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    Long Term Athletic Development

    Long Term Athletic Development

    WHAT IS LONG-TERM ATHLETIC DEVELOPMENT?

    There are three things that are important by the time young sports people become adults: Strong
    and healthy bodies, high quality movement, and a high level of engagement. Long-term athlete
    development is any pathway or process that promotes these outcomes.

    SPORT AND ATHLETIC DEVELOPMENT ARE NOT THE SAME THING

    We use the term ‘ATHLETE’ because an athlete and a sports person are not necessarily the same
    thing. What does this mean? Its common nowadays to find individuals performing at very high
    levels in multiple sports with unique demands.

    This is possible because there are common resources that the individual may apply in each different
    environment (call them general athletic skills). The general athletic skills are not sporting abilities but
    the resources that sporting skills are made from.

    Let’s use tennis as an example. Tennis movement is quick and multidirectional. The use of the legs
    and arms to control the racquet is also complex and highly specialised. Now imagine two different
    individuals learning to play. One has a high level of body control and moves well, in a general sense,
    while the other is all arms and legs; general movement is weak and their body is poorly coordinated.

    One child has a superior tool box of general skills and would be expected to advance the development
    of their tennis skills more quickly than the other. Athleticism is the ability to build sporting abilities and
    capacities.

    What are the general athletic skills?

    • hopping, jumping, and running skills
    • squatting (2leg) and lunging (1leg) patterns
    • pushing and pulling skills
    • basic manipulation of objects, such as throwing/ passing and catching

    There are also athletic micro-skills that are needed to stabilise the bodies joints and segments during
    movement. Work capacity (specifically aerobic/ cardiovascular fitness) is also a general athletic property.

    Athletic development is not something that happens in a special place or at unique times; it happens
    anytime we do enough quality work. All sporting environments involve a mix of general athletic and
    sports skill conditioning, but sports tend to promote their own needs (i.e. they specialise) which means
    a lot of specific conditioning and less general athletic extension than is ideal.

    This is especially true of endurance and high volume sports.

    There are important considerations when deciding whether a child is receiving the right mix of
    sporting vs general athletic training opportunities:

    MOST IMPORTANT:

    Does the child possess significant faults in basic movements, such as jogging and sprinting, starting
    and stopping? Do they have difficulty stabilising their body or parts of their body? Solutions for
    improving movement (and sport) are found at a level below the target outcome:

    • Highly efficient simple movement is the foundation for quick, powerful complex or sports-specific movement
    • Correct posture underpins all movement (posture and the structural foundation is another important topic)

    Simply repeating a faulty or weak pattern over and over will not change the outcome

    • Children are not small adults:
    • A child’s mind and body is immature and not fully developed. A wide range of training opportunities and experiences are essential to help build a strong body with a broad range of general skills. Early specialisation can impair athletic development
    • Children’s bodies store much less energy and are subject to a much higher relative demand for energy. Variation or scope (of stimulus and environment) is an important mechanism of avoiding overreaching and overtraining
    • Movement or structural faults, characteristic of a developing mind and body, result in injury when the body is overstressed
    • Structural faults (e.g. profoundly weak muscles) can have significant negative effects on the development of general (and specific) movement skills, especially faults impairing joint motion and stability
    • Sporting workloads need to be matched to the individual, and not the other way around. They also need to expand and contract across the year in accordance with additional demand, for example in high growth periods during puberty. The failure to respond appropriately at such times impairs performance and raises the risk of injury.

    SKILL AND EFFICIENT MOVEMENT ARE KING

    Thanks to Jeremy Browne for creating this blog entry for LifeTime on the long term athletic development of an athelete.

    About Jeremy Browne

    Jeremy Browne is a strength and conditioning coach based in Auckland, NZ. He is a specialist in longterm physical and athletic development, and in rehabilitating injuries or conditions that impair movement.

    Web: sportperformance.co.nz

    Brim's Top Tips

    Brim's Top Tips

    There are a number of key outcomes that the modern professional player tries to achieve throughout a match. The most common one now is that he or she has a plus number in the winners and forced errors to unforced errors. Eg Winners 8, forced errors 7, Total 15. Unforced errors 10. Giving a net return + 5 for the set or match.

    This means that far more players are trying to influence a winning play than wait for their opponent to make a mistake. This is also true at a state and national junior level and if we wish to achieve a higher standard of tennis and improved results we have to follow those same rules.

    With this I want to reiterate a few key things we discuss in training:

    1. Get your patterns of play / point processes and structure right. Have a plan and play to your strengths. Create space in the court and have the courage to hit the open court.
    2. There are a couple of phrases we use often in training – “Play to win”, “Play your game”, “Play with courage”.

    A quote I recently heard, which I like a lot is - “Don’t make an error trying not to make an error”.

    The best athletes in the world are there because they take educated risks and back themselves. These types of guys are in every sport and often sit at the top of their chosen sport.

    In a tennis sense, when are the best times to take educated risks. It’s obvious, when you have the most amount of time and you have the most amount of control. There are 3 simple situations where this occurs.

    1. Your 1st serve. You have control of the ball and your court position.
    2. Your opponents 2nd Serve. It must be short. It is generally soft and you can hit it from well inside the baseline.
    3. Short groundstrokes and volleys. The ball is slow you are inside the baseline and have a large amount of court to hit the ball in.

    The above situations are the best times to be more aggressive.

    Physical Development of a tennis player

    Physical Development of a tennis player

    Without a doubt tennis is becoming an increasingly physical sport.  There are few sports that require its elite athletes to excel across so many physical domains – speed, power, agility, aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance strength and stability.  A weak link in any of these capabilities in such an internationally competitive sport can mean the difference between breaking through to a professional career and not.

    One of the challenges in developing athletes capable of progressing into the upper echelons of professional tennis is successfully developing these physical capabilities at the same time as developing technique, skill, tactical prowess, mental toughness and competitiveness.  

    It can be really tough for everyone involved knowing when and where to start, and how to build a program over the developing years.  Keeping in mind you don’t won’t to burn kids out and you still want to give them time away from tennis to develop as a person.

    After being involved with tennis players now for two decades as a Coach, Physiotherapist and Strength and Conditioning Coach, I have developed an approach that can be applied to all athletes successfully.

    I break tennis physical development into 5 categories.  These categories I use to structure sessions. Keeping in mind no one aspect of physical development is mutually exclusive from the other.

    • Body Management Program – Done in the gym or at home
    • Strength and Power – Done in the gym
    • SAM – Speed, Agility and Movement – Done  on-court or a big open space
    • Conditioning – Combination of on-court and off-court
    • Recover – Done at home, gym, at courts

    I always start with the Body Management Program.  This is developed after performing a musculoskeletal screening which covers flexibility, stability, past and current injuries as well as other regular weak or tight points.

    We develop the Body Management Program from this information.  This is a personalised program that is specific to very important areas for all tennis players.  We use a smartphone/tablet application to deliver the program that consists of self-massage/rolling, trigger pointing, stretching, muscle activation, core stability, scapula control and rotator cuff exercises and basic strength exercises.  The application provides videos, images, descriptions and sets and reps to help with technique compliance.  This Body Management Program can be updated with athlete progress approximately every 8 weeks.

    The Body Management Program is a great place to start as it introduces young athletes to how they need to begin looking after their body as well as it being very important to preventing injury as their training loads increase.

    In our next blog, we delve into how to add the other 4 categories of physical training to an overall program…. Stay tuned.

    Written by Sean Fyfe

    Sean Fyfe is a tennis specialist Physiotherapist and Strength and Conditioning Coach based in Toowong, Brisbane – www.performancepfs.com - (07) 38701861, 0402745614, sfyfe@performancepfs.com

    Who is in your Team and what do they do?

    Who is in your Team and what do they do?

    Being a performance tennis player is so much more than hitting tennis balls. It is extremely important that you have a team of professionals working together to increase the chances of success. The understanding of what each of these professionals brings to the table and how this works in the overall big picture is fundamental.

    Who is your team:

    • Tennis Manager (normally your tennis coach)
    • Tennis coach
    • Physio/Chiro/Osteo
    • Fitness trainer
    • Nutrionist
    • Sport Massage Therapist
    • Sports Psychologist

    I’m going to briefly list out a quick description of what each of these professionals will do. Please be aware that there is probably a few things I miss out but I hope you get the idea.

    Tennis Manager

    This role is normally done by the coach and involves planning a weekly load and yearly training plan as well tournament planning/ budgeting/tracks goals and coordinates the team to maximise improvement.

    Tennis Coach

    Controls the environment/culture of squads to get best outcome/continues technical development so the player continually grows into there swings. Relays physical issues to fitness trainer weather is be speed/strength or general injury.

    Physio/Chiro/Osteo

    These professionals will be able to do what’s called a muscular skeletal assessment from head to toe to check on any imbalances. This is especially important as the children start to grow as they will have imbalances and the information collated from this will be sent to the fitness trainer who will then start to work on the problem areas. I think this should be done at least every 6 months for a performance player and even every 3 months if your child is going through a growth spurt.

    Fitness Trainer

    The fitness trainer is so important as they will communicate with the Physio/Chiro/Osteo with any injuries or muscle imbalances and start to work on fixing them. They will also communicate any areas of concern to the tennis coach or how the player is tracking in certain movements. A lot of the things we ask of the kids as a coach are not always possible because they are not strong enough/ flexible enough or are carrying an injury. I call this tennis insurance and I have to be honest it drives me nuts that people don’t value this

    enough. The sooner you get onto this the better. It will not mean that your child won’t get injured but if will mean that they will recover a lot faster and improve a lot faster as well!

    Nutritionist

    This is a simple one for me… Eat crap play crap! I always feel talking about food is like selling religion but it completely blows my mind that amount of crap kids eat especially in a tournament environment and then wonder why they haven’t played well or been able to back up going from one match to another. Common sense is a good start here and getting in touch with a nutritionist especially to discuss what foods are good and timing of eating in relation to when your child is playing/how much to drink and what to drink (WATER!!! Not sugar drinks!).

    Sports Massage Therapist

    I say this as a complete hypocrite but the kids don’t stretch enough or when they do they don’t generally stretch properly. Getting a sports massage especially if they are going through a growth spurt/in a heavy training block or have played a lot of matches is a good way to loosen things up and limit the risk of injury.

    Sport Psychologist

    Giving your child the tools to control their emotions and play at there very best! This is huge! Your performance coach should have a pretty good set of tools to help in this area as there is a lot of trial and error as well as the discipline of the player to implement this when under a match pressure but having a sport psychologist is an amazing link to pull your child’s game together!

    I hope this is helpful, again with all these blogs we are trying to help educate and make this journey an easier one and a successful one. If you have any blogs you would like us to do please let us know as part of these we will be starting to put videos up as well. Thanks for reading and if you found this helpful please share!

    Privates VS Squads

    Privates VS Squads

    Dear Parents and Players,

    Over the past year there has been a significant spike in parents and players wanting more and more private lessons and after talking to parents and players about their reason I want to dispel a lot of the myths that surround an increased dependence that seems attached to having a “Private Coach”.

    The first part of all this is that a private coach is necessary in terms of setting the scene for what players should be doing over the rest of the week or short term. There should be a discussion and work done on the areas of a player’s game that they should be working on over the next few days/ weeks. This “Private Lesson” should be as much a goal setting session as it is an on court session and in fact if the coach didn’t hit a ball or stood on the court the value should be no less.

    In that lies the problem. Some players and parents are not willing to take responsibility in their own development and work on areas of their games in the other times they are on court. This means that the only time a player is likely to improve is when a coach is on court with them. If a player is unable to work and improve independently it is unlikely they will ascend to a very high level of the game and at times when things get a little harder to improve ( which happens to every player) they are likely to take the easy option and give up. They have not invested in their own development. Here’s a phrase I used to use a lot when I was working with TA and its various subsidiaries.

    AS A PLAYER YOU MUST BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPATANT IN YOUR OWN DEVELOPMENT.

    Meaning that Players who want to be successful and play at a high standard have to be significantly more invested in their development than what a coach or parent is.

    Here’s some simple tests. Ask yourself the following.

    When was the last time my child asked me to:

    1. Get to training early so he / she could warm up and prepare before going on court.
    2. Asked if they could go to the courts and hit some serves.
    3. Rang another player and asked for a hit.
    4. Organised some practice sets.
    5. Did extra physical work at home. Stretching / running / movement / strength
    6. Watched tennis matches on TV
    7. Stayed behind after losing in a tournament to “Watch” more matches.
    8. Wrote down or did an evaluation of their tennis goals

    Now ask yourself where the motivation is?

    If it is not with the player there is only 2 other possible motivations. Either the parent or the coach. It should be neither.

    THIS NEEDS TO BE PLAYER DRIVEN.

    Here’s a few other attitudes to be aware of.

    Does your child ever come off from training:

    1. Down in the dumps, whinging, sooking, looking for attention because they have lost or not played well.
    2. Do you or your child put more importance on performance or on results?
    3. Do you or your child place the blame for a loss on opponent, coach, parent or other outside factors for that outcome?
    4. Are you or your child more focused on who they are playing or training against than performance?
    5. Does your child train / play unconditionally no matter what else may be going on outside of tennis or do you / they make excuses for their performance?
    6. Does your child ask you not to watch their matches?
    7. How often do you or your child cancel a tennis session for an extra - curricular school activity?
    8. As a parent do I send my child off to a coach or squad because the person or players in the squad motivate him or her?
    9. Does my child motivate the other players he or she is training with?

    Ask your child 1 simple question. WHO DO YOU REALLY PLAY FOR? Be careful parents the answer may be a bit of a surprise. If the answer is themselves, does their actions meet their answer.

    I’ve been coaching for 30 years and have working with a world number 1 and various other top 10, grand slam, Davis and Fed cup players and managed / coached a Junior Davis Cup Championship Team. As time goes by more and more tennis parents and players are turning to the coaches to perform some kind of magic on their tennis careers.

    From my experience you are all looking in the wrong place. Players need to take a look in the mirror. As that is where the magic is. It lies within and what you as a player is prepared to do.

    If you think private lessons are the most important part of your players program you are facilitating the very attitude that that gives your child less chance and not more of being successful in this game.

    The squad lessons need to be the single most important sessions each player participates in throughout a week. They offer an opportunity to work on so much of what tennis is really all about. However, often parents and players prefer to miss squads in preference of privates. This attitude feeds the beast that will prevent the most important learning opportunities being, accountability and ownership of their own development.

    If players would like to be success at this game from the age of 12 they will need to be on court for the majority 5 - 6 days a week.

    A balanced on court program will include all of the below.

    1. 1 Private lesson per week (preferable bi weekly) and doesn’t have to be hitting.
    2. 3 Squad sessions per week.
    3. 1 - 2 hitting session per week. – with a player of a similar standard
    4. 1 - 2 set play match play session per week – with a player of a similar standard

    These sessions that are self - directed and offer self - ownership are the sessions that players need the most. Develop independence and ownership in your players.

    Parents stay out of it, do not get involved in those sessions. They are not your training sessions.

    The first part of this is to understand where the feeling or need for private lessons are driven from. After speaking to a number of parents and coaches these seem to be the main points.

    From a parents perspective the following were common messages:

    1. There seems to be the desire to receive personal tuition and more focused lesson with the players
    2. The players received more technical attention.

    From a coaches point of view:

    1. Coaches generally love private lessons because it fills up more on court time.
    2. To get over a technical hurdle that a player is struggling with
    3. Set the scene with players for the rest of the week

    Think about this, if private lessons are so important why is it that the Tennis Australia National Academy programs consist almost entirely of squad lessons and they generally farm the private lessons back to the private enterprise coaches. If private lessons were so important why would they not want to do them themselves.

    Over the past 30 years in the industry I can’t think back of a single successful player that I have worked with or seen working that has had a big focus on private lessons.

    • 5 years at Tennis QLD and barely conducted a one on one lesson, all squads.
    • 3 Years as AIS men’s coach and barely conducted a private lesson.
    • 2 Years as NSWIS and TNSW Head coach and didn’t do a private lesson.

    These programs have all produced world class tennis players and yet private lessons were an absolute rarity.

    Our best players for as long back as I can think did very little one on one lessons with a coach. However the players who have been successful have been those who have been able to put the time in on court throughout their developing years.

    Parents I urge you to change your mind set in this space and look to balance out your child’s on court program. 

    Now the challenge is to get the children to be accountable by focussing on the things they are being asking to work on by the coach while they are not with a coach. When they start to do this then you may start to see where the magic really is.

    From my point of view there are a range of benefits that squad session can give that private lessons do not.

    1. The simple volume of work players can get in squad.
    2. Players can and should be working on their technic at all times which should be reinforced by the coaches in squads.
    3. Players get the opportunity to work on more tactical outcomes which drive the technic they use.
    4. Players generally have to be more aware (and are aligned to the match play) of the decision making process and the way in which they cope with different situations.
    5. There are much more live ball activities teaching a greater variety of options and choices available.
    6. There is in most cases more movement and physical activities involved in squad sessions.
    7. There is much more Serve and ROS activities involved in squads again creating a more realistic outcome.

    When you ask your coach to do more sessions and he says you are better off doing more squads and more hitting, set play or serves and ROS he is really someone who cares about you. The coach that says let’s do a private lesson or another private lesson is probably someone who cares more about himself.

    We get a heck of a lot of people coming along talking about wanting their kids to become better tennis players. I can understand them pulling out if they are sick or injured however the majority of our squad cancellations are now other extra - curricular activities that have nothing to do with tennis.

    The frustration for us is that the attitude is that we want you to make our kids better but they don’t want to make a commitment to that. They want to pick and choose and do a portion of the work required and still get a great outcome. I’m here to say parents that is not going to happen.

    Have a think about it from this perspective. Why do kids go to school 5 days a week 38 - 40 weeks of the year and 12 years to develop the skills required for university or to go into the workforce?  Why do you think it is ok to look at tennis any different?

    The MAGIC is in the dedication and discipline. They are the 2 most important personal qualities required to be successful. By the time your child is playing at a top 20 level in his or her age group in the state everyone playing at this level has talent. Talent WILL NOT be enough. What is going to give your child a COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE from this point forward. I don’t think it exists in more private lessons. What do you think?