Young Athletes Training Facts




Young Athletes long term development insights

In lieu of an article or interview, I thought that I would hit you guys with some great information and solid insight into the training & development of Young Athletes


>> From a study published in the Swimming Science Bulletin. Authored by Brent S. Rushall & John Marsden.


"The question of whether (young athletes) should specialize in particular sports at an early age has been asked for many years. The evidence now seems to support programming activities that develop overall capacities rather than specialized functions while the young athlete is growing."


This is a fact that I have been preaching for many years. Contrary to popular belief, the BEST and MOST EFFICIENT means of developing a future champion is through slow progression and multilateral means.



>> From a study published in the Swimming Science Bulletin. Authored by Brent S. Rushall & John Marsden.


"If resistance training is to be done with children and young adolescents, exercises should involve sub-maximal loads, such as one’s own bodyweight, light dumbbells, weighted bags and/or medicine balls. Sophisticated and restrictive weight exercises, particularly on machines, are not ideal for children".


Did anyone read my article a few newsletters back on "Keeping Kids Off Weight Training Machines"? Trainers or coaches who advocate machine-based training for young athletes are simply not thinking straight.



>> From a study published in the Swimming Science Bulletin. Authored by Brent S. Rushall & John Marsden.


"All sports require high degree of skill for superior performance. The major emphasis of a (youth athletic) training program should be skill excellence. For skills to be developed, learning should occur in non-fatigued states… It is advisable to schedule auxiliary training sessions either after a (sport) session or at some time that allows complete recovery from its execution so that no residual fatigue is carried over."


I’ve never mentioned this in literature, but have advocated it several times through lectures and seminars. Learning how to create appropriate training sessions is crucial to working with young athletes. If you are forced to have the technical practice AND the training session within the same day (as is typical), make sure that the training session comes AFTER practice. This keeps the body and CNS rested and for skill acquisition and demonstration during practice.



>>Neurological stats on learning and neuropsychological explanation as to why multilateral development is crucial.


Look at it from the most easy possible angle… Do you know anyone from another country? What happens to family’s who move to a foreign land, but can’t speak the language? Let’s use an Italian family moving to Canada. Eventually, everyone learns to speak English, but, the young kids will learn to speak it accent-free while the parents, no matter what they try, will ALWAYS have a slight or even pronounced accent. Why?


The answer can be summed up in one word… Plasticity. Plasticity in this context is defined as the ability to be flexible or adapt. The human brain is a structure LOADED with plasticity during its developmental stages, but loses the ability to adapt as we age. Every skill imaginable (athletic, cognitive, language acquisition), is governed by plasticity… There is literally a cap or critical time frame in which skills must be learnt in order to ever be performed optimally. Due to the laws of plasticity, a 45 year old Italian immigrant will never pick up English the way his or her 5 year old son will.


Application to sport and athletics? If you don’t expose kids to it early, they will NEVER be able to develop it optimally.



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11 Responses

  1. brian, i took your course in providence R.I LAST MONTH. i received my dvds i want to know how i finish my level 1 certification thans mark

  2. Good article Brian…very true. Thanks.

  3. Andrew says:

    Always great stuff Brian….can’t wait for the certification in July….Hoffman Estates, IL…looking forward to learning more from you!

  4. Will says:

    Amen brother! I’m starting a new job in Sept at a High School & am just CHAMPING at the bit to get the all clear to get rid of the machines in their gym & get back to basics!

  5. Keith says:

    So, playing devil’s advocate once again, why is it that the world’s greatest swimmers have typically been identified when they were preteen, often then,setting world records and competing in world class events as mere teenagers, especially the ladies. How many world and Olympic champion gymnasts and divers average 14 years of age. I wonder if plasticity really means that a child athlete can adapt to, cope with, respond to, recover from, progress with, focus on and develop with, all of the things in one particular sport, and become superior in that sport, without participating in other sports. Doing so like the 5 year old Italian child learns English perfectly by being immersed in that one thing.
    I know I’m talking about world class athletes but they had to come from somewhere and mostly they were young athletes with a gift through which they were unilaterally developed within their one sport. While I myself have participated in many sports and have coached many sports and I believe in multilateral exposure especially as a means of talent identification, I still need convincing that the multilateral approach is necessary or preferable to develop high level athletes in a given sport.
    Still liked the article Brian. It keeps the wheels oiled in this old noggin. Keep them coming!

  6. Keith says:

    Just to note: I didn’t write “Your comment is waiting for moderation”. Not sure where that came from. Perhaps it means I’m too long winded or maybe I just type too slow. Oh well, thanks again.

  7. John says:

    How involve is IYCA with the YMCA?

  8. Brian Grasso says:

    Hi Gang!

    Don’t often have time to respond to this blog (unfortunately), but Keith’s message required a post….

    Well thought out, my friend!

    Here are the key points to your questions:

    1) Sports are broken down into various categories within historical LTAD Models. You have used 3 examples (gymnastics, diving and swimming) in which early ‘elite level’ is standard (figure skating, especially women, would be another). This is often due to pubertal body transformations being a prohibitive factor for success. Thus pre-adolescent exclusivity has historically been considered important. Having said that, this does not represent a truism for all sporting activities at large.

    2) It is very easy to point out examples of the very few Olympians who succeeded at a young age, but the entire sport and participation within that sport must be held in context to gain a fair and reasonable perspective. How many hundreds of thousands of kids exclusively participate in the sports you mentioned but make absolutely nothing significant of a career? The percentage is incredibly slanted.

    3) Pursuant to point ‘2’, a number of former ‘child stars’ in these specific sports face an adulthood riddled with injuries, self-esteem issues and body dimorphic concerns. Many more ‘young prodigies’ the world has never heard of have had careers ended due to overuse injuries resulting from exclusively in similar loaded training (i.e. sports exclusivity).

    4) There is a distinction between sports specialization and exclusivity. Having trained Olympians myself and studied cyclic training models of other Olympians (from various sports) I can tell you that even the most awe inspiring athletes we have ever seen (including the young one’s) are seldom trained in an exclusive fashion. That does not mean they participate in other sports necessarily, but they do have intelligent Coaches who plan general loaded stimulus for as much as 50% of the training system in certain parts of the year/Olympic preparation.

    Thank you for your intelligent and well-articulated response, my friend! BG

  9. admin says:

    Hi Mark. You can email support@iycasupport.com and Melissa will get you set up with exam access.

  10. Keith says:

    Thanks Brian, your point #4 really added clarity to my thoughts. I see the light!
    Thanks again and it’s great to see that you make time to respond to your readers queries and observations. All the best!

  11. Brian Grasso says:

    Thank you back, Keith! You clearly are passionate and very insightful. I appreciate your readership. BG

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