A few weeks ago I attended a conference centered on the optimal development for a young sports person. The event attracted coaches from all levels and codes around Ireland. The speakers came from the USA, Great Britain and Australia and they were some of the most respected coaches at what they do in the world.
I was lucky enough to have dinner one of the nights with one of the American coaches. He coaches over 400 high school athletes on a daily basis.
He explained the whole system that he uses, how he instills the young 15/16 year old with responsibility for his own training, he provides facilitation and coaching but not babysitting. He wants the young sports person to learn and develop in a very safe and effective manner while enjoying the process.
So then he asked me about Irish sports and GAA in particular. I explained to him that when I was a 17 year old that I was being pulled and dragged between no less than 8 teams for a whole year. He nearly fell over!!!
Say whhhaaatttt!??? He said in his thick accent which was reminiscent of woody from toy story!
You see in his system of development he oversees the whole physical training for the young player, he talks to the mangers of the various teams to ensure that the kid is not being over-trained. He tells the kid to back off from training when required and also when to push it on a bit. The managers listen. It’s a win-win situation. As a result the kid is constantly fresh, excited for training and loves learning.
We know that these days a lot of kids are not getting enough regular exercise and there are kids getting far too much of intense exercise i.e. 3 training sessions in the one day or 4 matches in a week.
One kid will train 5+ times per week whereas another will train 0-1 time per week. They are both expected to live a healthy, fit and active life. I can’t see how?…
Now I’m not advocating that we overhaul the whole Irish health and sports system here but I am saying that a smart and child centred approach should be taken to ensure the kid has a long healthy life of physical activity and of sport if they decide to play.
This can only be beneficial in markers such as obesity rates, school grades increasing, social skills, work ethic and life-long health.
So, if you have a child, nephew, niece or anyone young then encourage them to play, run, jump, chase, climb and to care about their health. Hell you can even do this with adults! But don’t tell them. Teach, show, encourage them and let them thrive in the enjoyment of exercise. They will thank you many years down the line.