By Ed Stiles on May 27, 2020.
Emerging athletes are in a tough spot in these unprecedented times. Not only have their entire social, academic, and home lives been turned upside down but the world of amateur sport is also in complete lockdown.
Young people whose lives revolved around the socialization, camaraderie, joy of movement, training and competition are faced with the simple question: now what?
Well, one benefit of this pandemic is we are just a couple clicks away from connecting to athletes of all levels around the world. I did just that and have some ideas from a conditioning coaches’ perspective.
Health first. Avoid becoming a statistic by adhering to COVID guidelines for hygiene, social distancing and avoiding situations that put you at high risk. You don’t want this thing!
Speaking of health, please understand how intimately tied it is to your sleep and eating patterns. Teens are at a crucial phase of growth and development. Getting 8-10 hours of shut-eye and making intelligent choices about nutrient intake has a monumental impact on developing minds and bodies.
Speaking of growth and development, teens pass through many ‘trainability windows’ and ‘critical periods’ where they are more receptive to learning and refining new skills or fitness parameters. Which is why it is so important to not sink too deeply into the sofa; instead build routines into your life that embrace the following movement areas.
The global motor patterns involved in walking, running, doing stairs or going for a bike ride should never be discounted, but are more important now than ever as they are easily accessible for most.
Work on the ABC’s: agility, balance, and coordination are a foundation for many sport skills.
Ideas for agility drills that you can set up in the back yard with limited equipment abound on the web; T drills, box drills, and shuttle runs come to mind. Simple balance challenges from standing on one leg to using a balance board can happen throughout the day. Improving coordination can also be fun: juggling, hacky sack, playing catch, badminton are all good.
Practice skills: One of the biggest missing links in athlete development is the concept of investing time and energy to refine individual skills. Where possible work on ball or puck control, refine that sick dangle, three-pointer, off the crossbar shot, starts out of the blocks and more.
Maintain the basic components of fitness: Mix up your cardio with some high intensity, some low, just don’t do the same thing day after day. Strength training without a full gym can be challenging but there are many ways to challenge the entire system with body weight, makeshift weights, or shovel a couple yards of sand and find muscles you never knew you had. As always mobility and flexibility need to be emphasized especially those going through the adolescent growth spurt. Do your foam rolls, sticks and stretches, there are lots of on-line yoga and mobility options to give direction and motivation.
Finally this break may provide a great time to step back and remember why. Reconnect with your love of movement, love of sport, what makes heading to the rink, pool, or pitch so awesome? A little down time may help rekindle that passion that sometimes gets lost amidst the turmoil of wins, losses, tough calls, angry fans, injuries, stress and all that other stuff that gets in the way of self-improvement through sport.
Ed Stiles BPE, Certified Exercise Physiologist is a member of the Alberta Sport Development Centre’s Performance Enhancement Team and is the Fitness Coordinator at the Family Leisure Centre he can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at email@example.com.
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