training tip 011 - long term development of the next generations pt. 3

Michelangelo started with a giant, blank block of marble. And the end result we see is “David”. There was absolutely no depiction of the final form of this marble block at the beginning, except within Michelangelo’s mind. He knew what he was trying to create, and this marble block was the perfect foundation from which to chip away at for the many years it took him. And in today’s society, our young athletes are very similar to that initial block of marble…

Every single young athlete has unlimited potential. In the grand scheme of things, we all begin at the same starting point and with the same tools. And yet, what you’re exposed to, the tools you’re given along the way, and the decisions you make will shape the athlete and person you become

And yet, even though we know all of this, long-term athletic development is still not given the serious attention and detail it deserves. It must be reverse engineered; it must begin with the end in mind - as only then can we help build the next generation into what they wish to become

This is the concept at it’s core, however, the process must be highly individualised. You will use the same tools, but in varying amounts and with different intensity. Michelangelo may have used his hammer and chisel in great amounts, but perhaps you need to use an angle grinder…


You Need To Choose The Skills To Develop

As athletes, there are a specific number of skills you can use/perform, and therefore develop. These include:

  • Strength and its sub-qualities

  • Speed/Acceleration

  • Agility

  • Power and it’s sub-qualities

  • Endurance and it’s sub-qualities

  • Mobility/Flexibility

So when it comes to building young athletes and investing in their long-term development, we need to choose specific skills that are unique to their sports demands and what they require to become better. And this is why we must somewhat know the “final” destination for the young athlete to reach and where they are beginning from

Doing so gives us a “map” of what is required to get them there

For example, you’ll only ever choose a handful of skills to develop, as not every young athlete will require all of the above for their sport, and some qualities will be more important than others

But unfortunately, coaches and parents don’t do this. They look at what they think the young athlete needs, instead of instead assessing what they do need. They’ll look at specific positions or sports and think “the best all demonstrate x, y, and z - so they need more of that”

They try and fit a square peg into a round hole

Where instead we should be looking at the young athlete first and foremost as an individual. We should be saying things like "They’re great at x, y, and z - and to get “here”, they need more of z and some more a and b”...

No two people are the same. And trying to make yourself like somebody else is a recipe for disaster. You’re an individual, you’re unique, and therefore you must be developed accordingly

For example, a defensive midfielder in football may need some more endurance, mobility, agility and upper body strength to hold off attackers - whereas his teammate who is a winger requires more speed, lower body strength, acceleration, and power. And simply giving them the same things to do will not achieve these goals


Individualisation is about more than just what skills you choose

It’s about exercises. It’s about sets and rep schemes. It’s about intensity, volume, and load over time. It’s about the variety and how much focus you give one skill. It’s about the rest given…

Sure, we may need to get stronger, but do we need to front squat or back squat, and will this athlete respond better to higher frequency, or higher intensity with a little more volume and less frequency…

And this is why a “one-size-fits-all”, “cookie-cutter” approach is never beneficial long-term. It’s why you cannot simply throw everyone on a 3 x 5 or 4 x 8 program - you don’t have that specific young athletes best interests at heart when you do

And this individualisation is what young athlete’s need and deserve for long-term development

And it's is why we’re devoted to being the incubator that helps to build the next generation, by coaching and mentoring them to position them as best as possible to succeed in their sport and life

Nick Maier