice training program. Keep it up :)
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