In this installment of the “Ask the Expert” interviews, we speak with Harry Weatherstone of the Youth Athletic Development Academy from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia!
1) What has led you into youth sport?
To put it simply, I feel this is the area I am able to have the biggest impact. I saw a massive gap in youth athletic development in Australia that was affecting athletes all around me (including myself). A very small percentage of youth athletes have access to quality athletic development training and coaching. This is causing athletes to burnout, get injured and quit their sport without realising their potential. To help fill this gap, I want to make quality training and coaching more accessible to both youth athletes and the general youth population to increase potential, reduce injuries and keep kids healthy and active for life.
2) What has been your biggest influence in your practice in youth sport?
My biggest influence would have to be the eight years I spent as a tennis (skills) coach, five of which being in the school setting. Whilst this didn’t teach me the science behind training, I learnt valuable lessons around ‘the art of coaching’ early on in my career. Most importantly, this taught me how to really connect with both the students I coached and their parents. As well as skills such as management, communication, adaptability and patience. These skills cannot be taught, they must be learnt by jumping in the deep end, learning what works, what doesn’t and always assessing and reassessing your practices.
3) What is your particular area of interest?
My particular interest is in keeping training simple and performing fundamental movement patterns and skills to a ridiculously high level. I see so many kids who do not have the ability to perform basic movement like hopping, jumping, squatting, bracing etc.
4) How do you think this particular area applies to youth athletes?
Making sure youth have a strong foundation of movement (physical literacy) is essential in creating robust youth that are able to competently and confidently play sport, helping to improve health and activity long into their lives.
On the other side of the coin, in order to perform at a high level and reduce injuries, youth athletes need a strong foundation. This will allow maximum exposure to their sport, improved physical qualities and the ability to progress to more advanced training techniques and higher work loads later in their development.
5) What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Don’t coach the exercise, coach the individual.
Every person that comes into the gym is different. We all have differing anatomy, physiology and mindset. Even that same individual can vary day to day. The way you coach, your coaching cues, exercise selection, training loads etc will all differ. Train the individual, not the program in front of you. Be ready and adapt and change the plan if necessary.
6) What advice would you give to coaches working with youth athletes?
- Stick to the basics and favour long term success over short term gains.
- Don’t neglect your athlete’s mindset. Make them strong mentally, not just physically. Know how to get the most out of each athlete.
7) Can you recommend any particular resources for youth sport coaches?
Rob’s Facebook group ‘Youth Strength and Conditioning Coaches’ is gold. It’s full of great coaches putting out content, having discussions and answering questions on all thing youth athletic development. I am also a big fan of podcasts. One I have been loving recently is ‘The Athlete Development Show’ by Dr Craig Harrison.
8) Where can people find out more about you and your work? (Social media links, websites etc.)
You can follow me on Instagram on @y.a.d.academy or on Facebook: Youth Athletic Development Academy
A big thanks to Harry for being our latest expert! For more content like this, follow us on Facebook!
Interested in how you can integrate athletic development into your coaching of youth athletes? Why not check out our training programs specifically designed for grassroots coaches to use with their athletes!! Click here for more!
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.