As a father first, the passion and care I pour into my children's development has no end. I want them to have every opportunity and for them to be able to realise their full potential. At 7 years old my daughter competes in gymnastics, plays soccer attends swimming lessons and dances with school. She is very active outside of these activities and says her favourite thing to do is climb.
Although she participates in many activities I am still cautious about how this may impact her health phycially and mentally. Ironic, no?
Recently, we decided to reduce the training load. So, swimming was cancelled over winter. We wanted our daughter to have time to play and just be. A hard decision, but I think the best for now.
I share this with you because I am one of you. A caring parent that wants the best for their child. I understand that there is a fine line and sometimes it can get crossed. Sometimes we need to know when and what is enough.
This brings me to some recent developments in the athletics arena, but something that is transferable across many fields,
In November 2016, youth development expert Wolfgan Killer facilitated a seminar on the best practices for the development of under 16 athletes. He stipulates that the objectives of a successful training program for young athletes should be to achieve broad physical development focusing on agility, balance, co-ordination, endurance and flexibility. The priority of a training program for athletes under 16 years of age should be general conditioning, not a tailored program for a specific event group.
What I find most interesting about Wolfgan's recommendations is that he suggests that young athletes to engage in multiple sports over the year. Finding that athletes that engaged in at least four sports are more likely to develop a broad range of fundamental movement skills improving their chance at athletic success. Ideally, he recommends that at least one of these sports is athletics, swimming or gymnastics as these are the foundation sports, which develop the fundamental skills of all sports.
Wolfgan recognises the importance of understanding the difference between a childs physiological age and their biological age. Stating that there can often be a 5-year variation in the development and maturity between athletes of the same biological age. An understanding of this is essential when programming for athletes particularly between the age of 11 and 15. Those who develop quicker are often at an advantage during this stage.
Special attentions need to be given to managing the recovery of young athletes. This can vary significantly between individuals and can also fluctuate as they mature or going through periods of rapid growth.
As a general rule an athlete should recover from a normal training session within 2 days. For a high intensity training session or after a competition this may take upto 7 days. Ideally, light training would be scheduled into these days.
Here are some great tips to keep in mind for U16 athletes:
Sport needs to fun and enjoyable and it is important for children to get the rest and recovery they need. It is OK to have some time off to rest and to reduce training loads.
We want to encourage our children to be active for life. Let sport build their character not just their performance and let's create environments that build self-esteem.
I hope this information has been as informative to you as it has for me.
Source: Athletics Coach Magazine, April
By Chris Bowles