One benefit of getting older is that you gain experience. Today, we use our experience to help committed and talented young athletes work hard towards their sporting goals. The field of strength and conditioning and physical preparation has progressed over the past 2-3 decades. Indeed, the subfield of youth conditioning has exploded with information over the past 10 years. Todays talented young athletes have much more information and ‘tools’ at their disposal. This S&C resource can fast track a young athletes development. Despite the expertise that now exists I wondered what would be the key messages I’d want to deliver to my younger self if I had the chance? Here’s what I came up with:
Patience is a virtue
Talented young athletes may not have this abundance. The rewards in high level sport are fantastic, even at a junior level. Free kit, extensive national and possibly international travel. Depending on the sport, they may get time out of school to train! What’s not to like about being a junior high performer? I certainly wasn’t anywhere close to this, even though the support structures didn’t exist in the same form. However, I was committed developing my fitness and sporting prowess, albeit in a very small pond. With a classic bedroom gym it was bodybuilding and beach weights all the way from around 12 years old! That’s how we all start isn’t it.
Bodybuilding magazines were the main source of information back in the day and whatever knowledge a sports coach could pass on. So to say training was a little hit and miss would be an understatement! It was all about train hard all of the time. We wanted results tomorrow. I would tell myself to be far more patient. In todays world of social media the urgency is still there. However, for the young athlete rushing training and doing too much can be detrimental, and even dangerous. A consistent approach is far more effective and to be consistent the young athlete in Fulham needs to be patient. The results will come.
The process is often better than the destination
Similar to being patient I really wish I’d enjoyed the process more. The day to day grind. The experimenting with different approaches as my knowledge developed. Young athletes can become too focussed on results. Being outcome focussed can skew training habits in favour of quick fixes. When it comes to young athletes there are certain strength and conditioning training techniques that are best left until after a good foundation has been built. An example might be plyometric training. Used too early it’s performance impact can be very limited. Therefore, we work a lot when coaching young athletes on resetting their awareness to the process of training. Talk to many retired elite athletes and they miss the environment and the process more than the medals. The joy is in the journey.
Injuries are not the end of the world
When I’d dislocated my shoulder for the second time paying rugby the world ended. Or so I thought! My dreams of becoming a PE Teacher lay in ruins. Or so I thought! None of this came true. Five dislocations later, due to poor rehab, and I haven’t experienced a dislocation in over 21 years. Furthermore, I now Snatch my own bodyweight in competition and can complete numerous dynamic movement on a gymnastics bar. You are not your injuries and you can work past them. Young athletes also have to negotiate growth and maturation too. Like everyone, their growth, training and sports performance can lead to a variety of acute and chronic injuries.
The youth strength and conditioning coach has an important role to play in managing the young athletes programme and their expectations during this time. The psychology of injury can be huge. However, with proper management all injuries can be worked around and they will get better.
Pay more attention to the boring stuff
The significant majority of injuries that I have experienced over the years, and even to this day, are as a result of tightness. Like many my younger self (and older self) simply hasn’t stretched enough! As a result my poor range of motion has made certain weightlifting and gymnastic movements very challenging for me. My fitness is compromised. Spending more time on developing an active range of motion when I was younger would have had long lasted performance benefits. The processes that we perform outside of training can make a significant difference for talented young athletes. Our experience as coaches enables us to include these things in their programmes.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing as they say. With the quality and volume of information out there today for young athletes, we aim to make their sporting journey less guesswork than our own may have been. If you’d like to discuss how we may be able to help high performing and talented young athletes reach their potential then please contact us here.