Youth strength and conditioning

Child to Champion 2017 Review and 30% off 2016 videos!!

Child to Champion is a conference focussing on youth athletic development organized by James Baker at Proformance. Unfortunately, this year I was unable to attend, so I have asked Andy Bruce from ACB Coaching to give us a review of the key insights from the 2017 conference.

In addition, thanks to James we are able to offer a 30% discount on access to the videos from the 2016 conference!
In order to take advantage of this offer use the code “YSCG” when purchasing via the “Buy all” link  in the top right corner of the video below!

Thanks again to Andy for a valuable guest post.
When Rob asked me to provide a summary/overview of the conference I honestly wondered as to if this was even possible (and to do it justice). While it has been a little over a week since the conference, so abundant was the content that is has probably taken this long to start to work through the ideas presented.
Despite this, I hope that the following will provide some food for thought. Everyone will take away different ideas relevant to their context and so the following can ultimately only serve to reflect the conference from my perspective. With that in mind, I’ve decided to coggle the key ideas of the conference for general perusal (If any of the speakers or attendees notice any glaring errors or genuine misinterpretations, please do let me know and I can correct).
The following article serves more as a summary of some particularly salient points and questions I felt the variety of speakers raised. Please also take the time to browse the storify I made which contains some great tweets from many of the speakers and other attendees at the conference too.
Culture and coaching nuance (soft skills)
The more S&C talks I go to, the more I hear of the importance of the developing and maintaining a strong culture. Its becoming so repetitive in fact that it can almost start to make one’s eyes roll. What is clear however, is that the contribution from cultural/psychological/social factors to the measurable performance outcomes we all seek as S&C coaches cannot be understated. Almost without exception, all of the speakers either directly or indirectly mentioned the importance of culture and what they had done to actively develop it.
This made me think – “Am I doing all that I can to actively develop and maintain an appropriate culture that supports well-being and performance?”
Drilling down one layer further, all of the practical aspects of the conference were particularly useful in bringing to life how these cultures are developed. They are also something that would be great to see in other S&C conferences. We are an applied profession, and being able to observe how other practitioners coach, their phrasing, cueing and body language, offered a huge amount to think about and take home. A particularly simple attention grabber from Shane Fitzgibbon will stick with me for using with youngsters ‘Show me your eyes’.
Not least because many attendees will operate within a school environment and because we deal with human beings first and foremost, the overlap between coaching, pedagogy and psychology was also clear. The talks in this conference have prompted me to look for more transferable skills from parallel domains to apply to the coaching of youth athletes.
As a profession, do we leverage as much of the transferable knowledge from the domains of psychology, coaching and pedagogy as we could or should?
Utilising the available knowledge from other domains is however not without its risk. Each field brings with it its own research based complexities and limitations. Coming from a background in psychology and working in a therapeutic context I often worry about whether S&C coaches might stray from their scope of practice. By all means we should design our interventions with sensitivity to good research and best practice, but there is certainly a difference between an holistic approach to developing athletes and an unethical application of skills not within our sphere of expertise/competence.
That said, the thought provoking talks from Allan Macdonald and Dr. James McCarron provided an excellent rationale and structure through which we might be able to apply some of that research. Herein lies the key – I think we should both encourage (and perhaps caution) our peers in equal measure to investigate the principles these inter-disciplinary pieces of research can offer vs. promoting the inappropriate wrote application of x ‘finding’ out of context.
Tools and techniques
In addition to a focus on the softer skills that are perhaps not so readily apparent in these types of conferences, there were still also lots technical tools and systems, ready to apply as soon as you left the conference. Just a few of them are listed below (explore the coggle for more detail):

  • Mike Young’s 4 questions to ask for progressing plyometric intensity.
  • Kevin Paxton’s roadmap for controlling change of direction and reaction drills.
  • James Baker’s gamified movement and agility curriculum
  • Shane Fitzgibbon’s isolated-integrated-reactive trunk training hierarchy
  • Alex Natera’s isometric-eccentric training application for running

What was particularly salient to me was the message that is best encapsulated by Harrington Emerson’s well known quote:
“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”
Each of the speakers above did a fantastic job of explaining the principles behind their methodology. I certainly left the conference with more of an enhanced strategic overview than a collection of disparate tools to try and throw at my coaching issues.
On a final note, it was an uplifting conference to attend. I can see how one might leave disheartened on hearing talks from practitioners supported by resources found in premiership football or the wealth of the UAE. Often these talks might hardly seem relevant as a sole S&C practitioner with limited funding, time and resources.  However while money might bring technology and man power, two things are clear.

  • If applied in a timely and appropriate manner, the basics can get you a heck of a long way, even at the highest level.
  • The youth athlete population is both remarkable and rewarding to work with regardless of performance level

While the coggle is not quite finished, I hope to have this updated in a couple of days with the final talks. Hopefully there is more than enough to get stuck into for now though.

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