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  1. Teaching Technique Laying The Foundation For Sporting Excellence Demonstrating good technique from a sporting perspective involves applying optimal movement ability in order to accomplish or solve a particular task effectively. A young athlete, for instance, who demonstrates sound technical ability while running is getting from point A to point B in an effective manner. Technical ability in a sport is typically the underlying measure for potential success. Good athletes are more often than not, technically sound athletes. This reality however, does not start and stop with respect to sport specific skills; this fact extends itself into the realm of general athletic development and the promotion or advancement of general movement abilities. The crux of athletic development as a science resides in the notion that before we create a sporting technician or specialist, we must first build the athlete by instilling competency in both basic and advanced movement abilities; this would include not only multi-directional movement skill but also the technical requirements of basic to advanced strength and power training exercises. The technical abilities demonstrated in a given sport can be categorized based on the rules or requirements of that sport – Group One - A sport in which making a good impression on a judge is crucial (figure skating, gymnastics etc) often involves coalescing intricate movements together. Within these sports, the techniques being demonstrated are described or clear (and therefore can be judged for efficiency). They are being performed within a fixed environment and without impediment (i.e. no one is interfering with you). The athlete’s task is to develop technical skill that can be showcased in a performance of pre-determined and practiced movements. Group Two – The techniques in this grouping allow the athlete to attain maximal and impartially measured results; there is no consideration for how well the technical abilities were displayed, just objective measurement for how effective they were (i.e. how fast did they run, how far did they throw the object, how much did they lift etc.). Sports in this category would include track and field events, swimming and weightlifting. Outside impediment is not an issue in this grouping either. In this grouping of sports, one’s motor abilities will define success - Meaning, the fastest or strongest athlete will win. Group Three – The ability to display adequate technique within this grouping aids in overcoming an opponent. This would include combat sports, racquet sports and virtually all team sports. In this group technical ability is combined with tactical sense and reacting to a continually changing situation and varying conditions. In this category, motor abilities (strength, speed, endurance and flexibility) are submissive to technical ability. That is to say that the fastest or strongest athlete in this grouping of sports, is not necessarily the most successful. Motor abilities are developed in order to improve your application of technical skill. How efficiently an athlete learns the technical skills of a sport, strength training exercise or movement is determined by several variables – · Age – Complex skills are often understood and comprehended better by more mature athletes (although indidvidual exceptions certainly apply). · Emotional State – Relaxed and easy-going athletes tend to learn and reproduce new skills better than athletes who are uptight and self-critical. · Motivation – So many parents, coaches and trainers just assume that the kids they are working with WANT to be at practice or in that training session. This goes back to my argument on effective coaching includes knowing your athletes and what kind of stresses they are under OUTSIDE of your 60 minutes with them. Athletes who are motivated to learn new skills will do so more easily than unmotivated athletes. · Natural Talent – Athletes with innate natural ability are far superior at learning and reproducing new skills. Critical to note within this topic are the methods being employed the Coach/Trainer to teach new techniques. With the lack of stringent regulations at the youth sport coaching level and the youth training industry, it is certainly more than fair to consider the quality of instrution being given – · What kind of personality does the coach have? - Brian Grasso www.developingathletics.com
  2. Hi Coach, This should help some... The coaches (and trainers) who opt to make every session, practice, set and rep a 'do or die' situation. They yell, scream, speak aggressively and act angry... all in the name of 'motivation'. I'm talking specifically about the coaches and trainers who work with younger athletes, by the way. My personal style of coaching is pleasant and thought-provoking. I make it a habit of making my athletes understand what they are doing, why they are doing it and what they need to be accomplishing per set, session etc. The motivation is built into that approach... MY coaching philosophy is a different article, though! With this article, I just want to show some basic information regarding coaching styles, from the perspective of parents versus young athletes and young athletes versus their coaches. Maybe coaches, trainers and parents will all learn a little about coaching from this (at least the ones who need to learn something). In a study released by the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology in 1999 (Youth Athletes & Parents Prefer Different Coaching Styles), it showed that adolescent athletes (ages 10 - 18) enjoyed coaching styles that involved: - Concerns regarding the well-being of each athlete - Positive group tone & feeling - Friendly interpersonal relationships Results also showed that young athletes desire coaching styles that allowed for a certain degree of decision making by the athletes themselves with respect to sessions, practices and games. While parents polled were not 'opposite' in their viewpoints, the study did show that young athletes desired the aforementioned criteria "more than did parents". The study actually concluded that "youth sport athletes and parents demonstrate different expectations for coaching behaviors. When most sport organizations are heavily influenced by parents in decision making, it is likely that many club administrators will make erroneous decisions because they do not reflect the preferences of the adolescent athletes". Coaches & Trainers: - Learn to build positive relationships with your young athletes. As I have stated before, your one hour session is a microcosm of that young athletes' week - if you don't make an effort to get to know the athlete and understand what stresses they face daily (not too mention what other types/volumes of exercise stimulus they encounter daily) you can't possibility be progressing them on an optimal level. - Be positive when you coach. Refer to the above findings - kids enjoy and react better to positivity. - Make sure your athletes know that you care about them as people. May sound stupid to some, by the easiest way I have found to motivate ANY athlete is by demonstrating that you have a truly vested interest in who they are and what they are doing. Parents/Organizations Administrators: - Don't be afraid to ask young athletes what they think regarding practice schedules, session lengths etc. - Getting kids involved in decision making gives them some degree of ownership over what they are doing. I have always noticed that young athletes who are active in deciding certain elements of their sport/sport training have a better adherence level to the program and generally get more out of their experiences (anecdotal yes... but true none the less). Anyone can learn the sciences associated with athletic development, but it takes a truly special and dedicated professional to become a good coach. - Brian www.DevelopingAthletics.com
  3. mitch1495, Strength training is proven safe for young athletes (assuming you follow proper guidelines - if you are entertaining the idea of working with your son, I highly recommend that you seek out those guidelines). The point I was making is that opposed to typical concerns of strength training interfering with growth, it can actually stimulate growth and density of bone. That isn't to be taken out of context in so far as using strength training as a means of initiating a growth spurt of any kind. Charlie, Multi-joint exercises are desirable (involving more than one muscle group). For example, squats, lunges, push-ups etc. In terms of determining weight, start off VERY light and use mechanical efficiency as your guide. I mentioned this in my article - "Central Nervous System Maturity– The true argument with respect to children and weight lifting should not be based on the maturity (or in this case immaturity) of the child’s muscular system, but rather the advancement of the child’s CNS. Within proper application of load, volume and intensity, a child’s muscular system will not be compromised by weight training activities. However, a lack of motor control (a function of the CNS) will affect the child’s ability to perform weight-training exercises safely. It is therefore the maturity of the CNS that is the ultimate determining factor." Understand that an o.k. squat and a perfect squat is a difference that very often only a trained professional can decipher. Proceed with caution and find a highly skilled professional in your area to offer direction. - Brian Grasso www.DevelopingAthletics.com
  4. Hi Losman69, Speed should be PART of a solid, foundational program meant to improve your young athlete in every facet. Far too often there is a want to look at 'lacking' attributes in young athletes and provide specific remedies for them. For example, my son is slow; I need a speed coach. My daughter can't jump high enough; I need to increase her vertical. The fact is that speed (or lack there of) could be due to insufficient strength, genetics, flexibility issues, various dysfunctions/structural imbalances or lack of mechanical efficiency. In your area, Alwyn Cosgrove is THE guy I would advice you see. Email me for his contact information - - Brian Grasso Complete Athletic Development
  5. Periodization & The Young Athlete The concept of periodization as applied to young athletes, can be a confusing issue at best. Classically, periodization principals involve organizing an athlete’s training schedule over a prolonged period of time (typically a year) in order to have the athlete peak appropriately at a single competition or event. The confusion with youth athletics often lies in the contemporary realities facing young athletes and their families – ·Classic periodization involves a definitive ‘off season’ or, more appropriately, ‘transitional period’ (which often involves a brief cessation from physical activity or participation in a different physical activity). There are numerous incredibly uneducated sport coaches who require their young athletes to make a 12-month commitment to one particular sport, but at the same time, do not offer appropriate and progressive developmental conditioning stimulus within that 12-month period. Supplemental training and exposure to other sports not only improves an athlete’s ability from a universal perspective, but also reduces the risk of overuse injury. ·Many Trainers and Performance Coaches preach the term and concepts of ‘periodization’ to their young athletes, but yet do not fulfill the obligations of that preaching by prescribing progressive and developmentally sound exercise stimulus within the context of a given year’s training program. Rather, training sessions are taken one at a time, without any thought as to where that athlete needs to be 6, 12 or 18 months down the road. As long as the current training session is ‘hard’, it is deemed effective. Nothing could be farther from the truth. ·Many sport-training facilities offer packages of 6 – 8 weeks worth of training – how can young athletes gain true, developmentally sound improvements in a window of only 6 – 8 weeks? An important aspect to consider with respect to this article is that I do not have a problem with the concept of periodization (in fact most sport coaches I know have never even heard of the terms undulating or conjugated… where is Alwyn Cosgrove to educate these people!!), but more specifically the difficulty modern life presents in pursuing it properly, and the inability of many coaches and trainers to implement it appropriately. This latter point is an issue that I find particularly irksome. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal outlined that $4 BILLION were spent in the United States on personal training and coaching for youngsters in the year 2000. With this incredible outlay of money, how many trainers and coaches diligently followed developmentally-sound aspects of strength and conditioning by training young athletes effectively with a long-term approach to health, safety and eventual sporting success? This quote is taken directly from Joseph Drabik and his book, ‘Children & Sports Training’. It sums up the difference between good and great coaches – “Designing a training program that is appropriate in both load volume and load intensity is the essence of good coaching. Studies have made the process more of a science, but it still has the quality of an art about it as well. Taking into account the young athlete’s stage of preparation, biological age and the needs of the particular sport and tailoring all this to the unique individual before you – these are the factors that make the difference between a good coach and a great one”. Speaking of training loads (which refers to the physical efforts put forth by an athlete) herein is where we begin our discussion on periodization and kids. Training loads can be split into three (3) groups – 1.General Loads – Exercises here are very versatile in nature and serve the purpose of preparing the body for future, more specific and intense loads. In general, exercises in this category DO NOT reflect the techniques used in a particular sport. 2.Directed Loads – Considered to be a style of ‘special load’, these exercises involve the same muscle groups as ‘special loads’, yet the movements are different. For example, a high jumper would incorporate various kinds of ‘jumps’ into their training programs that weren’t the same type of jump used in a high jump event. 3.Special Loads – Exercises, which involve the same movements executed in competition with adherence to form and technical ability. With regards to athletic development, General Loads should comprise the bulk of the training for young athletes, well into the teenage years. In fact, it is not until around the age of 16 – 17 that the percentage of General Loads and Special Loads becomes roughly equal within the context of a given training program. Right up until about 15 years old, roughly 60 – 65% of a training program should comprise General Loads (or basic, versatile exercises that will serve to improve the athlete from a global perspective). Now… how does all this fit together?? I was reminded today of a young athlete I know who plays volleyball very competitively. For conditioning, his coaches make him and his teammates go through a four-hour training session once per week that involves little more than jumping exercises (including jump rope, knee tucks and various other plyometric activities). The purpose of these sessions are to increase the youngster’s vertical jump – after all, in volleyball a big vertical is important! This kind of diluted thinking, unfortunately, is not unique. How would periodization apply? Start with the basics – an athlete needs to be stable before they gain strength, and strong before they gain power. By providing little more than jump training, you have effectively cut out the two first elements, on which the athlete is built. Here’s how it might look in a good plan: ·Assessment – Structural concerns are established and corrected via therapy and/or corrective exercise if need be. ·Movement Training – Can these athletes move with any degree of efficiency? Develop a movement-based warm-up that incorporates basic elements of global coordination, functional strength and dynamic flexibility. ·Strength Training – THE missing ingredient in most pediatric training programs for my money. Strength is the basis for speed, power, agility and even flexibility (no good to be ‘flexible’ if you lack sufficient strength to use it properly). ·Eccentric Training – Before you unload thousands of jumping drills on kids, you may want to check how they land! Poor landing habits increase the likelihood of injury and reduce potential power. Teach kids HOW to jump and land BEFORE you expect them to it in countless drills. ·Power Training – Go ahead… now they’re ready! By the way, the athlete I was referring to above is 15. If we had a 6 – 10 year old, the concepts of periodization and long-term development change altogether… We’ll save that for a different article! The bottom line is that periodization is great, but is often implemented incorrectly with kids. If the ‘big picture’ isn’t kept in consideration with young athletes, what you do with them today sincerely doesn’t matter. -Brian Grasso Developing Athletics
  6. Hey guys! I WILL get back to you! I am presenting at an international youth sports conference this weekend and won't have time to respond until I get back. Stay tuned... - Brian www.DevelopingAthletics.com
  7. Endurance & The Young Athlete Part Two It is important to understand that endurance training with young athletes is critical for long-term development and not immediate results. Developing good endurance allows the young athlete to tolerate an increased amount of exercise stimulus in the future and this alone is the key point. Don’t become pre-occupied with immediate effects – like any other aspect of athletic development, endurance training is part of a continual, multi-tiered effort. Developmentally speaking, from the ages of 3 – 7, general endurance increases due to the typical activity level of kids in this age range (which has become a crucial issue of our time – kids don’t ‘play’ as much as they used to, and this fact has a potentially damaging effect on their future athletic abilities and conditioning). For young males, endurance increases are best seen between the ages of 8 – 11 and then again between 15 – 16. For young females, increases are shown best between the ages of 8 – 10. After the age of 13, endurance capabilities of young women stagnate and actually regress. These numbers illustrate that the young female sensitive period for endurance development is shorter than it is with young males. Because of this, young females should begin their endurance training at a younger age than should young males. There are several key points to remember when designing endurance-based training programs for young athletes. The most crucial aspect is to always start with a broad aerobic base. This will serve to raise the anaerobic threshold of the young athlete (delay needing to use anaerobic sources of energy during activity) and allow them to tolerate increased loads in the future. Begin this aerobic-base phase however, with low to moderate volumes. Children, although physiologically more fit than the average adult, still must begin their training programs gradually, working up to longer durations and higher intensities. As typical with the entire athletic development science, it is advisable that you alter the stimulus of endurance training you do with young athletes. Think in terms of seasonal activities – In the summer, enjoy swimming; in the autumn, change to hiking or cycling; in the winter, offer stimulus such as snow-shoeing or cross country skiing. Notice how the suggestions are movement-based activities and NOT going to the gym to run on a treadmill! In our fixation for ‘the perfect body’, it seems we have forgotten how important movement and coordination-based activities are for young athletes. Don’t train kids on single function pieces of fitness equipment. Understand that there is a definitive crossover with all exercise stimulus and young athletes. Yes… snow-shoeing is a perfect endurance building exercise for young athletes, but it also involves coordination and skill – IDEAL for the young, developing athlete. Another key factor is training load increases. Coaches, parents and trainers must remember that increases in volume or duration must precede increases in intensity. In short, make things longer before you make them harder. Lastly, wonderful progress can be made by altering the surface the young athlete is performing their endurance training on. For instance, if you are incorporating long walks or jogs into your training program, switch the training surface periodically to add variety and improve progress; sand, shallow water, forest trails, pool. Quick point of reference – by jogging or walking on sand, forest trails or shallow water, you will also add to lower compartment strength and stability. Ankle proprioceptors, picking up varying degrees of balance-point change, will become stronger and more efficient. KEEP KIDS OFF THOSE MACHINES AND GET THEM MOVING! - Brian Grasso www.DevelopingAthletics.com
  8. Endurance & The Young Athlete Part One Endurance training and young athletes is an often-misunderstood topic. On one hand, there are strength coaches who tend to disregard developmentally sound elements of endurance training in lieu of producing stronger and faster athletes via strength and power type exercises exclusively. On the other hand, there are over-zealous coaches and trainers who equate endurance to long distance/duration activities, often with little regard for the athlete’s stage of development, ability or current level of conditioning. Endurance can be defined quite simply as one’s ability to withstand fatigue or the ability to control the functional aptitude of movement in lieu of external stress. The latter definition lends itself well to the concept of athletic development and training young athletes. As I have stated many times in both print and lecture, when working with youngsters, the key ingredient to producing a successful training program is the ability to recognize that quality of execution is profoundly more important than quantity. Having said that, I still see coaches, trainers and parents opting for more difficult training sessions that include high volume or high intensity activities rather than concerning themselves with how correctly the exercise is being performed. Poor execution results in habitual patterns that are difficult to break and could result in injury. With respect to endurance training, proper mechanics are often compromised for higher volumes or intensity’s and this is very much a mistake. One thing to consider is that the term ‘endurance’ has application to varying lengths and types of effort: ·Long slow distances – efforts of limited intensity but high distance or time ·Speed – efforts typically lasting 15 – 45 seconds with high levels of intensity but obviously limited time or distance ·Muscular – the ability to sustain a muscular contraction for a prolonged period of time There are several factors to consider with respect to the development of endurance in a young athlete: 1.Mechanical/Coordination/Movement – Efficiency of movement is a paramount factor with respect to the endurance capabilities of a young athlete. Poor mechanics (which are only reinforced with repetitive training) lead to higher degrees of fatigue. To truly increase the ability of a young athlete (in all facets), coaches and trainers must exercise patience and teach proper movement habits rather than prescribe endless numbers of sets. A critical point here is that by perfecting technique, you can effectively improve endurance without increasing training volume. 2.Body Type – The more overweight a young athlete is, the less endurance they will likely have. Excess bodyweight (particularly in the form of body fat) will serve to decrease endurance due to an increased energy cost. Additionally, being overweight often leads to poor mechanical efficiency (as per point one). According to Joseph Drabik, “each 5% of excess weight penalizes a child approximately 89 meters in a 12-minute run test”. Conversely, “in a 10-mile run, each kilogram reduction of body mass improves performance by 30 seconds”. Drabik did not indicate how bodyweight was determined to be excessive. 3.Psychological – Many young athletes do not poses significant amounts of mental toughness (but they’re kids so why would they?). To combat this, many over anxious trainers and coaches opt to make drills and exercises purposefully difficult in order to produce some sort of perceived mental strength. Given that both the physical structure as well as mental potency of youngsters is tenuous, this often leads to little more than burnout or injury. A more prudent approach to this factor is to systematically present challenges to young athletes that respect their individuality as well as the stage of development they are in and offers positive feedback at the conclusion. By offering challenging yet achievable forms of exercise, you will progressively improve their endurance and develop their confidence to attempt new and more challenging things. In Part Two, I will discuss developmental aspects of endurance as well as provide sample ideas for endurance training. - Brian Grasso www.DevelopingAthletics.com
  9. Coordination & Movement Skill Development The Key To Long-Term Athletic Success Part Two Once again, it is important to mention that coordination development is a process that encompasses years of exposure, and is based on DIVERSITY and VERSATILITY. Young athletes cannot be pigeonholed into sport specific stimulus at a young age and expected to vault into the ranks of elite athletics. As the motto of my company says, ‘You Can’t Become a Champion Until You Become An Athlete’. Furthermore, it is important to understand that coordination-based exercises must be introduced during the preadolescent ages. Adolescence is not an appropriate time during which to begin elements of coordination training. As strength, speed, height and body mass change significantly during these years, it is much more prudent to reinforce already known movements, rather than teach new ones. Herein lies the art and understanding of developing a young athlete. Coaches, trainers and parents must accept the fact that developing a healthy and successful athlete is a journey or process that encompasses several varying degrees of stimulus, all of which build on top of the other. Coordination training for example, is introduced during the pre-adolescent ages while nervous system plasticity is high and movement habits have not yet been ingrained as permanent. The scope of coordination training changes during the adolescent ages, during which physical growth alters the young athlete’s previously mastered movement habits. At this time, refinement of movement should take precedent over learning new movement-based skills. In post-adolescence, coordination training can once again be taken to new heights. One point to consider about coordination is that genetic pre-disposition plays a significant role. Less coordinated children will likely never exhibit the tendencies of naturally coordinated children regardless of training. That is not to say that improvements cannot be made, however – quite the opposite. Here are three basic principals of coordination training – 1.Start young – coordination improves as a result of learning and mastering new movements. Start young athletes off early with coordination-based exercises that challenge their abilities (within reason). The more coordination a young athlete has, the more ability he or she will display at any perspective sport. 2.Challenge young athletes on an individual and appropriate level – Some youngsters have good balance while others display good rhythm. The key to successful coaching is to undercover what elements of coordination each athlete requires, and develop drills/exercises that most suitably target the weaknesses. 3.Change exercises frequently – young athletes learn quickly in most cases. Be sure to challenge them physically and intellectually with new exercises often. The following list provides some basic exercises that you can use with your young athletes to help develop elements of coordination – ·Multi-directional forms of running, jumping and skipping ·Single leg balancing games ·Mirror games (mirroring each other’s movements) ·Known exercises starting or finishing in new positions (start sprints from belly or one knee; end with hands up or on all fours) ·Opposite arm circles (right hand circles forward, left backwards) ·Simultaneous arm and leg circles ·Jump in place with 180 or 360 turns while in flight ·Balance exercises on a low balance beam ·Cross step-over running or carioca ·Somersault to balance (somersault to standing one legged balance) ·Skipping A, B and C’s ·Obstacle running (place hurdles directly on floor and have athlete run over them) Remember, coordination includes elements of balance, spatial orientation, rhythm and various other traits. This list reflects exercises to improve several of those elements. Brian J. Grasso www.DevelopingAthletics.com
  10. Coordination & Movement Skill Development The Key To Long-Term Athletic Success Part One By – Brian J. Grasso The key ingredient to working with pre-adolescent and early adolescent athletes is providing global stimulation from a movement perspective. Younger athletes must experience and eventually perfect, a variety of motor skills in order to ensure both future athletic success and injury prevention. Developing basic coordination through movement stimulus is a must, with the eventual goal of developing sport-specific coordination in the teenage years. Coordination itself however, is a global system made up of several synergistic elements and not necessarily a singularly defined ability. Balance, rhythm, spatial orientation and the ability to react to both auditory and visual stimulus have all been identified as elements of coordination. In fact, the development of good coordination is a multi-tiered sequence that progress from skills performed with good spatial awareness but without speed, to skills performed at increased speeds and in a constantly changing environment. As Joseph Drabik points out, coordination is best developed between the ages of 7 – 14, with the most crucial period being between 10 – 13 years of age. As with anything else, an important issue with respect to coordination development is to provide stimulus that is specific (and therefore appropriate) for the individual. Prescribing drills that are either too easy or too difficult for the young athlete will have a less than optimal result. An interesting note, as I have suggested in past articles, is that there appears to be a cap with respect to coordination development and ability. Younger athletes who learn to master the elements associated with good coordination (balance, rhythm, spatial awareness, reaction etc), are far better off then athletes who are not exposed to this kind of exercise stimulation until advanced ages. The ability to optimally develop coordination ends at around the age of 16. This validates the claim that global, early exposure is the key from an athletic development standpoint. Again, global coordination will serve as the basis to develop specific coordination in the teenage years. In Part Two of this article, I will focus on HOW to develop basic coordination and provide specific exercise examples. Brian J. Grasso www.DevelopingAthletics.com
  11. I haven't posted in a while... Hope you enjoy this article! Strength Training & Young Athletes Should pre-adolescent kids lift weights or shouldn’t they? Will it stunt their growth or increase their likelihood of future sporting success? Is growth plate damage a real concern or merely an exaggerated issue? This debate has raged on for years. Hopefully, this article will help clear up some of the concerns. To start, there are definitive differences between adolescent boys and adolescent girls with respect to strength and strength production. In boys, absolute muscular strength (the greatest amount of force an individual can produce) grows consistently between the ages of 7 – 19. In girls, strength gains are incurred on a consistent level until about the age of 15, when a period of stagnation occurs and strength gains plateau, and in fact begins to fall. By the end of the pubescent ages, boys are roughly 50% stronger than girls. There are several factors to consider when programming strength training for young athletes – 1.Central Nervous System Maturity – The true argument with respect to children and weight lifting should not be based on the maturity (or in this case immaturity) of the child’s muscular system, but rather the advancement of the child’s CNS. Within proper application of load, volume and intensity, a child’s muscular system will not be compromised by weight training activities. However, a lack of motor control (a function of the CNS) will affect the child’s ability to perform weight-training exercises safely. It is therefore the maturity of the CNS that is the ultimate determining factor. 2.Cross Section Of Muscle – A larger muscle infers a greater strength potential. While hypertrophy of this sort is not hormonally possible with pre-adolescent athletes, this fact is why I advocate that early adolescent athletes train with hypertrophy-based responses in mind. 3.Biological Maturity – Biological age, unlike a child’s chronological age, is not actually visible. Biological age is based in large part to the “physiological development of the various organs and systems in the body” (Bompa, 2000). For example, the adequate development of bone, the efficiency of the heart and lungs to transport oxygen; these are examples of items that comprise biological age. This becomes important when determining the volume or intensity of the training program for the young athlete. 4.Hormonal Issues – Androgenic (muscle building) hormones are low in pre-adolescent athletes. This means that hypertrophy-based responses are all but impossible. Strength gains are however, very possible. 5.Technical Issues – Providing a proper foundation of the technical merits of strength training is paramount when working with youngsters. On the argument of effectiveness, adequately programmed strength training has shown considerable positive effects with regards to pre-adolescents. A study quoted by Dr. Drabik in his wonderful book, “Children & Sports Training”, showed a 40% increase in strength for boys and girls (aged 10 – 11) following a nine-week strength-training program. In terms of danger or contraindication, the greatest concern lies in ligament or bone damage. Elastic, young skeletons and connective tissue can be injured if loads are excessive. That follows the mantra that with kids, loads must be kept low and proper form strictly followed. Of interesting note is the argument regarding strength training and stunted growth. In the event of bone or growth plate damage (which is unlikely during strength training if the program is designed correctly), growth can in fact be stunted. But, if proper strength training parameters are prescribed, than the opposite is true. Muscle pull (which refers to the tension or ‘tugging’ where the muscle attaches to the bone – incurred during muscle contraction), is a significant factor that stimulates bone thickness. More over, ‘intermittent use of submaximal resistance stimulates height growth’ (Drabik, 1996). One keynote point that I have preached endlessly is the fact that an orthopedic assessment MUST precede any strength training prescription. Postural defects can be made worse by incorrect application of strength training, and conversely improved by correct application. An assessment is a mandatory pre-cursor to any child-based strength-training program. Here is a list of exercises to do with young athletes – (This list is adopted from “Children & Sports Training”, by Dr. Drabik). The exercises in this list get progressively more difficult. Start younger athletes on the earlier exercises, and progress them systematically over the years. -Obstacle courses, rope pulling, climbing -Vertical strength (standing push-ups), hanging exercises -Bodyweight exercises and medicine ball based activities/throws -Horizontal strength (push-ups, pull-ups) -Dumbbell & barbell exercises -Single leg squats, deadlifts, step-ups, good mornings Brian J. Grasso www.BrianGrasso.com reference - 'Children & Sports Training' - Jozeph Drabik
  12. Hi drea_5, Interesting question without a definite answer. Your issue could be one of several factors, including medical, nutritional or over training-based concerns (which would actually qualify as nutritional). I would suggest that you see a physician to rule out any medical concerns. Nutritionally-speaking, there are a host of factors that could be contributing to your weakness/dizziness. Lack of calories (based on your energy expenditure), dehydration, anemia (as you mentioned) or electolyte issues could all be realistic answers. Over training, as I mentioned above, could also be a primary concern. Especially in the absence of a sound nutritional base, over training at any level is not nearly as hard as we assume it is. If you could provide me with a bit more information, I may be able to help direct you to a solution. All the best! - Brian Grasso www.DevelopingAthletics.com
  13. Steroid Abuse & Young Athletes Do we facilitate this problem? Recent surveys conducted by the University of Michigan showed that 1 in every 30 high school males throughout this country are currently taking anabolic steroids. To some, this finding is trivial and represents an insignificant number within the grand scheme of high school athletics. To others, myself included, this reality is reflective of the terribly sad state that the youth athletic community has found itself in over the past number of years. Other statistics confirm that steroid use is happening not only more often, but also with younger kids. The Sports Journal shows research that 1 in every 100 pre-adolescent children are currently taking steroids. This is comparable to a 1991 research study of high school football within the state of Indiana. This study polled 873 high school football players from 27 different high schools as to their involvement with steroids. Six percent of the players admitted to having taken steroids - that’s 52 kids. Of these 52 admitted steroid users, 15% of them indicated that they had first taken steroids while under the age of 10 years. The most recent ergogenic aid to impact the youth athletics scene is Creatine. Taken orally in its monohydrate form (due to increased absorption), creatine is a naturally occurring protein that we actually produce 1 gram of daily, primarily in the liver, and gall bladder. Dietary sources of Creatine include meat and fish. The average North American consumes roughly 1 gram of Creatine daily through dietary means. Virtually all of the Creatine within our bodies, upwards of 95%, is stored within skeletal muscle. The average human is capable of storing about 125 mmol/kg of Creatine within skeletal muscle. It has been shown through research that the human body actually has an upper limit in terms of Creatine storage. We are only able to store about 150 - 160 mmol/kg of Creatine within the body. Thus the reason for supplementation. The theory is that increased intake of Creatine daily will eventually saturate our carrying capacity to a point that we can no longer store anymore. Advocates suggest that Creatine has an anabolic-type effect on our bodies, and that at the highest ends of storage capacity, we can expect increased muscle mass, strength and power. Creatine detractors suggest that water retention is responsible for the increased muscular size and that a placebo effect is to account for any increases in strength or power. That is, we look bigger so we train longer and harder; the increased strength is a result of the intense training, not creatine supplementation. That all being said, the most recent study conducted indicated that upwards of 40% of high school seniors throughout the United States are currently taking some kind of performance enhancing drug - Creatine being the most popular. Forty percent. That means almost half of high school seniors in this country feel it necessary to supplement with a known ergogenic aid. More over, Creatine has been named a pre-cursor to steroids use. Kids who supplement with Creatine are more likely to eventually take steroids as well. The point of this article could lead in several directions. I could discuss the negative effects of steroids and the proposed negative effects of supplementing with Creatine during the teenage years. I could discuss the possibilities of where kids are getting steroids - 10 year olds taking steroids? Who is buying it for them and how are they getting it? Instead, I want to discuss what I feel may be one of the most important factors of this problem. Us. We are the problem. I’m talking to many of the personal trainers, performance specialists and coaches out there. Are we all optimally qualified to be working with kids? Do we all understand the importance of pediatric exercise science or sport science in general? Do we search for the right answers via independent research, or do we do what we have always done, because we ‘think’ it’s right? If we trained and developed young athletes better, would they need ergogenic aids? If we all understood the concepts of long-term development and worked hard at keeping athletes free of injury and optimally conditioned, would more than 40% of high school seniors be taking drugs? The answer is, who knows. Maybe kids would still dope up on unethical and dangerous drugs. Then again, maybe they wouldn’t have to. By no means am I writing this from the top of a pedestal. I have changed my mind more than once when it comes to exercise prescription and theory that I ‘thought’ was right. The point is though, that for every good trainer or coach, there are several bad ones. It is one of the ‘dirty little secrets’ of our industry that we all talk about quietly, yet very few people bring out aggressively into the open. Trainers and coaches not caring to update their knowledge, or struggling to find the best and most applicable way to train someone - these attitudes are commonplace within the youth sporting industry. An evolution is warranted. Settling for less than ideal means of training and developing a young athlete is a real and very concerning problem. To those of you who exhibit due diligence by educating yourselves on what’s right and wrong with respect to athletic development, sincerely ignore this message. To those of you who don’t - Understand that you are least partially to blame for this tragic steroids epidemic. - Brian www.BrianGrasso.com
  14. Hi Jake, You certainly sound like a well-read professional and I respect that. I have worked in 'high performance centers' in two different countries, and will attest to the fact that many (most?) 'youth performance coaches' are not nearly as well-versed as you seem to be. If you (or any other capable coach) can identity WHY they are doing something with a young athlete, than I am all for it. However, it is the cookie-cutter aspect of just following 'what the other trainers are doing', that I have sincere objection with. To answer some of your questions - 1) "Well, time base plyometrics with repetitive multidirectional patterns have been shown to develop these pathways." ---- My research shows otherwise. A colleague of mine in California has shown that any type of pre-determined jumping/agility pattern is more effective at ingraining pathways towards that particular drill pattern, and not global ability. That not-with-standing, it is once again HOW you use the drill. I can accept a well-versed coach INSTRUCTING the young athlete as to jump/land techniques during this exercise. It is the trainer who stands absently with the clipboard merely counting reps that I am concerned with -- and that is the norm. Drills like this were intended to improve motor skill (etc), NOT for young athletes to 'beat there last score' without cause for body mechanics. 2) "Good running mechanics are also reinforced by the athlete seeing themselves in a mirror. Repetition in a controlled environment develops motor engrams or "pathways". Overspeed training is not always the goal of these "high speed treadmills" you speak of." ---- Again, I respectively disagree. in addition to adequate form, one of the primary concerns of speed development is leg drive. If you condition a young athlete on a moving ground, and at slow speeds, than how can that translate to a non-moving ground and at increased speeds? Adaptations are specific. Having said that, if you have noticed improvements with your athletes using this method, I think that's great. However, when it actually comes to speed work, the bulk of 'performance centers' I know are still using high speed treadmills. GRF alone are enough of a reason to minimize this. 3) "I would like to know why you knock these programs that have been shown to improve athleticism, decrease injuries, and improve overall self-confidence. I agree that cookie cutter programs and untrained individuals are a problem in our line of work." ---- Where has this been shown????? I mean critical case study research. Again, if you are using some of these drills with upmost professionalism and care, I congratulate you! The cold, hard reality is that this is not typically the case. Your last sentence said it all... "I agree that cookie cutter programs and untrained individuals are a problem in our line of work"... That is my main point... Sounds like we agree, just have different means of getting there! - Brian Complete Athletic Development
  15. Some stats for you... More Than 40% Of High School Seniors Take Performance Enhancing Drugs Upwards of 1 Million Adolescents Have Taken Steroids or Steroid Precursors Elmhurst, IL - April 12, 2004 - The use of performance enhancing drugs at the professional level of sports continues to have a negative and potentially disastrous consequence with the young athletes of this country. According to Criminal Justice Statistics, more than 1 million adolescents aged 12 - 17, have used performance enhancing drugs as either a sport enhancement tool or for aesthetic purposes. A corroborative recent study by the Mayo Clinic indicated that 16.4% of teenaged athletes admitted to using creatine. Creatine is currently a legal and over the counter dietary supplement that has gained huge popularity among young athletes in this country. Creatine is thought to increase muscle energy, decrease recovery time and reportedly add muscle bulk to an athlete’s frame. Many researchers of creatine use suggest that the increased muscle size associated with the supplement is actually attributed to water retention. They also state that several side effects of creatine use include dehydration, nausea, dizziness, cramping and kidney irregularities. Of critical importance with respect to youths is the fact that no studies have been conducted to show the long term implications of creatine use on adolescents or the effects of creatine supplementation when combined with prescription drugs such as Ritalin, anti-biotics or anti-depressants. As a result, California Senator Jackie Speier is proposing a bill to ban the sale of creatine to anyone under the age of 18, and require youth coaches to have mandatory training in the health risks of performance enhancing drugs. Performance enhancing drugs and youth athletics have become a very familiar pairing of late. A study released by the Sport Journal in the Fall of 2002 stated that nearly 1 in every 100 PRE-adolescent athletes are consuming steroids; these are children as young as 10 years old. Additionally, a survey conducted by Mr. Lloyd Johnston of the University of Michigan showed that an astounding 1 in every 30 adolescent males are currently taking steroids. A study published in Pediatrics magazine (August 2001) showed that more than 40% of high school seniors use creatine - many experts speculate that creatine use is a precursor to steroid use. - Brian www.DevelopingAthletics.com
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