Welcome to December’s Monthly Instalment of M4S blog, where we’re about to plunge into the fascinating world of all things adolescent athlete. Join us as we uncover the key aspects of ‘Training to Train’ and the power of developing an adolescent athlete’s toolbox and why it’s vital in their development as they progress closer to competitive adult sport. Lastly, we’ll delve into the insight of how all youth athlete’s journeys are DIFFERENT, and the effects of growth and maturation can affect your child’s development and experience. 

‘Training To Train’

As we continue the long-term athlete development journey, the next stop is the development-age-range where the focus is creating a competent adolescent athlete; where they improve their physical competency through greater development of movement patterns, using heavier resistance such as barbell and dumbbells, whilst developing key areas of knowledge in learning how we train.

Furthermore, this progression in development continues in all aspects of physical ability – improving plyometric ability with slowly intensifying the actions from low level tasks just as hops, skips and jumps into more demanding actions such as several plyometric tasks in unison (complexity) or increasing the intensity of the action such as manipulating and directing bodyweight using single limbs (eccentric loading).  

Movement development is super vital at this stage because an accelerated rate of growth occurs within both males and females – we delve into this later in the blog – so great importance is put on the exposure of elements such as speed, agility and change of direction. Not only will this allow athletes to implement their newfound knowledge of various movements (technical footwork, acceleration & deceleration mechanics) but will aid in re-calibrating their proprioception (understanding of body parts within a given environment) as their stature changes and matures into adulthood.

Lastly, because of an educational access, there is a greater level of program design alongside a gradual introduction of session structure – creating a level of familiarity over several periods of the season whilst making great strides in developing physical competencies that can be directly utilised within their sporting performance.

Development of ‘The toolbox’

In the aspiration for long term athlete development, we want to ensure that the foundations are appropriately developed and a manner to warrant this through upgrading a young athletes’ toolbox.

As previously established, we improve physical competency through a progression of movement patterns, increasing task complexity and load resistance such as the squat progression example below, all whilst developing how we train.

Movement pattern exercises serve as the cornerstone of the athletic toolbox, emphasising essential capacities that underlie the demands of the athlete’s specific sport. These exercises go beyond building physical strength, fostering competence to meet the sport’s varied physical requirements.

Layers of Development – Christmas Tree Analogy

Trunk > The Athlete themselves > Mental/Emotional/Psychological

Bottom> Fundamental Movement Skills and Movement Patterns

Lower tier >) Performance attributes (Speed/Power/Agility/Strength) (Gamified exposure relating to playing sports)

Middle Tier > Develop performance attributes (Accel/Decel/ COD/Max Velocity)

Upper Tier > Specific outcome training

Angel/Star > Elite performance

 

The incremental progressions guide the athlete through a continuous improvement journey, with the cumulative effect of education fostering a mindset to ‘earn the right’ physically. This process cultivates a positive training attitude, gradually shaping athletes into autonomous, well-informed individuals.

Embracing the athlete’s toolbox enables young athletes to transcend the metaphorical ‘Christmas tree’ representation of an ‘Athlete’s Physical Toolbox’ as they progress through adolescence. 

However, it’s crucial to recognize that, at the core of this Athletic Toolbox analogy and others, lies the individual. A person-centred approach is imperative, as individuals not only require the physical tools for their long-term athletic development but also the knowledge and education to adapt to their experiences and navigate the impact on their physical, mental well-being and through their maturation.

 

Growth and Maturation 

Every youth athlete will experience some level of growth and maturation as they pursue their sporting career into adulthood. However, no two children’s physical development will ever be the same – with different speeds of physical growth alongside the maturation through puberty.

Definition Focus– Growth and maturation are sometimes used interchangeably however this isn’t correct when we investigate each definition.

A Case Study Example: Johnny Blogs – Johnny is now 14 years old and has experienced both elements of growth and maturation. Johnny has developed in his height and physical size from being only 4’10’’ when he was 9 to now being 5’11’’ at 14 years! He has also noticed changes in his voice, but only recently has started to be aware of his improvement of speed, bodily strength alongside being more muscular than some of his friends his age. 

Johnny’s Growth is the physical changes that he’s experiencing in stature whereas Johnny’s maturation is the not so obvious changes in his skeleton as he goes through puberty, with the additional increase of being able to grow more muscle. These physical changes are a direct result of biological maturation rather than general physical changes.

Males can grow up to 10.3cm/year and up to a total of 28cm in their ‘growth spurt’ whereas females can grow up to 9cm/year and up to a total of 25cm in their ‘growth spurt’ (growth spurt also known as peak height velocity)

Growth – This is the general stature & physical changes an individual will go through.

Biological Maturation – This is the ossification (formation of new bone) of the skeleton through puberty and can be assessed by an x-ray/ultrasound of a hand to determine someone’s biological age and maturation!

Males and females can gain up to 9kg and 8.3kg, respectively, around their accelerated year of growth (Peak Weight Velocity).

Early, On-set or Late Maturing Youths

Maturation can occur between a window of ages for both males and females, this then falls into three categories: Early, On-set or Late Maturing youth.

As widely assumed, and in most cases correct, the average on-time female maturation is earlier occurring around 11/12 years old – whereas for males it’s around 13/14 years old (Baxter-Jones et al,. 2005).

However, this isn’t always the case as you can see from the picture to the right of an U14 match with the player on the left as tall as the fully grown male referee.

What I have failed to mention is that player is no other than Romelu Lukaku, a now 30-year-old professional football player playing his football in Italy for Seria A side A.S Roma.

Romelu would be classified as an early maturing youth, as deemed though the fact that his period of accelerated growth (peak height velocity) was 1 year before the average male age on-set maturing youth at 14.  Whereas late-maturing youth are at an age in which peak height velocity occurs at least 1 year later than the mean age at peak height velocity.

As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, this is NOT information to estimate a child’s maturation – it is to showcase that no two-youth athlete’s physical development will be the same so it’s important we understand that when focusing on their development.

Early Maturing Youth = 1 year before period of accelerated growth [peak height velocity] Onset Maturing Youth = + 1 year from period of accelerated growth [peak height velocity] Late Maturing Youth = 1 year after period of accelerated growth [peak height velocity]

We at Move4sport track maturation through anthropometric tests several times a year to 1) identify these key points of a young athlete’s journey and 2) inform us in the programming to physically equip them with the key competencies for their sporting development.

Summary
In this month’s M4S blog, we’ve explored the crucial ‘Training to Train’ phase in the LTAD model, emphasising the development of an adolescent athlete’s toolbox.  Recognising the varying differences in youth athletes’ journeys, we highlighted the impact of growth and maturation on their physical development with attaching significance to ensuring individual tailored approaches alongside tracking maturation. 

We conclude on a focus that each youth athlete undergoes a unique physical development journey, with the importance of recognizing this individuality when concentrating on their maturation and development.


In the Pipeline:

Next month stay tuned for our January instalment, where we’ll closely examine the tail end of the long-term athlete development model ‘Performance’ and explore what’s enveloped in ‘Training to Compete’ as youth athletes mature and transition into competitive adult sport.

Discover the world of Strength & Conditioning with us! 

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Move4Sport Team