Coaching Resource for Developing Athletes

How to develop a young star athlete into an Adult superstar.
by Steve Bennett

There are many very talented young athletes out there. Some are capable of incredible performances. eg Girls age 9 that can run 14.0s for 100m, Boys age 9 that can run 2:25 in the 800m, Girls age 11 that can 61s for 400m. etc. Some of these athletes are early developers and have an advantage. Some have very rare talents that could indicate huge potential.

Not all successful adult athletes however were talented as youngsters. Their talent appeared late eg a Boy that has gone from being an ordinary 2:15 800m athlete at age 14 to being capable of 1:53 just 18months later.

A good percentage of adult stars (many female) were however showing talent and importantly a love of the sport from an early age. eg Cathy Freeman, Marion Jones, Tegla Loroupe, Catherine Merry .

It is worth considering some of the characteristics/qualities that an Elite Senior Athlete will need:

  1. Love of the Sport - love of the training process, a large friendship group within the sport, supportive family, enjoyment of competition.
  2. to be able to have a body that can withstand the appropriate training and competition stresses. They will need to be biomechanically resilient and will need the psychology to prevent/recognize/treat/rehabilitate injuries.
  3. Technical superiority - they will need this to be able to perform well and also to prevent injuries.
  4. Good Balance in their life - Training/Employment/Education/Family/ etc
  5. General and Specific Conditioning appropriate to the needs of their event. It would have taken Marion Jones many years to develop a body with the musculature to be capable of running 100m in 10.76s.

A Strategy to develop the above qualities.

Young athletes need to have heaps of variety in their training. Many good ideas are the suggested in the pdf file below which was presented at the ATFCA National Congress in 2001.

The physical value of variety is that it creates development in many different areas. The psychological value of variety is that it is much more interesting for the athlete to complete training that is never routine. This is especially valuable in young athletes. Variety means there is also plenty of opportunity for assessment and competition. My younger athletes love competing against their PBs and each other in anything eg Standing Triple Jump, Standing Long Jump etc.

Many young athletes are in situations where participating in the sport is seen as going in lots of "events" during a given competition day or night. I believe this is a common mistake that will lead to a compromize of technical development and is a situation where there is unnecessary risk of injury.

I believe young athletes need to compete in a variety of settings where they are matched on a performance basis not on age. Competing rapidly gets boring when the competitor is far to strong for the opposition. Super talented young athletes often can get sick of the sport or be embarassed into becoming very lazy in their participation by not being matched close enough in competition. In Sydney there are some competitions that are open to everyone and athletes compete in races of similar ability regardless of being boys, girls, veterans,disabled. I think this is ideal and helps young athletes keep their performances in perspective. I think it is imperative that we would not expect kids to compete more than adults.

The Psychological Development of a Champion is something that is not often discussed. I believe athletes need to develop these abilities by living with an attitude of being willing and able to grow from whatever happens to them. Nearly all champions have grown out of tragedy of some kind in their background. Young athletes need to gradually be guided in a way that nurtures their mental toughness. Some athletes love the sport when all is going well but the moment they have a run of bad races they feel like quitting and many actually do quit instead of growing from the challenge. The skills of looking at life with a positive attitude are things that are taught by the combination of wise guidance from family and from good coaching. It is often these things that an athlete will take away from the sport that will be beneficial in every other area of their life.

Young athletes need to be trained to steadily develop their bodies so they are conditioned to have the physical abilities that are required for the event. At the same time they need to be steadily developing skills and optimizing their technical model for their event. (Getting the body and then learning how to use it) Learning tactics by being taught by wise people and also importantly by learning from their mistakes. Improving technique is commonly compromized in favor of people allowing the desire to improve at any cost to cloud the issue of good planning.

Common mistakes that people make with Talented Young athletes are that they train the athletes to improve their performances and do not develop a big enough variety of areas and maintain enough fun.

Fictitious Examples
eg (1)a Talented Cross Country runner just does steady runs and races and does no postural work,strength training,sprinting, hill training etc. The athlete improves heaps by doing 5 x 20min runs a week and a race.... but that is all that is done.....the athlete does more as they get older and improves....but has lots of accumulated technical bad habit and poor speed development as an older junior or Senior.

eg(2) a Sprinter does 2 Track sessions a week where they do 6 x max starts and 6 x maximum effort 40m sprints then they go home and they race twice a week. They play netball also. The problem is also lack of variety, of lack of endurance training and many other things. If the athlete is talented they may win a National Title off this training but if this is all that is done they will be missing out on many other areas of development. Some people will say that the rest can come later , but the problem is that this repetitive training is likely to be training in bad habits that will have to be fixed later.

eg (3) a Talented 400m runner does no training at all just races on Friday night and plays soccer on Wednesday and Sunday. Basketball at school. This regime stays the same from age 11-16.
The athlete performs well but has various injuries to knees and hamstrings at about age 15. At age 16 they run 47.8s and have 11.20 speed but have a very rear side mechanics running action with an extreme bum out position and are assessed with very poor core stability. Also they are very tight and run on their toes with a large forward lean. ......All of this may have been avoided with some good simple technical training from age 11 when they started athletics and a steady development of running specific conditioning. Now because of the lack of this work the coach will need to spend 3 years playing catch up with core strength work. They will also have the more difficult task of getting the athlete to "un-learn" bad technical habits and replace them with better ones. The athlete ofcourse will want to retain or improve on their 47.8 throughout this process!


Oztrack E-books

Training Kids for Speed
Contains the very latest Sprint Training Ideas

Modern methods have been adapted into a comprehensive program that is suitable for use with developing athletes of any age.

Learn to run the modern way displayed by Marion Jones , Maurice Greene and other star sprinters.

More information is HERE

Modern Speed Training.

A comprehensive guide to Advanced Speed Training using the latest methods.

This book is by Adrian Faccioni , a highly regarded speed coach and consultant in Australia.

It contains over 135 A4 pages of text plus images. Available only in E-book format.

I believe this is the best book on Speed Training that is currently available. Steve Bennett

More information is HERE

Maintaining Running Form During Middle Distance Racing

Presents a large range of Modern Training techniques that will improve athletes Running Form and help any athlete maintain more speed in the closing stages of races.

Training to improve "ease of speed" is the missing factor in many training programs.

This e-book will help develop the ability to finish races in the way displayed by the likes of Haile Gebreselassie , Wilson Kipketer,Hicham El Guerrouge and Michael Johnson.

The information applies to all athletes that have to run fast while fatigued ie. 200m to Marathon.

More information is HERE



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