Growth, Development, and Maturation: Part 2 - Practical Implications
So how do we put this into practice?
Having a basic understanding of the above is essential, however knowing how to measure and prescribe relevant training for young people is arguably the most important bit!
Long term athletic development (LTAD) models tell us that at a certain age, this young person should be able to do X, Y and Z. BUT...
What if the child has a rapid growth spurt and therefore suddenly has reduced co-ordination skills?
What if a child hasn't yet gone through their growth spurt and can't achieve the minimum expectation of someone "aged 12"?
This is where the Youth Physical Development Model comes into play. This model suggests young people should continue to work on everything... Prioritising different elements of the model at different stages of development. For example Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS) should be continually incorporated into any training programme, as these are the foundations of movement. This should be a priority in early to mid childhood and then realistically maintained within warm ups while other elements take priority.
Check out the Youth Physical Development Model article here.
Youths generally get minimal contact time for athletic development due to sport specific skills taking priority in sessions. So we have to make a decision on what is going to have the largest benefit with the minimal available time at our disposal.
FMS should also be re-prioritised during and after growth spurts, as there will be a clear decrease in movement skill competency and the young athlete will have to relearn these skills again due to things such as increased limb lengths or foot size.
Strength should always be a priority, this can be developed from a very young age. A simplified way to look at it is when a baby stands up for the first time or walks for the first time. They are learning how to move and causing stress on their body in the process, very similar to intentional strength exercises when prescribed by experienced and qualified coaches.
You can read a full article on Strength training for youths here.
Alongside strength we should also include components such as speed, agility, and power. These are all trainable with youths and should be a priority for 5-17 year olds (1). Speed can refer to many things, however in this instance I will simplify it and refer to sprint speed. This can be improved through maximal sprints, however young people regularly do this within sport and physical activity.
This is similar to agility (change of direction at speed), kids are always running round and changing direction quickly. As coaches or teachers we should be coaching technique and embedding good movement patterns in youths from a young age, instead of putting on drills for kids to repeat over and over again regardless if they are moving well or not.
Power development can be incorporated by performing different types of jumps and medicine ball exercises. These can be introduced at the start of a session before moving onto strength work. However young people should be taught the correct landing mechanics before then loading these movement patterns.
Finally, the body can only tolerate so much load and therefore when programming strength, power, and speed exercises you need to be careful you don't go over the top. Start with low volume and slowly build the volume up as their tolerance to training increases.
Part 3 will provide information on monitoring and measurement of young athletes, how this can be integrated and used within young peoples development. You can click here to read Part 3.
1. LLOYD, Rhodri, and OLIVER, Jon L (2012). Strength and Conditioning for Young Athletes. Oxon, Routledge.