Peaking for Young Athletes. Should we do it?
At a seminar I presented this past weekend in Canada,
I opened my day-long presentation with an introduction
filled with passionate and thought provoking insight into
the Art of Coaching, the need to TEACH and the necessity
we have as an industry to steer the youth conditioning niche
a different direction such as Peaking for Young Athletes – specifically, to stop creating short-term
training programs within which biomotor improvement
(speed, strength, flexibility etc) is at the top of the priority
list and in lieu of developmentally sound sequences and
adequate instructional time.
Although largely well received, one attendee asked an
interesting question during this particular portion of the seminar:
‘I understand that you think we should teach more and train
less, but then how am I supposed to have my athletes peak
for the big competitions at the end of the year?’
Excellent question… and one of the largest concerns in our
Let’s go through this step-by-step:
We have all read textbooks from heralded scholars and
have learned to pontificate words such as ‘peak’ and ‘periodization’.
The problem is that we have become comfortable with their
theories and have forgotten that their application is next to impossible.
Peaking for Young Athletes for a competition is an in-depth and systematic
process that is too involved for this article. It requires a constant
and dynamic approach to programming and necessitates that the
trainer or coach looking for this ‘peak’ have an innate understanding
of all the physiological processes that go into such an engrossed practice.
More over, it requires the trainer or coach to have control
over these physiological considerations – and that is simply
not possible in today’s youth sports society.
For instance, proper ‘peaking’ is based on nutrition, sleep,
emotional/mental stress IN ADDITION to proper training
Not only can we not control these factors in young athletes,
most trainers and coaches who preach about such methodologies
don’t even consider the aforementioned extraneous factors
in there ‘peaking’ procedures.
The coach who posed this question (who for the record was
intelligent, energetic and clearly passionate) mentioned that in
an effort to ‘peak’, he would add and take away exercise stimulus
from his athletes’ training programs during the course of a season
in accordance with standard ‘peaking’ protocol.
Again, the problem is that multiple interactive concerns associated
with over stress (and therefore Cortisol secretion – which is
terribly catabolic and renders an organism virtually unable to get
any stronger or faster) and over training are issues that must be
factored into any training procedure that is focused on:
Peaking for Young Athletes Case Study.
A young athlete wakes up at the crack of dawn and heads to school…
They sit in class all day and consume next to nothing in the way of food…
After school they have soccer practice for 75 minutes…
They come to your training session and workout for 60 minute –
because they are trying to ‘peak’ for the final track meet of the
They come home, and eat a nutritionally devoid dinner…
They spend 2 – 4 hours on homework…
Watch 1 – 2 hours of TV…
They are in bed by midnight, having to wake up at 6am the
next morning to start it all over again.
Just think about common sense for a second… is this the kind
of organism that can be physically manipulated to ‘peak’ at
the right time???
Concepts such as Peaking for Young Athletes and periodization were designed for
elite level athletes who enjoyed little to know extraneous stress
outside of their sports and were often pharmaceutically
enhanced (use your imagination!).
These theories were never intended to be used on children
and average everyday adolescent kids.
The sooner we realize that our role as trainers and coaches
should be focused on enhancing self-efficacy, decreasing injury
potential and providing just enough of the right kind of stimulus
to aid in the body’s natural developmental processes, the better
off we are going to be.
Put down the big words and high-end theories…
… Think common sense.