‘One size doesn’t fit all’ when it comes to coaching. This is especially true of coaching young athletes. Every young person comes to their strength and conditioning session in a different state. Physical, psychological, emotional, nutritional factors all play a part. It is also possible that no two days are the same either. For this reason it’s really important not to ‘pigeon hole’ their coaching too.
Working out at Absolutely Fitness, Bracknell yesterday, (a great, low cost gym that is well equipped), I overheard one of the personal trainers recommend an exercise for someone who was just starting out on squats. One of the regular clients of the gym had brought his young girlfriend and she’d decided to have a go at free weight barbell squats. The client mentioned it to the trainer as he walked past, and without even stopping to look the trainer said that she needed to do box squats! How does he know that? The was no evidence base to support this claim. It is a classic example of ‘cookie cutter’ coaching.
Coaching experience mustn’t lead to generic strength and conditioning coaching
When working with young athletes as a Strength and Conditioning Coach you will see a lot of themes developing. Take any exercise, many athletes will tend to make similar errors in technique. As a result, the strength and conditioning professional must implement scaled or regressed exercise to improve lifting techniques. Regardless of experience level, not every talented young athlete will need to follow the same coaching progressions. The goal as a youth strength and conditioning coach is to get the biggest return on the smallest investment of training. You cant be this efficient using the same approach with every young athlete.
As an experienced strength and conditioning that has worked with many talented young performers I like to assess where each individual is at before deciding on their progressions. Quite often when it comes to squatting, a youngster can nail it. So why waste time putting someone with a good squat into regressed or scaled forms of the movement? It doesn’t make sense. Always see what your athlete is capable of before designing their programmes. Just because someone hasn’t performed an exercise before, doesn’t mean that they wont be able to do it.
Looking for feedback after one rep
As a strength and conditioning coach you cannot coach every repetition. Quite often, athletes may want feedback after the very first rep. This is especially true if its a new movement. Avoid giving it. Allow the athlete to perform several reps first. By doing this the S&C coach is more able to identify trends in technique rather than one off errors. If there are more than one errors they can then prioritise the largest technical flaws first.
In summary, at NK Fitness we place a premium on coaching the young athletes that we work with. This starts with not making making assumptions regarding their performance. Instead we see how much they CAN do before scaling their programme accordingly. We believe that this makes our training far more efficient, maximises progresses and enjoyment for the young athlete.