Sport scientists believe that athletes who, as children and youths, experience well organised and systematic training programmes usually accomplish the best performance. Adopting developmental approach and dividing training into systematic phases of development, may produce healthier, outstanding, highly successful athletes.
These systematic phases include:
- The initiation phase
- Athletic formation
Each phase is categorised chronologically (by age), with athletes progressing as they get older. It may be beneficial to use individual discression however, as athletes develop and mature at different rates.
By considering criterion for progression through the phases as; biological development, learning ability and skill acquisition, development may be enhanced further. The phases should perhaps act as rough guidelines and often strict adherence may impede athletic development.
The tasks and learning challenges prescribed for each phase are considered appropriate for athletes of a given age. Athletes should gain a competence in these areas before their training progresses to the following phase of development.
The initiation phase 6-10 years old (as a guide!)
This phase develops FUNdamental movement skills and introduces early experiences of learning to train:
- Emphasis is on fun not winning
- Wide variety of training, running, jumping, throwing, gymnastics etc.
- Low intensity programmes
- Develop flexibility, coordination and balance
- Teaching period, the importance of technique is highlighted
- Simplify/ modify games and rules
- Drills are basic and active participation is encouraged
Athletic formation 11-14 years old (as a guide!)
This phase incorporates the tasks and challenges of training to train, characterised by:
- Moderate, gradual increase of intensity
- Progressive increase of volume
- Sport specific exercises and exercises from other sports included
- Drills introduce fundamental tactics and strategy
- Athletes refine and automat skills learned in the initiation phase
- Improve flexibility, coordination, balance and basic athletic abilities
- Ethics and fair play introduced
- Provide participation at a challenging level
- Develop general strength
- Core strength important-technique mastery is key
- Improve concentration through the implementation of more complex drills
- Fun and social aspect very important
- Develop aerobic capacity and introduce moderate anaerobic training
Specialisation 15-18 (again, a guide!)
Athletes at this phase train to compete and train to win. This phase requires:
- Close monitoring of athletes to prevent overtraining, injury and burnout
- Dominant abilities for the sport should be assessed and recorded, i.e. power, speed etc.
- Increased training volume of specific drills
- Increased training intensity
- Training simulating competition
- Athletes to be involved in decision making process
- Varied activity to remain important (different games/sports)
- Strength development reflecting needs of sport, i.e. functional training
- Aerobic capacity a priority
- Increases in intensity and volume of anaerobic training
- Increase in volume of competition
- Mental training important
- Technique and skill mastery/perfection important
- Tactics and technical aspects of sport become more important