An insight into youth S&C in a county set up

Michael Boyhan (3rd Strength and Conditioning)

Laois Minor Hurling Backroom Team

I myself find my own current position as a challenge to say the least. I am currently involved with the Laois Minor Hurling backroom team in an S/C position and its application to those under the age of 18. Is Strength and conditioning needed at that age? Yes is clearly the answer, and sometimes the possibility is it is clearly needed at a younger age in terms of development through various type movement and technique that will aid a child’s development stage within their sport. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that strength training is an inappropriate and unsafe activity for youth. Conceptually, this does not make sense. If strength training is safe and effective for your frail elderly clients, it is even better for healthy young people with full movement capacity and plenty of energy. If we were to use Balyi LTAD (Long Term Athlete Development), its various stages of development need to be met, if not that window of acceleration in a players overall development closes. Long-term athlete development describes how to systematically develop sporting excellence and increase active participation in local, regional, and national sport organizations. The long-term athlete development model, is an approach to athlete-centred sport that combines skill instruction with long-term planning and an understanding of human development. By learning about LTAD, sport administrators and coaches will gain the knowledge and tools to enhance participation and improve performance and growth of athletes. This is a crucial piece of information that is needed for all coaches and its long term implications if not applied.

As I have been in this new position myself, what it has presented to me is the need for proper planning, long term goals, varied response to training type, but also the demands that all walks of life are placing on a young adult today as they go through their early stages in life and also in sport. With the increased demands of school, club and county commitments many GAA players as young as 16 are already feeling the effects of overtraining on body and mind? GAA players are being asked to train longer and harder to match what the other team is doing, but conditioning in any sport requires a balance between overload and recovery, too much hard training without adequate rest and recovery can actually lead to a decrease in performance. To carefully administer the right training type is essential to a player and coach but also in the correct manner that will not place the players in question into a state of overtraining. As we all know today the phrase over trained and burnt out is very common within our sports, but to me this rationale is clearly evident primarily to some of those implementing training types, clearly have not got the right education and knowledge in actual training. Knowing the right volume type, rest periods, wellness, nutrition, players development stage are valuable pieces of information all coaches should possess. Without this knowledge key components are overlooked, and its knock on effect could be detrimental to a player going forward.  For myself during any session I take I rely a lot on feedback from the players and how they feel before and after training. If they were coming to me with an average score of 8/10 I would look at their wellness charts and training type and see if I had applied the proper training stimulus during that session and its long term effect if they presents a same score the next night before/after.

What I have presented so far is certain issues that can be associated with new training types, but clearly there is also a huge benefit if applied in a proper and precise manner. Not only is strength training safe for kids when done properly, but it also has numerous benefits. As outlined in Doug DuPont’s article, Fit Kids Are Healthier and Happier, research suggests kids who are stronger and more conditioned perform better in school and are less likely to engage in unhealthy activities. Of course, all this doesn’t mean kids can train just like adults. Children do have particular needs when it comes to strength training. Strength training is the practice of using free weights, weight machines, and rubber resistance bands, or bodyweight to build muscles. With resistance the muscles have to work harder to move. When the muscles work harder, they grow stronger and more efficient. Strength training can also help fortify the ligaments and tendons that support the muscles and bones and improve bone density, which is the amount of calcium and minerals in the bone. And the benefits may go beyond physical health. Young athletes may feel better about themselves as they get stronger. The goal of strength training is not to bulk up. It should not be confused with weight lifting, bodybuilding, and powerlifting, which are not recommended for kids and teens. In these sports, people train with very heavy weights and participate in modelling and lifting competitions. Kids and teens who do those sports can risk injuring their growing bones, muscles, and joints.

Using as a basis of session planning is a positive way forward for any coach who views the long term development over the short term goals. We all want to see glory no matter what, but clearly today in my view of things, it’s imperative that we bring those children through the right stages, keep them playing, enjoy the sport and reap the rewards once fully developed as athletes within their chosen sports. The plans offered on meet the needs of all player types, and the stages of a season within (strength, hypertrophy, power, speed, flexibility etc.) Using these key components within a timeframe and well monitored volume can aid all players’ development. The guys have fine-tuned all programme types and safe practice throughout will guarantee progress.  Overall I wish the lads well and also from a coaching side, being practical and safe during all trainings will lead to development in a correct manner. And I leave you on a definitive point without question, the most important aspect of a safe and successful kids strength training program is qualified adult supervision throughout each exercise session. Proper instruction, including appropriate performance feedback and positive reinforcement, is essential to injury prevention, participant satisfaction and the development of children’s competence and confidence in this activity.

From a science side of things, Michael is a 3rd level student in IT Carlow studying Strength and Conditioning and all associated modules with it. From studying Physiology to Biomechanics and Performance Analysis to Strength and Conditioning for Paediatrics, the course range is very much suited to what the student needs to meet the demands of the various sports and walks of life that it can be involved in. Michael has been involved with the senior and fresher’s teams within I.T Carlow, and so far have achieved numerous All-Ireland titles. He has worked closely with DJ Carey and Michael Dempsey during his time over these teams.