[cs_content][cs_section parallax=”false” style=”margin: 0px;padding: 45px 0px;”][cs_row inner_container=”true” marginless_columns=”false” style=”margin: 0px auto;padding: 0px;”][cs_column fade=”false” fade_animation=”in” fade_animation_offset=”45px” fade_duration=”750″ type=”1/1″ style=”padding: 0px;”][cs_text]Structured strength and conditioning is an integral component of Australian Rules Football. Regardless of the level of competition the benefits are the same; S&C training will help develop your athletic performance and minimise your risk of injury. But what about junior footballers? It’s a question we are commonly asked and the short answer is YES, all junior footballers (boys and girls) should complete S&C work. There is now a plethora of research supporting the positive impact strength and conditioning training can make to all junior athletes.
Firstly, we need to address what S&C training comprises of: Strength and conditioning is the overall preparation of an athlete, specific to the sport they play. AFL athletes for example need to develop a broad range of physical components (eg. speed, endurance, strength, agility). At the junior level, we can lay the foundational base for these skills to be developed and applied. The most widely accepted model for including S&C work for young athletes is the concept of long-term athletic development (LTAD). LTAD is the framework for what athletes should be doing at specific ages and stages and I would encourage all junior coaches to become familiar with the levels of LTAD.
What exactly can strength and conditioning do for young footballers? We believe there are THREE main areas to focus on when delivering S&C to young athletes, these are:
1. Make it FUN!
Kids are playing the sport because they love the game. We are big advocates for making sure we include the ball in any training drill, even if the focus is conditioning. There are a number of ways to do this (eg. keepings off handball), where you can apply both skills and conditioning into the same drill. Modifications can be made to make the drills more or less challenging and the kids will certainly enjoy it more if they don’t see it as fitness related work.
2. Teach them to move.
Most juniors are taught skills, and while this is highly important I think that there are some basic modifications to drills that can help teach kids to move. Basic skills such as landing, jumping and changing direction can not only assist athletic performance but can also form the basis on injury prevention. Next time when kids are practicing some handballing or kicking see if they can balance on one leg; when we run, jump, kick, change direction we only have one leg on the ground so learn to apply these skills in a controlled environment.
3. Think of the long-term picture.
You don’t need to replicate what you see the elite level doing. Simplify things and stick to the basics – they’re easier to deliver and are more effective in the long run. Even with minimal equipment there are so many variations of exercises or drills that can address many of the physical components required in the game of AFL.
Want to know more? If you are a junior footballer, or coach junior footballers get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we cater to all age groups.