Blog: Youth Athletic Development

To add to the excitement of their first weeks at Marlborough College, the Shell year group have embarked on their athletic development pathway with the Strength and Conditioning team.

This began with an induction to the outstanding facilities available for use by all, whereby safe handling of equipment was underlined. Following this, students took part in the first of a series of fundamental movement classes. The opening component of the session focused on effective spinal control when exercising followed by the optimal bracing and squatting patterns. Bracing and squatting form part of the fundamental movement skills outlined in the diagram, these make up day to day and sporting movements.

Why is movement at the centre of our philosophy? 

Learning the key movement patterns allows the individual to move with greater efficiency and effectiveness, which can benefit performance and boost confidence. Moreover, improved movement competency allows the person to produce and absorb greater amounts of force, which is crucial for injury prevention.

The Science – ‘Use it or Lose it’

During pre- and early adolescence, the brain is maturing rapidly causing it to be highly adaptive to training (adolescence is roughly 12 to 18 years in girls and 14 to 18 years in boys). This poses an excellent opportunity to develop the fundamental movement skills and muscular strength. As the brain grows, it will reinforce neural pathways that are utilised and prune those that are underutilised (up to 50% of the neurons do not survive the transition to adulthood!) [1]. When these pathways are pruned, the ability to learn a different movement becomes harder and more time consuming, making new activities more demanding, increasing injury risk and possibly decreasing motivation to engage in physical activity. Incorporating a variety of movements into training also avoids tedium, whilst assisting the brains development and potentially improving the individual’s academic performance [1]!

Physical Analysis

The Shell and returning Remove students are currently being put through their paces in the physical analysis testing battery, designed to identify core components of strength, speed, power and endurance. Analysis allows us to identify strengths and weaknesses, with the aim of turning the weaknesses into strengths for improved performance and reduced injury risk. As well as this, results can help to identify what stage of maturation an individual is in. For example, if a student’s results drop significantly, it could indicate that they are experiencing ‘adolescent awkwardness’. This can occur following a growth spurt, where the neuromuscular system and soft tissue structures are catching up with rapid bone growth. It is a temporary phase and does not happen to everyone, but monitoring changes can support informed training prescription to aid performance, general well-being and injury prevention.

Next week the students will be learning how to perform and accurately replicate sprinting technique. The Strength and Conditioning team are looking forward to seeing how the students’ progress through the Marlborough College Youth Athletic Development framework!

James Davies
Lead Strength and Conditioning Coach

Ruth Taylor and Joshua Wall
Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coaches

References: 1. Myer, G.D., Faigenbaum, A.D., Edwards, N.M., Clark, J.F., Best, T.M. and Sallis, R.E., 2015. Sixty minutes of what? A developing brain perspective for activating children with an integrative exercise approach. Br J Sports Med, 49(23), pp.1510-1516.

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