Long-Term Development of Young Athletes Pt. 2 - No Shortcut Ever Led Anywhere Worth Going

In Part 1 of our Long-Term Development Series, we discussed the core principles that will help set the most solid of physical + mental foundations in young athletes. And today, we’re going to discuss how to program and plan for their longer term development

It is our sole focus here at The Academy to develop young athletes over the long-term. To use physical training and mindset to build them and give them the chance to go on and achieve success on their terms in sport and life. So our focus is always a contradiction…

We want them to be present in today’s session, and setting intentions for it - yet we also want them to know that we’re not training for today, we’re training for their competition/future, and becoming the athlete they want and need to become

As what’s most essential is the type of athlete they want to become, and what kills they need to develop and strengthen to become that athlete. And due to this, individualised and long-term programming is essential

And we’re going to break it down into it’s simplest terms for you all
 

Identify The Skills Required

In part 1 of this series, we eluded to the specific skill sets required for all athletes, such as strength, endurance, power, agility, acceleration, etc…  And you must begin here by knowing which skills the young athlete must develop, as this will form the basis of the programming. You cannot neglect their strengths however, and this will also play into the programming in the future

Having tests for each skill will easily allow you to identify your starting points in each skill

 

What’s Their Sport Specific Schedule Look Like…

How many days a week are they already training, and what does this look like? What skills are they developing whilst away from you, and what’s the volume, load, and intensity look like? This is why it’s so important to interact with other coaches so that you can be of service to the young athlete as a collective, each supporting and being an extension of one another's work

And what are their big milestones for the year? When are their competitions? Knowing this will form the crux of how you program long-term - they will define periods of higher/lower volume, and higher/lower intensity, and recovery periods
 

Enter The Worm

This is our methodology to breaking the young athlete’s year down into smaller chunks. Each 12 squares is a macrocycle, or a month. Within each square, are four squares, for each week or mesocycle. And in each of these four squares is one microcycle or seven-day period that will form the training week

Firstly, mark down when the competitions are. Then, mark down their sport-specific training days, and code for higher volume, intensity, specific skills, and such. And now, you can program your strength & conditioning specific work for the athlete

Due to the training age of young athletes, we use a very simple approach to progression and periodisation. We always identify the three biggest areas that need to be developed over the next twelve months, and base everything off these. For instance, this could be developing more force and power for a vertical jump, more overall size and strength, better muscular endurance in the upper body and so on

For example, let’s break the year down into four, three month macrocycles - where at the end of each macrocycle is a competition (every 12 weeks). Our athlete is a gymnast who needs more core strength, hip drive, leg power, and upper body strength. Their current strengths are their mobility, coordination, and muscular endurance

And now you simply program accordingly, either by focusing weeks or sessions on strengthening a specific weakness and maintaining current strengths. Many will take this approach of focusing on one skill for a month, and then move onto another. A great strength coach however, can work all of these four weaknesses and strengths into each mesocycle by varying the volume, load, and intention during the weeks. You can find a brief image overview below

At The Academy, we have developed a system that allows us to do this with all of our young athletes, and it is working wonders for us

Nick Maier