The speed of the game is quicker and the time that the ball is in play is almost fifteen minutes greater than in the 1990’s. Speed, agility, acceleration, strength and endurance are all physical attributes that must be developed by young players (at the appropriate phase) during their long-term development.
When I travel overseas and spend time at professional club academies in Europe it becomes apparent that for many of our young players in North America, training loads are not being managed properly and are in fact hindering development. The top players in North America can end up playing for multiple teams – an academy or club team, provincial or regional representative teams and their school team. In this scenario, young players end up playing too many games, train too much and are getting inadequate rest and recovery. This can lead to physical and mental fatigue and increased chances for injury.
Training loads are an important element of athlete development. It refers to the structured process of the appropriate level of training in terms of frequency, duration and intensity. If training loads are managed correctly, then physical attributes such as speed, strength and endurance should be improved to improve performance.
The following can be used as guidelines to ensue that the training loads of young players are optimal, in order to improve performance:
Training sessions should gradually increase in intensity rather than suddenly increase
Proper rest should be factored into the typical training week in order to gain the full benefits of training
Training should be altered to keep it fresh and avoid too much stress on one particular part of the body. For example, if young players are working on improving strength then they must alternate the areas of the body they are working on
Pushing to the point of extreme exhaustion and muscle fatigue will do more harm than good for a young athlete
Young players should be aware of the symptoms of over-training so that they get to know the limits of their own bodies. Some of the symptoms include:
Persistent Fatigue – increased tiredness, being lethargic, poor concentration
Muscle injuries – Recurring muscle injuries is an indication of over-training due to a lack of recovery time. The body is unable to deal with the constant demands being placed upon it
Irritability – Irritable moods can be a tell-tale symptom of over-training
Loss of appetite – Overtraining can lead to a loss of appetite and a lack of adequate nutrition can have knock-on effects in terms of performance levels and general health
With our best young athletes being pulled in several directions amongst competing interests, the responsibility for managing training loads falls on them. Monitoring can assist with this and it can be as simple as keeping a journal of all training activities that can be shared with all their coaches or as sophisticated as an athlete monitoring system, like Metrifit, where data can be entered on a daily basis by the young player in order to accurately calculate training loads and illustrate the Readiness of the athlete to train.
Taking responsibility for managing training loads can be a key factor in the success of athletes to fully maximize their training time and protect their greatest athletic asset – their bodies!
Player Tips: Be aware of the symptoms of over-training. Maintain a training log to understand how much you are doing and adequate rest and recovery into your training cycle
Coaches Tips: Gain an understanding of the other athletic commitments of your players. This will assist you to plan the frequency, intensity and duration of your sessions in order to optimize performance of your group
Coaches Tips: Encourage your child to maintain a training log and share this information with all their coaches, if they are multi-sport or playing on multiple teams. Keep an eye out for over-training symptoms in your child