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The Biggest Challenge in Youth S&C, coach?



June 8 , 2020 | Posted by Dave Cripps |

The Biggest Challenge in Youth S&C, coach?

Have you, or do you still coach youth athletes? Most if not all of us have at some stage in our strength and conditioning career’s. But I often find myself wondering:

Why is this likely the most challenging niche to coach in and how can this make me better?

Since 2006 I’ve always had coaching exposure with youth’s, whether that be today with numerous local kids linked to county, academy and national sport, or back during my pro rugby days with senior players, where I alongside I consulted by managing the delivery of all the pre-academy S&C too 400+ young players over 6 years.

The question above often originates when you see videos of youth’s doing S&C sessions which would be considered quite ‘creative and varied’ (courses, random kit, more soft play). Then at the opposite end those which would be considered more basic (key fundamental movements, less varied, more technical).

This is to not contend one is right and one is wrong, but the question that often comes back to mind is:

‘Is this the best use of this kid’s time to improve in what they want?’

Many things influence the answer to this, including the balance of enjoyment and atmosphere, with purposeful session design and coaching input. For example having fun and enjoying something is critical for any athlete, but this counts for little if it doesn’t really improve the outcome which they’ve came for, e.g. more speed. Equally, a scientifically beautiful and periodised session, which could include references to ‘Lloyd and Faigenbaum’ counts for little if you have the coaching personality and engagement of a 1950’s office block.

Then there’s the maturation issue. Its more challenging to differentiate progress due to the programme from progress as a result of maturation, which limits the ability to find more black and white answers.

But could that be a problem?

While there is a popular argument that in S&C many coaches try to rely on black and white answers and can’t operate in the chaos between. In fact in youth training, is it the opposite? Do the above conditions mean many of us can rely too much on the limitations in having black and white answers, and use that as a smoke screen to justify anything we want.

To then complete this contextual miss mash, the ability to come to answers and actions which provide best practice in your scenario, become tough. More so, the risk of going down a path which addresses a micro issue, but at the expense of the macro issues, is maybe the best way to summarise the challenge in youth S&C.

Last week the Coalition Performance coaching team had a meeting of minds on our own youth training and maturation. It was the most head numbing discussion we’ve likely ever had, as there was a constant need to always draw points and the discussion back to how they influence the big picture.

To finish this off, I’ll leave you with this…

Youth S&C is a recipe which has potentially more ingredients and considerations than any. Are the best in this field, those who can tweak the ingredients, to improve the recipe, not those who get distracted by in trend ingredients which create a net minus result in the recipe?