Predict timing of growth to identifying windows of accelerated adaptation, during which the developing body responds best to speed, stamina and strength training, for short term fitness, individualised coaching and long term athletic development.
From Nursery to Adulthood
Human development from birth to adulthood is a continuous process. Coaching children in underage sports needs to match their development, often characterised by a series of stages that make up the Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model, as adopted by Sport Ireland and the National Governing Bodies.
Not matching skills development and activities to a child's stage of development has serious negative consequences:
- Skills development is poor
- Over-emphasis on winning develops bad habits
- The child fails to reach their potential
- The child isn't having fun
- The child burns out and drops out of sport.
This article aims to describe each Long-term Athlete Development (LTAD) stage and corresponding age group, and how SURPASSPORT supports those needs.
Medical Notes & ICE
Independent of the child's age, Medical Notes as set by the parent and are ALWAYS available to every coach who has legitimate access to the child on SURPASSPORT, allowing their medical condition, if pertinent, including injury, to be highlighted and of course, the parent's emergency (ICE) contact details are always to hand.
Nursery / Active Start
1 to 5 years (‡)
This stage is all about starting children off right. Making physical activity a fun part of daily life creates the right setting for your child to learn. Help them learn proper movement skills. Recognising proper movement skills isn’t always easy, but there are resources that can help.
Organise some physical activities — get a group of children and parents together and go to the park to let them explore the swings, slides, and monkey bars!
Let children explore their physical environment, but keep a watchful eye on them and keep the environment safe. Let them run, jump, climb, and swing — it’s important for their development.
This is a great time to get children into introductory gymnastics and swimming programs — not to create elite gymnasts or swimmers, but to provide wonderful learning opportunities in different environments.
5 to 8 years [girls]; 5 to 9 years [boys] († ‡)
The FUNdamental phase should be well structured and fun! The emphasis is on the overall development of the child’s physical capacities and fundamental movement skills. The ABC's of athleticism - agility, balance, coordination and speed are very important elements of this phase. Participation in as many sports as possible is encouraged. Speed, power and endurance are developed using basic and enjoyable games. Appropriate and correct running, jumping and throwing techniques are taught (the ABC's of athletics).
This is also the stage when most children begin to attend formal sports coaching, typically at weekends.
SURPASSPORT makes it really easy to track Attendance. When a child is already registered for a team, a single touch or click is all it takes. And records are updated.
At this age, children still join up mid-season. No problem! The coach can capture the essential information there and then, including parent's contact details, and parents can then complete the registration process while they're waiting.
Children in this stage are encouraged to try many different sports. Naturally, some will clash, and some may fall by the wayside. it is, however, fair to say that weekends are a busy time for Parents, and coordinating trips and kids can be a challenge. SURPASSPORT unifies all activities and notifications into a single stream, for each parent, guardian, minder or grandparent, optionally integrated into their phone's calendar, offering a little calm on an otherwise hectic weekend!
As sports introduce competition, arranging matches adds to the coach's workload. SURPASSPORT manages the communications around fixture Availability, if the kid needs a lift, and of course, share the location of the pitches. Teams at these age groups are not fixed, and SURPASSPORT allows the panel to be split into two or more teams and record starting positions, to help ensure that all kids get exposed to playing in different positions.
While true at every age group, most clubs use this age group to start their coaches' education. In addition to being able to share the workload, the club officers can record pathway and skills training courses undertaken by the coaches, helping both club and coach keep an eye on their own training.
A timely SURPASSPORT Maturation Assessment will help identify the onset of the first "window of accelerated adaptation to speed" or "critical period of speed development", which typically occurs during this phase.
Learning to Train
8 to 11 years [girls]; 9 to 12 years [boys] († ‡)
During this stage, children are ready to learn and refine the general sports skills they need for athletic development and participation in sport for health. Children are developmentally ready to acquire general overall sports skills that are the cornerstones of all athletic development.
Increase in Workload
The kids are now old enough to train mid-week. Leagues are now a regular fixture and are becoming more competitive. The stronger players occasionally get to play up an age group. Primary schools now field teams for Spring and Autumn leagues, with their own training. And kids don't, and nor should they, specialise by dropping a sport.
Workload Scoring is central to SURPASSPORT, connecting around the child, and informing each coach as to their workload and associated risks of injury and helping to gradually increase workload, allowing the child's body (and mind) to adapt and respond.
Feedback on 'fun'
With the increased focus on skills development, age-appropriate strength & conditioning and competitions, it's important to keep an eye on 'fun'. SURPASSPORT automatically requests this feedback after every session, offering 4 simple "smiley faces" and building a pattern that can help identify potential issues before they have a chance to take hold.
We coach because we have a passion for the sport, not the admin! Attendance, Availability, Individual Feedback, Team Communications and Teamsheets for Matches are but some of the easy to use capabilities on SURPASSPORT, and of course, the other team coaches can help out, especially when you're away on holidays or business.
The SURPASSPORT Maturation Assessment helps to identify the "window of accelerated adaptation to motor coordination", which typically occurs during this phase. The Assessment will also identify early-maturing individuals, generating awareness of their earlier development and on how best to structure training & conditioning, both to allow them to benefit from the corresponding windows of accelerated adaptation and also to retain motivation as they physically dominate their peers.
Training to Train
11 to 15 years [girls]; 12 to 16 years [boys] († ‡)
During the Training to Train phase young players/athletes start to specialise in the sport of their choice and consolidate basic sport-specific skills and tactics. While children start competing more seriously, the major focus during competition is on applying what they’ve learned in training — not on winning at all costs.
This is the phase during which most children enter puberty, begin their growth spurts and transition towards adulthood.
Educating the young athletes into better understanding their own workload will help them better prepare for performance, and will help coaches from other teams better appreciate why they need to miss a training or conditioning session. SURPASSPORT supports a second Workload Scoring based on the Athlete's Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), offering a second measure feeding into the coaches's understanding of the athlete's individual commitments.
Building awareness of how their wellbeing impacts performance helps young athletes better prepare for training, recovery and competition.
SURPASSPORT supports Wellbeing Prompts requesting a morning measure on some or all of sleep, stress, mood, appetite, energy levels and soreness, building a pattern over time and reported to the coach alongside other per- / post- activity metrics.
SURPASSPORT still covers Attendance, Availability, Individual Feedback and Team Communications, but Fixture Planning, Teamsheets for Matches, Supporting Players and Matchplay simplify team selection and competition preparations.
The SURPASSPORT Maturation Assessment is key to predict or confirm each individual's growth timing and identify their corresponding biological age. The "window of accelerated adaptation to aerobic and strength training" is tied to the start of the growth spurt, and aerobic training should be prioritised during this time, while skill, speed and strength should be maintained or developed further as part of regular training.
Special emphasis is also required for flexibility training, due to the sudden growth of bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles.
Training to Compete
15 to 17 years [girls]; 16 to 18 years [boys] († ‡)
This stage is about the development of athletes as young adults. By now, they are specialising in one sport and working on event- or position- specific skills and physical demands. They’re soccer goalkeepers, not soccer players; 800-metre runners, not track and field athletes.
Everything in this stage is about optimising physical preparation. But there is a caution. Athletes must FULLY develop their Training to Train skills and physical preparation before starting Training to Compete skills and activities.
Fitness programmes, recovery programmes, psychological preparation and technical development are now individually tailored to a greater degree. This emphasis on individual preparation addresses each player/athlete’s individual strengths and weaknesses. Double and multiple periodisation is the optimal framework of preparation.
Educating the young athletes into better understanding their own workload will help them better prepare for performance, and will help coaches from other teams better appreciate why they need to miss a training or conditioning session. SURPASSPORT supports a second
The Athlete should be granted access to their own profile, and respond to team requests using information from their Workload Score, coupled with their Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), and helping then understand when they might need to say 'no'.
Daily Wellbeing Prompts now forms a regular input for gauging preparation and readiness, for the coach and the athlete.
The SURPASSPORT Supporting Players management deserves a special mention, as many clubs operate juvenile and senior sections / divisions, and this allows for a managed relationship between team coaches who may share access to the stronger, most talented players.
The SURPASSPORT Maturation Assessment is important, especially for boys, to confirm when their growth peaked. This is to ensure that the start of their "window of accelerated adaptation to strength training" is clearly identified, recommended at least 18 months after growth peaked.
Building muscle mass before growth has tailed off can lead to joint deformities, ligament attachment issues and has been linked to chronic issues through to adulthood.
Training to Win
17+ years [girls]; 18+ years [boys] († ‡)
This is the final phase of athletic preparation. All of the player/athlete’s physical, technical, tactical, mental, personal and lifestyle capacities are now fully established and the focus of training has shifted to the maximisation of performance.
Players/athletes are trained to peak for major competitions. Training is characterised by high intensity and relatively high volume.
Frequent “prophylactic” (preventative) breaks help to prevent physical and mental burnouts. Training-to-competition ratio in this phase is 25:75, with the competition percentage including competition-specific training activities.
All capabilities discussed above are still applicable for adult players, especially at club level. Only a small number of juvenile athletes progress to elite.
The successful club will have instilled a passion for their sport, discipline in physical training and a sense of community translating into teams which compete at regional and national level, at every standard. Paperwork and communications continue to be relevant!
† "Building Pathways in Irish Sport"; 2003 National Coaching & Training Centre
‡ "Long-term Athlete Development InformatIon for Parents"; National Coaching Certification Program, www.coach.ca
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Cumann na mBunscoil, Kildare
Management of primary school leagues
Maturation Assessment for U13 Soccer players
Coordinating Juvenile Hurling team availability and attendance.