Rudimentary considerations to enhance youth athlete development
Posted by Dean Holden at July 28th, 2014
by Keith Scruggs, 17 June 2014
In the recent decade there has been a fair amount of quality information regarding long-term planning of athletic development. To note, two of the most popular conceptual models to date are the Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model (Bayli) and the Youth Development Model (YDM) (Lloyd). The LTAD model originally illustrated qualities of development that should be emphasized during various stages of chronological maturation; to whereas the YDM model promotes a more holistic and individualized approach. In theory, basing a conceptual model off of chronological age seems very fitting; however, not all individuals mature at the same rate as the YDM model states. Since their original work both authors have published updated stances of their models to include biological and maturational markers of development. They have noted that several factors dictate growth and maturation (peak height velocity, growth plates, pubescent growth, etc) but some notable factors tend to be overlooked. Those factors are sheer genetics (organism), environment, and task constraints (Newell). Genetic factors cannot be changed but evidence suggests genetics can be influenced based from the environmental and task constraints imposed on the individual. It has been stated by Smith and colleagues (2003) that “even very small differences in beginning stages of development can amplify and led to large individual differences” later in life.
Environmental and Task factors can include, but not limited to:
- Geographical conditions (terrestrial, natural, technogenic, demographic, etc)
- Home life (parents, siblings, type of home, time spent engaged in interactive activities, etc)
- Athletic Exposure (running, jumping, and striking in different scenarios)
There’s not enough scientific evidence out there to answer the questions on what are “best practices” for childhood development; however, it is difficult to disagree that a certain level of physical fitness and motor control are needed for longevity in athletics and activity. Neuromotor reflexes must be taught at a cognitive level in early phases of development in order to become procedural patterns during more complex training and activities. The type of physical activity and the direction to carry on with development has not been discussed thoroughly in any LTAD nor YDM literature beyond the basics of “Strength, Speed, Balance, Flexibility, Agility” emphasis. Future research should attempt to provide the framework for rudimentary progressions emphasizing mastery of weight shift and center of mass in order to enhance future training in athletics.
When working with youth and/or underdeveloped athletes rudimentary options (medicine balls, pvc pipes, weighted vest, etc) should be considered. Task constraints must be appropriate to the population in order to optimize transfer of training. As simple as it sounds one must consider the Goldilock’s Theory:
- If the constraint is not stimulating enough then there will be limited transfer.
- If the constraint is overly stimulating/advanced then there will be limited transfer.
- However, if the constraint is appropriate then optimal transfer of training presents itself.
The constraint, or modality of training, must be specific to the athlete’s current state of training and ability. Clark (2005) argues that patterns of coordination and perceptual-motor linkages between the vestibular and motor system should be acquired in early stages of development for optimal transfer of training in later phases. She points out that an athlete should reflect “deep grammar” of trunk and limb coordination and control in order to advance in complex motor skill competence. Clark also references mastery of “weight shift” as highly relevant to context-specific skill learning in “throwing, skiing, or performing other activities that require rapid changes of direction.” Coincidentally, weight shift is a pivotal component of executing weightlifting movements and their derivatives. Far too often in today’s society we see adolescents and youth being promoted to more complex skill and developmental training prior to physically “earning” their advancement thus potentially setting them up for “long-term underdevelopment” / injuries.
A key evaluation the practitioner must make is whether they are training their athletes for performance or training for development. Development should emphasize proficiency of “natural” movements specific to the population at hand while progressively getting more task specific over the course of training. Youth and developmental training should primarily focus around progressing through “stages”. Gesell (1946) defines “stages” as a series of postural transformations that should emphasize coordination. Rate of development is independent to each individual based on organisimic and environmental constraints; however, simply learning how to move appropriately is the underlying overarching goal for development. Once the athlete has advanced in their developmental stages the practitioner can then consider performance oriented optimal training and loading for weightlifting task. Critical features must be addressed prior to implementation of “advanced” movements of fundamental training for weightlifting and resistance movements (i.e. weight shift and body control).
It is important to recall that weightlifting (often used in sport training) is a sport itself and a skill. Guthrie (1952) defines “skill” as “the ability to bring about some end result with maximum certainty and minimum outlay of energy, or of time and energy.” Activities such as weightlifting, jumping, and sprinting are skills and are learned through practice as they are not maturational movements such as walking. Though the human body can mature and develop for “strength” we must not neglect the importance to develop early with foundational strength and quality of movements in order to express “movement” more proficiently in later stages of development. None of the aspects of developmental growth should be disregarded in any phase as all are essential for proper sequencing of movements and rate coding; however, emphasis should be given where it is needed most for each individual.
According to Smith and colleagues (2003) in order to reach the “critical condition” (peak performance) one must change their training process over time and therefore enhance the emergence of a new mode of behavior. This can be viewed as a rudimentary version of Stone’s “phase potentiation” model (2007) which states (simply) that we must change “X” in order to potentially enhance & witness “Y” and “Z”. In this instance X can be referred to neuromuscular development to whereas Y and Z can be viewed as strength/speed and performance, respectively. A child does not first learn the alphabet backwards nor should we professionals develop them in that order. ABC’s (fundamental motor skills) before XYZ’s.
- Aagaard P. Training-induced changes inneural function. Sports Med 31: 61–67, 2003.
- Balyi, I. (2001). Sport system building and long-term athlete development in canada. the situation and the solutions.Coaches Report, 8(1), 25-28, 2001.
- Balyi I and Hamilton A. Long-Term Athlete Development: Trainability in Childhood and Adolescence—Windows of Opportunity—Optimal Trainability. Victoria, Canada: National Coaching Institute British Columbia & Advanced Training and Performance Ltd, 2004.
- Clark, J. (2005). From the beginning: A developmental perspective on movement and mobility. QUEST,57, 37-45.
- DeWeese, BH, Gray, HS, Sams, ML, Scruggs, SK, Serrano, AJ (2013). Revising the Definition of Periodization: Merging Historical Principles with Modern Concern. Olympic Coach Magazine, 24(1), March 2013
- DeWeese BH, and Scruggs SK. The countermovement shrug. Strength Cond J. 34(5): 20-23, 2012.
- DeWeese BH, Scruggs SK, Serrano SJ, and Sams, ML. The pull to knee: Proper biomechanics for a weightlifting movement derivative. Strength Cond J. 32(4), 73-75, 2012.
- DeWeese BH, Scruggs, SK, Serrano SJ, Sams ML. (2012) The clean pull and snatch pull: Proper technique for weightlifting movement derivatives. Strength Cond J PAP (Nov 2012).
- Faigenbaum AD, Kraemer WJ, Blimkie CJ, Jeffreys I, Micheli LJ, Nitka M, and Rowland TW. (2009) Youth resistance training: Updated position statement paper from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. J Strength Cond Res 23: S60–S79, 2009
- Gesell, A. (1946). The child from five to ten.. Harpercollins
- Guthrie, ER (1952). The psychology of learning. New York: Harper & Row.
- Lloyd, RS, Oliver, JL (2012). The youth physical development model: A new approach to long-term athletic development. Strength Cond J. 34(3), 61-72, 2012
- Lloyd RS, Oliver, JL, Faigenbaum, AD, Myer, GD, De Ste Croix, M (2014). Chronological age vs biological maturation: Implications for exercise programming in youth. J Strength Cond Res 28(5), 1454-1464 (2014)
- Newell, K.M. (1991). Motor skill acquisition. Annual Review of Psychology, 42, 213-237.
- Pierce KC, Brewer C, Ramsey MW, Byrd R, Sands WA, Stone ME, and Stone MH (2008). Youth resistance training. Prof Strength Cond J 10: 9–23, 2008.
- Stodden DF, True LK, Langendorfer SJ, Gao Z (2013). Associations among selected motor skills and health-related fitness: indirect evidence for Seefeldt’s proficiency barrier in young adults? Research Qrt Ex Sport 84(3), 397-403, 2013
- Stone, MH. Literature review: Explosive exercises and training. Strength Cond J 15(3): 7-15, 1993.
- Stone MH, Stone MH, and Sands WA. Principles and practice of resistance training. Champaign IL: Human Kinetics, 3-4. 2007.
Keith is a Performance Specialist at Acceleration Sports Institute & a PhD candidate (Motor Control) at The University of South Carolina. Previously he served as an Assistant Performance Coach within the Sport Physiology & Performance Departments at the US Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, NY under the tutelage of Dr. Brad DeWeese. Keith pursued his Master’s in Kinesiology – Physiology & Performance from East Tennessee State University under Dr. Michael H. Stone. He assisted in the Sport Sciences Lab in addition to coaching with the ETSU Track & Field team (2011 A-Sun Outdoor Champions) under the supervision of Meg Ritchie Stone.
<Check out, The Sport In Mind site; it is one of the best in my opinion! – DH>