Today's post is about how to train/practice for kids during the training to train stage of the LTAD. This is for boys from ages 12-16 and girls 11-15. This is typically the age groups I deal with and find it rewarding and not without its challenges. Today I'm going to discuss some of the challenges and my thought about squash training for kids this age.
I should start by saying the LTAD is approximate and isn't always spot on for everyone. It's a guideline for coaches, parents, and athletes. Is there a reasons people can't train to compete and to win during the train to train stage? Isn't that what most are trying to do? Those that are successful at this stage are most likely to be successful as they get older and are in the training to compete stage. Anyways, that's not the point of today's post so I digress.
I find the toughest challenge about group training for this stage the amount of non-squash training to do. I would say off court, but we do most of our training on court. I use a variety of circuit training, on court fitness testing, and ghosting. Obviously fitness is an important part of squash. How much of this training is too much? In this stage of the LTAD the kids are just learning how to train, why to train, how much to train, and so on. I believe this is where it's important to help train a variety of fitness compartments and ideally prepare them for training to compete when they are in grade 12 or get to university. This is where I feel that I have a duty to not only prepare them for their competitions during the season, but for a future where they continue to work on their fitness along with their squash game.
If people are aspiring to do well provincially and nationally doing some non-squash training is essential. Could you do excel with just playing squash? Probably, but I think just playing squash we won't target certain muscle groups and it can be difficult to improve our court movement. This is also where training years comes into place. You can only get so much stronger, faster, or fitter within a year. It's the annual build up of training years that allows you to gradually become stronger, faster, and fitter.
The challenge I have is with some kids wanting to put in the effort on a daily basis for the long term results. Another challenge is that squash should be fun at this age. If it's too hard and they aren't enjoying it at all they are likely to quit if they're not having any success or at some point during their life. I want these kids not only to do well now, but to play for life and enjoy the game. It's this enjoyment of the game, working hard, achieving goals, being motivated and driven that makes hard physical training enjoyable. At some point most people actually enjoy working out and going to the gym and the feeling of improving their fitness and squash game. It's a great feeling if you're physically prepared going into a tournament. Win or lose you know you did everything within your power to prepare yourself to the best of your ability. If you can say that then you should be able to live with the results.
During every stage of the LTAD we should be learning how to play the game smarter. During the training to train stage some of the kids are still working on their technical skills, while others are working more on advanced skills such as volley drops, shortening their swings, or deception. Finding a balance between doing all of this and getting them fitter is always a challenge. Do you worry only that everyone has as much fun as possible? Or that everyone learns as much as possible? Or that you prepare each athlete physically as well as possible and as a result risk having a couple of people drop out? This depends on the group.
What I want to accomplish is first and foremost make sure the kids love squash and are motivate to improve. Once they get to this stage they will be more willing to push themselves and do off court or non-squash training. Their are many benefits of training a group or team, but also other challenges. If one person doesn't work as hard or goofs around they can bring the rest of the group down. They can also do the opposite and pick one another up.
When kids are first getting into squash they do so just for the fun and pure enjoyment. Hopefully they continue to enjoy it and as they begin to have a bit of success they are learning the reasons for training and why it's important. Ideally they will get to university and be ready and prepared to train with their team on a daily basis and enjoy this. I find it very satisfying to get fitter, stronger, and faster. It really elevates your game. But it's a slow transition getting a teenager to this stage.
If you only have limited time with a group the best thing to do is on court training. You can come up with drills and condition games that work on both fitness, movement, tactical and technical development. I like trying to train a few different traits at once, but understand the importance of off court training. Nobody really enjoys court sprints or suicide sprints (there should be a better name for it than that!), but it is extremely satisfying after you've done them and given it all you had.
What are your thoughts on training kids at this level of the LTAD? If you are this age how much or what type of off court training do you do?
For someone in the training to train stage of the LTAD (11-16 years of age) which of the following would you categorize as most to least important? Fun and enjoyment. Skill and technical development. Tactical development. Physical fitness development. Psychological growth and development. Winning and results in competition.
Ideally we'd like to have them all and they are all important, but we often can't focus on all of them equally. What type of balance do you think is important for the long term development and enjoyment and success of the athletes at this age group?