Have you been to a peewee or bantam hockey tournament lately? If so, you may have noticed something about the players. And that is the variation in sizes.
You can have a situation where there is a 5’2″ thirteen year old taking a face-off against a 6’2″ player. Not only is the one player a foot taller than the other but he can also outweigh him by 50 lbs or more.
Fast forward five years or so and these players could be much closer in size. And it’s possible the smaller player could pass the other in size.
Given all the variations in size that we see in young athletes it only makes sense that we train these athletes differently. But instead what we typically see is a one-size-fits-all program for all athletes. And the elements selected for this program may be based on what the best athlete is able to do with the hope this will spur the other athletes on to achieve the same. Worse there also instances where a coach tries to do what pro athletes in their sport do for training.
How effective would it be for a 12 or 13 year old to try and replicate Sidney Crosby’s off-season training program? Not only will not be the best option in the short term for this hockey player it also stunts the long term development of the player.
Long Term Athlete Development or LTAD refers to training the right things at the right time for the athlete. There are ‘windows’ of training where it is more effective to train certain athletic abilities and skills than to simply do what the pros are doing.
For example, girls between 6-8 years and boys between 7-9 are at a perfect age to train for speed. This has nothing to do the technical aspect of coaching speed but instead more to do with the intent to move quickly. For example, a number of pro-golfers recall trying to hit the ball as hard or as far as they could during their first trips to the driving range. There was no coaching to ‘keep your head down’ or ‘rotate through the hips’. Instead the emphasis was on having fun and trying to swing the club as fast as possible.
I find it kind of interesting because this is the opposite of what you sometimes see happening with youth sports training. For example, speed training at these ages could be completely ignored altogether because you work on that later. Or a well intentioned but poorly informed coach might try and coach speed by looking to increase stride length, stride rate or some aspect of the athlete’s bio-mechanics. Both situations lead to poor long term athletic development.
Going forward remember that it is key to train the correct skills at the right stage of development. Our Summer Youth Training Camp is all about LTAD. We look to deliver a training experience that is appropriate for the athlete’s particular stage of development, that is safe and that is fun.
Stay tuned for more details on our Youth Summer Fitness Training Camp.