Junior Athlete Development

In Articles by Tm WelshLeave a Comment

As professionalism in sport continues to grow in Australia, greater demands flow through to youth athletes in order to raise the standard and produce ready-made stars upon entering the elite sporting arena. While it is fantastic to see continually rising expertise and commitment by both coaches and athletes in this space, sometimes the boundaries are pushed too far in order to progress the athlete for success in the immediate term, rather than a long-term vision of what the athlete wants to attain.

Within the weight room a prime example of this is an athlete rushing into a barbell back squat before progressing through the necessary steps to become proficient in this lift. Moving through a series of progressions to gain competency in the squat may look like this:

These progressions should correspond with athlete movement ability; being able to nail each version prior to moving through to the next, rather than on an age basis and thinking ‘they’re 16, they can back squat’. Athletes progress and develop at different ages and rates, thus applying a blanket rule in accordance with age is simply wrong. 

The beautiful thing about an athlete that is yet to perform a lift is the opportunity to avoid learning a poor pattern. Using the above example, if an athlete jumps straight into a barbell back squat – a complex lift – it is likely that the athlete will adopt a technique which will see them compensate in key areas to get through, potentially involving multiple flaws. Unfortunately, if a pattern is learned it takes a lot longer to re-learn it in the appropriate manner. 

If you’ve got a spare 8 minutes, this fun video demonstrates the theory perfectly:

Of additional concern is the prescription of variables such as weight, volume and tempo.Manipulating such variables may prove as a stepping stone to the next variant – i.e. attempt different tempos before moving on to the next level.

What’s missing?

The number 1 rule – have FUN! While there needs to be aspects of training which are strict, measured and difficult, adoption to training will be much greater if the athlete enjoys it, also going a long way to reduce monotony, burn out and fatigue. 

Summary

  • Avoid learning poor patterns.
  • Don’t compromise long term success for short term gains.
  • Make fun the focus – why did they start playing in the first place?

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