How to Grow a Super-Athlete

Click Here to read the original article "How to Grow A Super Athlete"


The article is a wonderful portrayal of youth athletic development as it looks in Russia at the world famous Spartak Tennis Academy.


The article discusses the unique blend of non-specific athletic training, the keys to nervous system enhancement and the incredibly involved technical development that each young athlete goes through as they ascend to either sporting success or a functionally fit life…


… Interestingly enough, if you have been paying attention over the years that is EXACTLY what I have been telling you regarding the optimal development of a young athlete!


In discussing the differences between the way Russian kids and North America kids are trained and developed, Daniel points to the cultural variances as the reason why this slow, technically-sound style of developing a young athlete wouldn’t work in North America.


Here are my thoughts on the matter –


Although I understand that many people feel as though the apparent cultural differences between Russia and the United States in terms of adopting a ‘skill-based’ developmental structure to youth sports, is what accounts for our inability to create such a worthwhile system, but to me, it has less to do with societal factors and much more to do with coaching talent.


European coaches (especially in places like Russia) are vastly superior to U.S. coaches in terms of understanding nervous system plasticity, talent identification, multilateral development and pedagogical science.


More over, the best and most talented coaches in North America, almost 100% of the time, work with our more elite athletes – this leaves volunteer Mom’s and Dad’s to work with our most precious athletic commodity; children.


Current governing bodies do not work to reverse this reality, and certainly don’t work to provide a practical look at how to develop young athletes properly – this is the crux of the problem.


That is not an indictment of the volunteer Mom and Dad – bless their hearts for donating so much of their time!


But in the absence of proper training and education in the realms of coaching science, human development and technical execution, they are often left with little more than their own experiences as an athlete to draw upon when designing practice plans etc.


THAT, my friend, is why the IYCA was created.


To educate where none truly existed.


Our Youth Fitness Specialist – Level 1, is the beginning of your journey to better understand the principles associated with long-term athlete development and youth fitness.


See what 25 year industry vetern, King Hoover, had to say after going through our Level 1 program
—> https://iyca.org/fitspecialist1


– Brian



9 Responses

  1. Coach Phil says:

    I agree with this article. I have spent 27 years as a coach from kids to elite adult athletes and I’ve experienced first hand the lack of support for developing athletes. Ironically once an athlete has reached the elite status he/she is now given extensive sponsorship when they can afford to buy anything they need to improve. Youth Coaches and athletes have to scratch and claw to get what they need to improve. You would think the profesional leagues would invest in youth coaching and athletic development. This is what Jamaca did 20 years ago and you can see the results…

  2. Joe says:

    Great article. Tough to coach youths in America…have to go against the strong tide but have to believe it can be done.

  3. Dave Gleason says:

    Love the article. One of the things that stands out to me – CNS blueprinting at its best. Zoe was given the chance to blue print that skill. Young children need to have a multi-dimensional approach while the CNS is plastic. Given the opportunity to explore many movements through free play – selecting the talent pool for a given sport at the correct time can become more specific.

    In the U.S. we are labeling kids too early and taking the fun out of playing youth sports. We have created massive scheduling issues because of so many structured practices and activities and producing poor results.

    Yes, the best coaches (by in large) in the U.S. are still working with the most elite athletes. The IYCA via its mission and its warriors will change that over time. Coaching kids is not tough. Finding vested, educated coaches is. Brian, I believe our society does not place enough value on coaches and teachers in the U.S. and that is part of a cultural problem. That is the link, in my opinion, between societal and cultural differences in the U.S and Russia and the effects on coaching education and skill development.

    Funding, education, and opportunity will all increase with greater perceived value. Will that happen? That is unknown.

    What is known is the impact the IYCA can and will have. Let’s get to work!

  4. Jim says:

    The biggest issue i run into is dealing with parents who think because they’re a sports fan or they played the sport as kids, they know what’s best.

    For example, if i explain to a parent the importance of developing the nervous system through appropriate movement they look at me like i am nuts.

    It’s a challenge to be sure. But we can persevere if we want to do so!

  5. Brian Grasso says:

    Check out http://www.IYCAMembers.com Jim… I spent 13 years in the industry working with parents myself. Talking about Nervous System Development absolutely will get you ‘crazy’ looks, but that’s why you change the discussion to topics they understand. Chat with parents about the importance and reasoning why their kids learn a variety of subjects in school – in order to expose them to as much cognitive stimulus as possible so that one day, they can specialize in a specific area. We need to think about HOW to talk to parents. It truly isn’t as hard or difficult as it sounds… Just use examples like the one I gave. BG

  6. SoCal Brian says:

    Coaching a sport and teaching fitness or more specifically functional body movement and other developmental training are quite different in my honest opinion. I think we can all agree here that it is more important to develop basic motor skills, condition the nervous system and train proper body movement techniques in young athletes. As a past competitive athlete, I think North America has come a long way in the methods we use to train and now with the IYCA available, we are finally headed in the right direction with our youth.

  7. Craig says:

    Excellent book! Read it some time ago. Your post is correct, but I would say to take it quite a bit further to high school and college in many instances in regards to less qualified coaching specifically when it comes to strength and conditioning. Everybody that thinks they can coach a sport also thinks they are a qualified Strength and Conditioning Coach. Way too often, that is not the case. The subsequent effect on those athletes is quite apparent…….. Another book for your reading is “SPARK” by John J. Ratey, MD. Shows the distinct correlation between exercise and higher brain function.
    Keep up the good work!

  8. Eric Starkweather says:

    Interesting article Brian – thank you for bringing it to our attention! I was fascinated by the discussion of the myelinization process as it applies to skill development

    I’m a little puzzled by your endorsement of the article as “wonderful” when its conclusions seem like they counter what you, the IYCA, and other LTAD advocates are preaching. The first 2 summary points at the end of the article (“Driven Parents” and “Early Starts”) seem like they are pretty much the opposite of how I’ve understood the IYCA’s message. Aren’t we (at least in America) trying to break the culture of “7 soccer leagues every year, starting at age 4 will GUARANTEE a scholarship for Johnny!!”???
    I think this article is more likely to encourage more of the above than to support what they IYCA is doing. I don’t think most sport parents will absorb the “find a good coach” message in this article. Rather, they’re more likely to absorb “gotta practice a lot” and “better start early,” which will just make our jobs as conscientious coaches that much harder.

    I understand that the focus of your post here is really on issues related to summary point #3 (“Powerful, Consistent Coaches”) and on the information about myelinization, but I’m afraid that parents who read the article will be WAY too focused on #’s 1 & 2.

    Am I misunderstanding the focus of the article, misunderstanding the focus of the IYCA’s messages, or is there some other factor here that I’m missing?

    I realize that specialization as it seems to work in the article (starting early with one sport and a strong coach that understands the value of global development) is not necessarily a bad thing. However, specialization as it’s applied in America right now IS often a bad thing for kids; I think this article is likely to make it harder rather than easier to counter that trend.

    Eric Starkweather
    St. Petersburg, FL

  9. Brian Grasso says:

    Hi Eric. Dan Coyle wrote a follow-up book called ‘The Talent Code’. Excellent read! To me, his context was based on the right and wrong of early specialization… He discusses (as Dave Gleason points out above) the issues related to CNS Blueprinting. The American youth sports culture is based on specialization in EVERY sense. In many other parts of the world, early specialization doesn’t infer 12-months a year of same sport competition and training. As much as 6o – 80% of time is spent on Non-Directed Loads (so essentially, stimulus in other physical areas). Thanks! BG

Leave a Reply

Comment using: