020716 Age appropriate training plans

020716 Age appropriate training plans

Many young athletes are placed on a single sports track to what they, their parents and coaches believe is the road to success in their sport. However if the coaches and parents were up to date this would not be a one way street; instead it would be on multilane express way going in both directions with turn offs included. Young children need to be exposed to a variety of training methods. This exposure helps them develop, to the utmost, those physical skills necessary to compete at the higher levels.

Parents eager to have the next superstar are doing their child wrong by intently focusing in on one and only one sport. Let me explain.

Children naturally begin physical activity in a carefully pre-plotted course of normal development. During this transition into adulthood, and at certain periods of their lives, they become more responsive to external training conditions or physical stimulation toward acquiring specific skills. In many cases, girls will reach these stages a year or more before a boy will.

I am not saying the child will not develop on their own. I am saying that during these highly sensitive times in their lives they will be more susceptible to larger improvements in ability acquisition. Taking advantage of these times will vastly improve a child’s ability to function on the playing field.

For example, the development of motor abilities begins at an early age and continues on through adulthood. For instance, increases in the normal motor development abilities of training for absolute static strength a young girl aged seven to eight may begin training at low intensities while a boy would begin at ages eight through nine. This common age differential holds true almost across the board until each gender reaches their late teens.

However, training for explosive strength (the ability of the neuromuscular system to apply maximum force against a resistance in the shortest amount of time) carries with at a degree of danger to the young body. Training may begin with the girls around age ten to twelve with light exercises, but the boys should not start until they arrive at ages twelve through fourteen. This is simply a fact of nature; most girls develop earlier than most boys. It is only at age sixteen to eighteen when the boys can begin explosive strength training in earnest. At this time, their body will be in a receptive condition to make full use of the training.

Training for the different components of fitness also has periods of sensitive growth patterns for each sex. Both sexes can participate in and enhance their coordination skills beginning at age five with both being about equal in their ability to make positive improvements. This holds true up and past their twenties. A program containing coordination components is thus necessary throughout all of the training times.

The system of feedback between the nervous system and the physical activities is an important factor in the overall development, of and the adaptation, to the imposed training loads. Instituting various training combinations into the plan brings with it the ability to readily adapt to new conditions. These new conditions create new coordination patterns, which are useful in a variety of sport movements. Each combination of load, intensity, movement, and coordination forms the basis for new habits and helps to perfect the cooperation between the different body systems. This not only includes the neuromuscular but the metabolic functions of the body as well.

Even as we grow up, variety is still truly the spice of life.

Children and sports training, Drabik, J. Stadion Press, 1996