Blog: Does winning matter?

Category: Sport

Does winning matter? Creating a long-term athlete development plan at Marlborough College

As coaches, education is of top priority for both the pupils, staff and ourselves. To further this, continual professional development is a constant topic within the Athletic Development department. To expand our knowledge and also those in the PE department, we regularly pick a current research journal to analyse and discuss whether it can inform our practise here at Marlborough College. With the last blog post and recent journal article both focusing on the importance of long term athlete development (LTAD), it is an ideal culmination for this week’s blog post.

The opening paragraph from “Quadrennial Planning for the High School Athlete” by Professor Ian Jefferys in the journal from The National Strength and Conditioning Association states:

“Many high school programs take a short-term approach to planning, emphasising competitive performance rather than athlete development. While facilitating performance in the short term, this approach can ultimately limit the full potential of the athlete. Quadrennial planning allows for long-term planning to be instigated, which focuses on allowing athletes to reach their full potential and ultimately results in higher and more stable levels of performance.”

Quadrennial planning is viewed as a four-year plan which highlights the need for a structured long-term and succinct approach to physical development.

One of the key areas highlighted is the high emphasis placed on winning by both students and coaches. Whilst this is a major goal at the later stages of development, at the early stages this short-term approach to training and performance can be detrimental to the overall optimal development of the athlete. Focusing on winning in the younger age groups can lead to overuse injuries and burnout, which is associated with early sport specialisation. Shifting the focus from the importance of winning to a developmental long-term approach is key to a student’s progress and ultimately fulfilling their athletic potential. This is also important within strength and conditioning, as training is traditionally looked at yearly and broken down from there.

In the Marlborough College Youth Athletic Development Plan (YADP), the early stages of Athletic Foundation and Athletic Development emphasise a focus on a developmental attitude across mental, physical and academic qualities. With this focus on development, ownership on decision making and lifestyle is another key attribute for the younger students. As the pupil’s progress through the five years at Marlborough College it is our aim that in the fourth year of the plan (Lower Sixth), that students in sporting teams are ready to excel as athletes and pupils, placing less emphasis on Upper Sixth pupils during an important time academically.

Each tier of the YADP (as seen in the diagram) lays the foundation for the next year of the programme with seven aims in each. The aims revolve around:

1) Personal development & mind-set
2) Decision making & lifestyle
3) Fundamental movement skills
4) Mobility & stability
5) Strength
6) Injury reduction
7) Energy systems development.  

We believe with this long-term approach pupils are given the optimal pathway to build key skills for both a healthy lifestyle and athletic performance while they are at Marlborough College and importantly the rest of their lives.

Joshua Wall
Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach
Twitter: @MCol_Sport

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