I look forward to reading and learning from the fascinating and insightful blog posts by many of the World’s top youth coaches and am writing this article as a follow-up inspired by two of the very best. Brian Grasso and Lee Taft are people that rightfully deserve the utmost respect for the wisdom and practical learning opportunities they frequently present in their blogs, and two recent posts in particular have led me to put together this article to offer my thoughts on what is a critical but often overlooked aspect of youth development.
In their posts, Brian (My Top 4 – Youth Fitness Training) discussed the 4 things he felt were most important in terms of quality athletic development programs whilst Lee (Training Systems Just Might Save You @ Speed Insiders) discussed the importance and benefits of creating and/or using a training system. Separately, these are both crucial areas to understand if you want to be successful when coaching and developing young athletes. If we consider them both together then I believe that they can be even more effective.
So what do I mean? A ‘system’ I have been following for a number of years, whether working with groups of young athletes, personal training or coaching in schools, is to work from Goals – Principles – Strategies – Activities. Always with the end Goal in mind, Principles are the key guiding lights that are the foundation of your training philosophy, the values and beliefs you will follow in order to achieve the set goals. These are the things you believe are most important when developing young athletes and should be used to lead you towards the strategies you will use to help young athletes learn and improve. These strategies are the tools that allow you to apply your principles on the path towards their goals, and once identified will allow you to select the most appropriate activities to suit the athlete’s needs.
Many coaches, myself included until a few years ago, fall into the trap of looking for new drills or activities without considering strategies, principles or even goals! Finding and using new drills in this way can help you get by in the short-term, but is difficult to continue in the long-term and not an effective way to help young athletes develop. Using the Goals – Principles – Strategies – Activities system, starting with the end in mind and following key principles to help you develop strategies to enable you to coach and guide your young athletes to achieve their goals, can help you create many of your own training drills or adapt known activities to fit your strategies and keep your training sessions fun, varied and effective for long-term gains.
As an example, one of Brian’s Top 4 is Speed & Agility (Movement) Training. Therefore, if a goal in Brian’s programming is to improve a young athlete’s ability to ‘move’, and a key principle he follows is that speed & agility are teachable skills, then rather than just blindly throwing the latest ladder or cone drills at the young athletes he works with he has created a strategy to follow to successfully develop movement skills ie skill sets. Once you understand the basics of this ‘skill set’ strategy, creating, adapting and applying new drills to work within this strategy becomes much easier and can help you develop endless amounts of drills that you know, rather than hope, will help.
I hope that you enjoyed this post and that it has given you food for thought when considering your own Top 4 and how they help guide the development of your coaching system. Thank you, and I hope to share with you some of my own principles in future posts, however if you wish to leave your own comments or would like to share your systems then please do so below.
– Richie Whall