Training The Early Adolescent Athlete (12-15 years of age)
I would like to take the time in this issue to talk about how best to train the early adolescent. In this case, I am talking about the 12-15 yr. old male and female athlete.
I bring this up because many people, including coaches, parents and these young athletes themselves, frequently contact me with many questions about different issues related to athletic peformance.
So, I will do my best to inform all of you on my list who fit in this particular category. Those of you who are not in this category should still read, learn and empower yourself. You never know.... this topic may come up sometime and you will be the one who can provide the answer.
What we have to realize at these ages, is that from a coaching stand point, these kids' brain development is very "plastic". Meaning that if the young athlete cannot perform a certain drill, task or movement well ,your job as a coach or peer is to not criticize and tell them they are too stupid or demean them with negativity. They will ALWAYS believe they are stupid or slow or too stiff... whatever. Making it hard for them to progress.
I know, some of you are thinking.. Boy, Andy is a wuss. Well, no I am not..I am basing this on well founded research.
Instead let them make the mistake but quickly and immediately after the drill is over, grab them (not literally) and have them do the drill over. You, as the coach communicates to the athlete, the correct movement to perform. This way, the kid doesn't forget the motor pattern because you (the coach) immediately enforced the corect movement right away.
So, picture this scenario ....an athlete messed up in a lateral shuffle drill and you immediately correct him:
"Ok Tommy, come here for a second let's do this again. Drop your hips. Push your knees forward..push your butt back...chest up...shoulders back. Now, stay low and keep your head low. Push off hard to your right and drive your hands back as hard and fast as you can. Do three FAST STEPS. Ready and GO!!"
This way you are doing your job to coach/teach/educate. I hope you understand this tip.
Secondly, most males at this age are very tight. Hamstrings, calf muscles, hip flexors, glutes and pectorals are ususally the culprits. So, take the time to use appropriate mobility exercises for warm-ups.
Females at this age, on the other hand, are either tight or are hyper mobile. If they are the latter, they may be substituting for a tight joint somewhere else and be hyper mobile in another joint. Try to find the tight joint and correct it with the appropriate mobility exercise.
Lastly, these athletes (especially males) often look uncoordinated and gangly. What's happenning is that their neural development is occuring for their new body. So, you're going to see an athlete with a very new body....long legs, big feet and hands, and a nervous system trying to catch up to the new bigger and longer joints and muscles.
The result? Picture a colt trying to run or change direction with those long legs and small trunk. Awkward, right?
So, be patient. Let them make mistakes but correct them quickly while the brain is still "fresh" from the drill.
One other point that I almost forgot. At these ages, don't be afraid to add some complex tasks to challenge them BUT only after they've mastered the fundamentals first.
Remember this is all very well researched and I urge you to take it seriously.
Thanks for reading,
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