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Preparing the youth athlete for elite performance


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Director of Strength and Conditioning (Jimmy Pritchard) for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail discusses the considerations and process of preparing youth athletes for elite sport.

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Preparing the youth athlete for elite performance

  1. 1. Preparing the youth athlete for elite sports performance Jimmy Pritchard CSCS, USAW, XPS
  2. 2. Background BSc in Exercise Science from Colorado Mesa University MSc in Exercise Science (Strength & Conditioning) Edith Cowan University (2020) With SSCV since 2017 and currently serving as Director of Strength & Conditioning
  3. 3. Acknowledgments Coaching staff (Dan Linsacum, Mark Ryan, and Ryan Swope) of CMU John (JC) Cole, and Mike Benedict Tom Buzbee (PGA)
  4. 4. Considerations What is the cumulative stress that a youth athlete encounters through training, competition, and daily living? How does training youth from adults? What is the training age of the athlete versus the biological age? Early sport specialization and injury risks
  5. 5. Cumulative Stress ”Stress is Stress, no matter the form”
  6. 6. Unique Stressors ”A potential mechanism for non- functional overreaching is the additional stress placed on the youth athlete through external sources such as schoolwork, relationship stresses, and pressure from parents/ coaches along side the fatigue derived from sports training.” (Scantlebury et al. 2017)
  7. 7. Look beyond your impact, survey the 10,000 foot view
  8. 8. Monitoring Load becomes difficult when athletes participate in multiple sports or levels within a sport
  9. 9. Some athletes may never have structured time off, attempting to adopt an elite athlete model while not recovering like one is a recipe for disaster!!!
  10. 10. Youth versus Adult
  11. 11. Youth athlete vs. Adult athlete Youth -Emphasis on coordination and integrative neuromuscular training -Movement competency -Maximal strength, aerobic capacity, etc. haven’t reached full potential -Developing habits Adult -May handle higher training loads -Continue coordination, but more specific to sport -Potential to maximize physiological qualities Both -Progressive overload -Injury reduction -Increased efficiency -Higher work capacity
  12. 12. Training age vs biological age
  13. 13. Training age and biological age  How young is too young to start training?  Never too young to start coordination training!  ”Just like reading and writing, physical activity is a learned behavior that is influenced by family friends, teachers and coaches.” (Faigenbaum, Meadows 2017)  Aim to increase training age in relation to biological age.  Do not limit nor progress an athlete based on biological age, consider the physiology but meet the athlete where they are at.
  14. 14. Early Sport Specialization Single sport specialization not the answer, nor is the addition of an extra sport without a bit of subtraction from the primary. Attention must be given to offseason training, new stimuli, and recovery Free Play and variability Mental burnout is real
  15. 15. What the research says:  Three observations for German national athletes in all Olympic sports (N = 1558) have implications for specialization. Successful athletes participated in more than one sport either before or parallel to their current sport (juniors 2.2 ± 1.4; top- level athletes 2.4 ± 1.6). Approximately 64% of international finalists and 53% of less- successful top athletes participated in other sports. And internationally successful athletes continued training in other sports to a later age (27). By inference, specialized training in the primary sport began later.
  17. 17. Elite at an early age, done right • Continues to spend time mountain biking, and partaking in hobbies such as tennis and soccer • Structured time off of skiing post-season with an emphasis on S&C • Monitors fatigue and performance numbers derived from force plate data collection.
  18. 18. What can we do? We as strength/performance/movement coaches ought to provide the athlete with everything they need for sport and training, as well as everything they aren’t getting.
  19. 19. Identify goals Injury reduction Sports Performance Better overall athlete If you are not a sport don’t attempt to be one!
  20. 20. The Approach  Nick Winkelman: “Training athletes is like pulling a racecar into a garage. I am not trying to teach the driver how to race, rather, I am trying to enhance the car and it’s components which I hand back to him/her so that they have better tools to perform.”
  21. 21. Huge Implications We are molding these athletes often from a fresh slate Laying foundational movement patterns to be ingrained for life, take your time and do it right. Understand the sport, what’s appropriate, what’s essential. Do your needs analysis
  22. 22. Battle of the parents Overzealous: wanting too much, too often, too advanced with their kids Misinformed: still fear S&C as it “stunts growth” and hurts athletes Understand how to educate, and teach about enhancing training age from an early start
  23. 23. Our approach at SSCV Meet the athlete where they’re at Establish Movement screens & levels to programs Spend time at practice and time with coaches to understand demands of the sport (freeski and hiking) Continuum for programming. What does our top tier elite athlete need in contrast to U12 beginner? Movement Skill Acquisition •Movement session: Sprint mechanics, COD, plyos, gymnastics, etc. Not afraid to implement games of other sports and do trail running, MTB, paddle boarding, etc.
  24. 24. Our approach at SSCV Tailoring to the needs of sport and training/competition loads Empower the athlete to take ownership of their training and strive for more. Be the resource they need
  25. 25. References  Faigenbaum, A. D., & Meadors, L. (2017). A Coach's Dozen: An Update on Building Healthy, Strong, and Resilient Young Athletes. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 39(2). Retrieved from,.5.aspx.  Fort-Vanmeerhaeghe, A., Romero-Rodriguez, D., Lloyd, R. S., Kushner, A., & Myer, G. D. (2016). Integrative Neuromuscular Training in Youth Athletes. Part II: Strategies to Prevent Injuries and Improve Performance. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 38(4). Retrieved from scj/Fulltext/2016/08000/Integrative_Neuromuscular_Training_in_Youth.2.aspx.  Malina, R. M. (2010). Early Sport Specialization: Roots, Effectiveness, Risks. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 9(6), 364-371. Retrieved from,_Effectiveness,.14.aspx. doi:10.1249/JSR.0b013e3181fe3166  Myer, G. D., Faigenbaum, A. D., Chu, D. A., Falkel, J., Ford, K. R., Best, T. M., & Hewett, T. E. (2011). Integrative training for children and adolescents: techniques and practices for reducing sports-related injuries and enhancing athletic performance. The Physician and sportsmedicine, 39(1), 74-84.  Myer, G. D., Jayanthi, N., Difiori, J. P., Faigenbaum, A. D., Kiefer, A. W., Logerstedt, D., & Micheli, L. J. (2015). Sport Specialization, Part I: Does Early Sports Specialization Increase Negative Outcomes and Reduce the Opportunity for Success in Young Athletes? Sports health, 7(5), 437-442. Retrieved from  doi:10.1177/1941738115598747  Myer, G. D., Jayanthi, N., DiFiori, J. P., Faigenbaum, A. D., Kiefer, A. W., Logerstedt, D., & Micheli, L. J. (2016). Sports specialization, part II: alternative solutions to early sport specialization in youth athletes. Sports health, 8(1), 65-73.  Scantlebury, S., Till, K., Sawczuk, T., Phibbs, P., & Jones, B. (2018). Validity of Retrospective Session Rating of Perceived Exertion to Quantify Training Load in youth Athletes. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 32(7). Retrieved from jscr/Fulltext/2018/07000/Validity_of_Retrospective_Session_Rating_of.23.aspx.  Sugimoto, D., Stracciolini, A., Dawkins, C., P. Meehan, W., & Micheli, L. (2017). Implications for Training in Youth: Is Specialization Benefiting Kids? (Vol. 39).  Thorpe, R. T., Strudwick, A. J., Buchheit, M., Atkinson, G., Drust, B., & Gregson, W. (2016). Tracking morning fatigue status across in-season training weeks in elite soccer players. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 11(7), 947-952.