Periodisation - Working towards a long-term plan for young athletes
Tony Paladin explains the steps to planning the training for young athletes
Coaches need to be aware that appropriate programming is necessary for improving performance, but it is also essential for reducing the risk of injury to young athletes. Over training or incorrect training programming can be a contributing factor to many injuries in young athletes. When developing a season or annual training plan for young athletes, there is a very basic process that can be followed to ensure that consideration is taken to minimise many of the factors which could bring about injuries.
Developing an annual/seasonal training plan for school age athletes
Diplock et al. (1999)
Designing a weekly plan for school age athletes
This process is recommended more for senior athletes, as junior athletes should be emphasising technical development. Diplock et al. (1999)
When designing a program for young athletes, the coach should follow the following program design methodology. The following figures refer to microcycles for training days throughout the week.
Young athletes should follow the "light-hard-light-hard" progression, whilst older and more developed athletes can follow the "light-medium-hard-light" cycle.
For the coach that is training children over the longer term, the year can be divided into 12 months of training. Obviously if the season is shorter, the following principles are applied but over a shorter time period. The first month is the month immediately after the end of the season. Usually the targeted or peak competition concludes the sports season. Therefore, month 12 should be the peak competition, the national championships, the regional championship or the World Championships.
The coach should decide on the peak competition for each athlete and count backwards to establish the number of the relevant months of training. If the national or world championships is the peak competition and it is in September, then October is month one. This program divides the year into six main phases. They are listed below with their relative aims:
Increasing the load appropriately
Understanding the methods used to increase training load is essential for any coach of young athletes. The amount that children and youths will improve in a particular sport is a direct result of the amount and quality of work they achieve in training. From the early stages of development through to high-performance, athletes must increase their workload in training gradually, according to individual needs. (Bompa 1999; Croly 2001)[1,2]
During the early stages of development it is difficult to monitor training loads, because many increases are the result of normal growth and development. A coach can progressively increase training programs for young developing athletes in the following areas:
Working towards a long-term plan
By applying most of the principles and rules that have been discussed thus far in conjunction with a little common sense, it is not hard to develop a long-term program that takes a young athlete and turns him or her into a successful senior athlete.
The key, however, all revolves around making it fun! As much as you the coach enjoy having fun, so does your young athlete. In fact, if you no longer participate in a sport, this is a good opportunity to ask yourself why you no longer compete. The primary answer is probably because you were not enjoying it as much as other aspects of your life. One could even go as far as to say that if you were enjoying your sport to the absolute maximum, you would quite happily sacrifice the time to do it.
The big challenge that you face as the coach is trying to instil exercise and training ethic into the "PlayStation Generation"! Your single biggest challenge as the coach is to make training and participating in sport more fun than the Internet.
In summary, a long-term training plan needs the following elements:
Make the young athlete excited about training and being fit.
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About the Author
Tony Paladin is a qualified personal fitness trainer, spinning instructor and rowing coach. He has represented South Africa in Rowing 7 times at various World Championships and World Cups, been 12 times national rowing champion and under 23 World Championship silver medallist. He has a BSc. WITS (Human Kinetics, Physiology and Psychology) and is currently studying BSc. Biokinetics Honours.
The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: