During the summer, I delivered a series of workshops and seminars on Long Term Athlete Development and I had much interest from delegates asking where they could find suggestions on individual training parameters dependant on maturation. As I said in the workshops – Peak Height Velocity (PHV) is the best correlation to windows of trainability and these notes (below) should be used as a guideline only.
Aligned to Balyi’s (2004) research, it is vital to ensure children are trained in the right way at the correct age. Balyi suggests the following:
1st Speed window (F = 6-8, M = 7-9)
Learning to Train
Peak Motor coordination (F = 11, M = 12)
Training to Train
2nd Speed window (F = 12-13, M = 13-15)
»Peak Height Velocity (F = 12-13, M = 13-15)
»1st Strength Window for females at the end of PHV
Training to Compete
Peak strength development (M = 16-20) – 12 months AFTER PHV.
»2nd Strength Window for females at onset of menarche.
With this in mind and many coaches adopting the pathway of development there are some elements to take into consideration. Firstly, each window is for optimal development and should not be completed alone. During the Train to Train phase, many athletes loose coordination due to their peak height velocity. It is essential to ensure motor coordination is maintained and developed in this phase. Just because it is not a peak factor does not render the development redundant – in fact, it is often equally important. Secondly, flexibility development is essential for all sports and must be developed at each stage. Importantly, flexibility benefits are high during the FUNdamental stages and should be completed alongside any form of strength training.
There is much debate around the stage where Psychological preparations should start. There is no definite chronological or biological age but would look further back than the FUNdamental stage. It is straightforward to see the sociological impact a child has and the way they learn new skills, behave and are confident in their abilities. I would suggest that like language, there is a critical development age where psychological preparations occur and like biological development, there is a peak velocity.
Nelson (2005) suggests that the optimal age for psychological development occurs during adolescence, where sociological development is at it highest. Furthermore, there has been a link with the exposure of children to adult environments and the quicker the development of children.
In conclusion, doing the right thing at the right age is important to the overall development of the child. There are researched recommendations but will all research, please ensure an individualised approach is adopted to optimise any windows of development.