Earlier this week I was asked to consult with a local youth football organization.
Ordinarily, these types of consulting services include me conducting conference call educational seminars with as many as 30 – 40 coaches at one time.
I present on the topics that they have requested as they listen and follow along with a Power Point presentation that I email to them prior to the call starting.
At the end of my presentation, we all enjoy a round-table discussion in which they are free to ask me anything they want in reference to how my ‘Grasso Methodologies’ can fit specifically into their league and respective practice schedules.
If I dare say so myself, it’s a great service.
Dozens of coaches get a chance to hear what quality youth sport development should look like, but also have the opportunity to ask me specific questions related to how they apply my concepts into the unique time-frames and scheduling of their own league.
You can’t get that kind of customization from a book.
The consulting work I did this past week was local, though – so I got the chance to actually present, discuss and customize the information live and in person.
In this particular case, the league has players aged 5 – 13 within its system and wanted to know how they go about developing practice plans and training routines for the kids.
What I’ve decided to do is share with you what I taught these coaches and how it has dramatically changed their coaching and training philosophy already.
Let me start with the 5 – 9 year old group.
The goal of working with 5 – 9 year olds is NOT what you think
This message can be summed up in two words:
The whole point of athletic stimulus within this time-frame of life is to explore, in a self-regulated fashion.
One of the terribly inappropriate things I see constantly being done with children in the young pre-adolescent years is adults over-coaching them.
I touched on this concept over the past few weeks in articles related to Goal Confusion and Outcome versus Form practice habits.
The human body is at the height of its adaptability in the early years of life, and should never be over-corrected or conformed to a particular style of performing movement tasks (running, jumping, throwing etc).
Think about babies for a second.
It’s a generally held belief that when a baby is learning to crawl and eventually walk, the greatest possible ‘external reinforcement’ an adult could give would be to positively encourage and provide safe boundaries.
No one would ever consider stopping a baby from doing what he or she naturally is trying to accomplish – we understand that in order to develop proper motor functioning, a baby must explore and self-regulate.
They must try and they must fail.
They must learn from their own attempts and build a sense of ‘physical intelligence’.
As adults we must encourage and positively support. We must affirm with our tone of voice and body language for them to keep trying.
We remove any obstacles that would be dangerous from them to fall on and help them understand their boundaries (stairs are dangerous, the corner of the coffee table is dangerous etc).
We would however, not coach them on how to crawl, stand or walk, and then proceed to ‘drill’ them with exercises related to the proper execution of those exercises.
Nothing changes in the early pre-adolescent years.
Kids must be given boundaries (outcomes) but be allowed to explore, try, fail and learn.
It is the only way for them to develop proper movement skill.
1/3 of your practice should be based on athletic skill… no matter what sport you coach
It doesn’t matter what sport you coach or how badly you or your athletes want to win the league trophy this year, the entire purpose of early youth sport participation is to create a warehouse of athletic ability and physical intelligence.
5 – 9 year old athletes are not baseball players, soccer players or football players.
They are kids.
And they need (and deserve) responsible adults who understand human development.
Natural human development is based on an evolutionary process of gaining comprehension, skill and intelligence in a progressive manner over time – with the most basic and rudimentary lessons coming first.
No parent would declare their child to be a future history professor, mathematician or scientist at the age of 6.
More over, no parent would discard other forms of academic study in the early, formative years of their child’s life simply because it doesn’t match what they believed their child’s future to be.
“My child is only interested in math. He loves it so much! In fact, I decided to take him out of school and teach him myself. No more geography, English, history or social studies – it’s going to be all math, all the time. I mean, he’s going to be a mathematician so what’s the point of him learning English or history. I know he’s only 6, but…”
Just think about the consequences on your child if you actually did that.
He would become emotionally and mentally burned out because of the over-concentration on a single subject.
He would lack a certain degree of overall or general intelligence.
He would lack writing skills, cognitive reasoning skills, and communication skills.
And his ability to truly become a mathematician would be dramatically compromised because he lacked sufficient intelligence in the contributory skills that would allow him to progress on to higher levels of learning.
It never stops amazing me how simple and basic this concept is, but how grossly it is misunderstood in our over-zealous sporting society.
To be great at one thing, you must develop a certain level of skill and intelligence in all things.
That’s why in the scope of a 60-minute soccer or lacrosse practice, 20 of those minutes must be spent on the things that are important from a physically globalized intelligence factor.
The IYCAYouth Fitness Specialist Level 1 certification gives you the broadest and most complete look at youth fitness and athletic development possible.