Ask the expertYouth strength and conditioning

Ask the Expert – Dr Craig Harrison (The Athlete Development Show)

In the latest “Ask the Expert” interview, I was lucky enough to get in contact with Dr Craig Harrison, host of “The Athlete Development Show“, a free podcast on all things youth athletic development. If you haven’t had a listen yet, I’d definitely recommend it!

  1. Give us a bit of background on yourself… (sporting career, qualifications, coaching experience) 

I started out as a sports scientist – fairly black and white in my approach. But over time I’ve become fascinated much more with human potential, and how it relates to youth sport. I’ve done sport my whole life, spent nearly 10 years studying it, and now spend most of my time setting up programmes to develop the physical and mental sides of it.

  1. What has been your biggest influence in your practice?

I’m influenced hugely by the environments that the coaches and athletes I work with operate in. What works. What doesn’t. And why. I’m on a mission to close the gap between what science knows and what we typically do in youth sport, so I’m constantly reading, researching and seeking out people inside and outside of our industry who I can learn from. 

  1. What is your particular area of interest in sport? 

Right now I spend most of my time designing youth training environments. I like puzzles. I like the challenge of identifying the right pieces to put in place at the start, growing each piece individually, and working out the best way to get them humming along together to achieve a specific objective.  

  1. How do you think this particular area applies to youth athletes? 

It’s easy to work in silos. To think, my piece is more important than yours. But to do so is ignorant. Youth athletes live in an extremely dynamic world, physcially and emotionally, where every piece of their puzzle can have a powerful effect on the next. Nothing is ever linear in it’s development and we must spend time understanding and accounting for this.   

  1. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received as an athlete or coach?

It came from Rhodri Lloyd, who I met for the first time in person earlier this year. He said, “coach what you see”. Simple huh. It struck a chord with me for two reasons. First, I believe great coaches are intuitive. But intuition only comes from combining information with application. So you need a lot of practice doing it and reflecting on you efforts. And second, it develops your eye for movement, which is critical when working with youth athletes. 

  1. What advice would you give to coaches working with youth athletes? 

Don’t think, how do I build a champion? Think, how do I get my athletes interested in something they can do all of their life?

  1. Can you recommend any particular resources for personal development?

I really enjoyed the audio book “Mindwise”: How we understand what others think, believe, feel and, want”. 

  1. Where can people find out more about you and your work?

I’m @drcraigharrison on the Twitter. I blog on Athletic Development and run a podcast at The Athlete Development Show.
Are you a grassroots youth sport coach or PE teacher who wants to improve the athleticism of your athletes?? Check out our Fundamental series athletic development programs here.

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