So this Blog post is loosely related to my random thinking and thoughts after watching a Webinar on the Human Kinetics Website on Athlete Development Models by Dr. Matthew Robinson. My advice is if you really want to learn about this stuff actually listen to the thing itself, my brain has no doubt bastardised the whole concept in order for my simplistic brain to cope. If anything I hope it takes the ideas and messages and relates them to the coach and more specifically the Strength and Conditioning Coach (or whatever you want to call yourself, athlete development specialist, athletic engineer, King, God...)
Basically the concept around athlete development from this guy’s point of view revolves around the LTAD Model originating from the work of Balyi. Without getting in to this topic too much (this is a whole paper by itself! FYI I am more an Ericcson and Côté man these days.) the concept is based around organising training and sports into manageable blocks that are age and development specific. Nothing new there and is an excellent way to organise sport in order to develop youth according to their level of maturation etc.
One of the interesting discussions was however around how the coaches who are in the sports or organisations look upon themselves in order to develop. The idea is quoted to be more “European” in concept but I couldn’t say this for sure. The idea being that all coaches are equal, no matter what age group you work in, to progress in your sport/career the idea is not to develop up through the age groups but to progress in seniority within age groups. Typically the U13 coach is seen as junior to the U15 coach, who is junior to the U21 coach and so on. To make all levels equal – within a professional structure, the sports get to keep the best coaches interacting with the junior players, arguably where they are needed the most. In my opinion this would be the ideal model from a development model, however this would mean more $ at the lower end and a higher coaching standard, from what I see there are not enough good coaches in the world, never mind one country to handle this.
Emanating from this was the idea of rewarding the sports clubs who started/developed the Olympians, World Champions, National team members etc. when they were young. It doesn’t matter if the players end up moving away to pursue professional careers, the added value for the small clubs is that they are rewarded for putting in place great foundations for that athlete to achieve success. I think this is an awesome idea and would see the fear within youth sport disappear. The fear being the idea that if we do best practice – learn movement skills, provide a multi-sport environment, nurture skill rather than chase the U13 state championships – we end up losing the player to a successful club or even worse lose the player to a different sport! An example being the strength of AFL recruitment in Australia is potentially stopping ARU and NRL and other NSO’s from developing with all their might the players due to the risk of them leaving for the high profile sport and leaving all the money they invested down the toilet. Lets get over it and take pride in having a meaningful impact on the sportsman/sportswoman, and then lets recognise this.
The other main brain wave I got from watching this webinar, was the idea of Zone of Proximal Development. I hadn’t really heard of this before, so apologies for my ignorance. I have read through some stuff relating to this and asked my man in the know with all things education these days – Aaron Holt.
This Zone of Proximal Development comes from Vygotsky and explains the process of learning. Being exposed to a level of complexity in order to learn, not too low or you’ll get bored, or too advanced where you’ll get confused, frustrated and lose motivation. This is a great concept (from as little as I know about it) and when relating to the “art of coaching” or teaching I can truly see the value in having this in your armoury. You know how much I love the idea of deliberate practice if you read my rants regularly and the idea of thoughtful and meaningful practice so this was right up my street. When we programme and coach if the level is too easy, athlete doesn’t progress and gets bored. If the intensity is too high then we break the little darlings! Now I am not trying to teach my granny how to suck eggs here, but if I was delivering a coach education workshop tomorrow I sure as hell would be introducing this concept to all and sundry! Add to this the idea of earning the right to progress, progressive overload, technique perfection, structural robustness and you have yourself a tidy little module on the theory of coaching athleticism.
The rest of my notes from this are far too random to put into some coherent form but I hope this has given you something to think about.
I would like to apologise to the pedagogy experts out there for my butchering of some basic concepts for you guys but me simple :-). And I did manage to watch this damn thing at 3am in the morning!!
As usual, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the issues I have discussed here.