Wednesday, March 21, 2007

JT's Blog - A Window of Opportunity - March 21

JT's Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. John Thomas "JT" is the Assistant Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.

A Window of Opportunity, Optimal Trainability

After this past weekend’s ODP National Championship and our Coaches Connection Symposium, I went back to read Optional Training, by Istvan Balyi, Ph.D., National Coaching Institute British Columbia, Canada, and Ann Hamilton, MPE Advanced Training and Performance Ltd. Victoria, B.C., Canada.

Scientific research has concluded that it takes eight to 12 years of training for a talented player/athlete to reach elite levels. This is called the 10 year or 10,000 hour rule, which translates to slightly more than three hours of practice daily for ten years (Ericsson, et al., 1993; Ericsson and Charness, 1994, Bloom, 1985; Salmela et al., 1998).

Unfortunately, parents and coaches in many sports still approach training with an attitude best characterized as "peaking by Friday", where a short-term approach is taken to training and performance with an over-emphasis on immediate results. We now know that a long-term commitment to practice and training is required to produce elite players/athletes in all sports.A specific and well-planned practice, training, competition and recovery regime will ensure optimum development throughout an athlete’s career.

Ultimately, sustained success comes from training and performing well over the long-term rather than winning in the short-term. There is no short-cut to success in athletic preparation. Overemphasizing competition in the early phases of training will always cause shortcomings in athletic abilities later in an athlete’s career.This article discusses trainability during childhood and adolescence.

Coaches worldwide currently design long- and short-term athlete training models, as well as competition and recovery programs based on their athletes’ chronological age. Yet, research has shown that chronological age is not a good indicator on which to base athlete development models for athletes between the ages of 10 to 16. There is a wide variation in the physical, cognitive and emotional development of athletes within this age group.

Superimposing a scaled down version of adult athlete training and competition models is not a good alternative either. Ideally, coaches would be able to determine the biological age of their athletes and use this information as the foundation for athlete development models.

Unfortunately, there is no reliable procedure to identify biological age non-invasively. So what can be done to remedy this situation?

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