Ask the Expert: Sam Guy and Rob Smaldon (Cornwall High Performance)

Sam Guy and Rob Smaldon are the founders of Cornwall High Performance, delivering the Child to Champion program, a fantastic LTAD program delivered to youth athletes. Their mission at CHP is to provide all aspiring athletes at any level, background, and age the opportunity to access the highest quality of physical development, so performance peaks can be reached.

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1)What has led you into youth sport?

For a couple of years leading up to us commencing our child to champion program we’d been doing some work for a local guy who was the technical coach for the UK’s up and coming surfers, all of whom were travelling and competing on the regular, and at the same time we’d been attending some James Baker/Proformance workshops on all things LTAD/youth development. Working with the young surfers, we were amazed that some/many of them lacked good movement and other physical attributes were severely lacking…. aspects that we knew we could have serious impact with.  We quickly realised that not only was it a market that was untapped down here but the value we could add to the lives and sporting careers of the youngsters was huge.

2) What has been your biggest influence in your practice in youth sport?

As stated in the previous question, we’ve been following James Baker’s/Mike Young’s work and the success he achieved at St. Peters in Gloucester, and obviously Aspire and in fact we stole the Child to Champion tag from him….(he was cool with it by the way), and maybe due to geographical location, we’ve made the short trip to his workshops on several occasions, and therefore soaked up his knowledge and expertise in the youth development field.

From a business perspective, Brendan Chaplin has helped us a great deal. Let’s not forget we are a completely self-driven organisation and therefore have to work hard to bring people through our door, and we certainly wouldn’t be where we are today without his input.

3) What is your particular area of interest and you do you think this applies to youth athletes?

Our biggest area of interest is seeing these young athletes develop physically and psychosocially, a real holistic approach. We think it’s extremely difficult to pin one particular area especially when working with young athletes who require so many areas of development. Physically we are trying improve their movement toolbox to be able to handle the demands their sport/s throw at them, from a psycho social point of view we want to be able to develop young athletes who understand principles that will make them successful and happy in life.

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Our youth programmes run in congruence with success in life, you must be consistent, accountable, treat those around you with respect, small increments of improvement daily over a long period of consistency will pay huge dividends, so we marry the two to create a learning environment. The further we move into developing the program, the more we realise it’s simply just not about sets/reps. Interactions and relationships with the parents are a real indication of this, and so buy in from them is quite often from the psychosocial angle.

4) What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

That is such a difficult question and one answer simply won’t do…..so we’ll chuck a few at you.

‘Keep it simple’ (where possible) is definitely up there. Overcomplicating training is a sure-fire way to a slippery slope, for both athlete and coach.

From a business perspective, ‘the best time to do something (advertise/blog/post etc) is yesterday, the second-best time is now’.  We’ve been very guilty of putting things off until tomorrow…. we quickly learnt that it gets you nowhere fast.

“What you permit you promote” James Baker special! This applies every aspect of life!

“Perfect doesn’t exist” we love this one in relation to business development, the best advert/blog/ post is the one that is out there, not the perfect one you’re ever trying to create. We also apply this to our youth programmes, it’s never perfect but its constantly evolving as we improve as coaches.

5) What advice would you give to coaches working with youth athletes? 

Really hard to pin it down to one piece of advice, and we have definitely learnt (think steep curve here) as we’ve gone along, which is only natural of course. So, apart from getting yourself a PGCE and ten years in the teaching game (just a hint of sarcasm), be clear in your mind as a coach what it is you are trying to achieve with youth athletes and have a framework to work to. All of our young athletes, no matter what age, need to complete a period of foundation work, almost a check list of fundamentals that need to be hit before they can move forwards…how strict you are with this is down to the coach. Some may choose to use a matrix style approach, but we have the luxury of two of us at all youth sessions, so while one is working with the competent group the other is coaching the foundation newbies.

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Learn very quickly how to manage 11-18 yr olds…it may look easy, but it can prove to be very testing…hats off to teachers! We have built this program to be of the highest quality, and we ensure the athletes understand that standards need to be high within the training environment, and that way we get to largely coach instead of manage. Allow the athletes to know why they are doing what they are doing and educate them on the journey they are on from foundation to high performance.

Build relationships with the parents! Absolutely key to get the parents involved and we do this via a private FB group where we can educate every week and keep them in touch with their child’s achievements and any articles/research/info that they may find useful and interesting.

Here’s a business one- put systems in place to allow you to focus as much of your time on the stuff that’s important (the coaching!) for e.g. payment and sign up systems, platforms for programmes, the facility meeting your needs and expectations as a coach for what you want to achieve. The more streamline the systems are that allow the programme to run, the more attention can be put on the athletes and the coaching.

We get lots of hot air and potentially wrong fits for the programme, it’s important to quickly establish your expectations of the parents and young athletes that want to come and join the programme, this way they understand what is involved with joining the programme and you get a person of the right fit, as opposed to allowing any old Joe on who simply isn’t a right fit, this could jeopardise the quality and standard of the programme.

6) Can you recommend any particular resources for youth sport coaches?

Proformance– online portal as well as regular workshops with world class speakers.

Simon Brundish- for all things FUNdamental his Strength Lab Superheroes programme is well worth a look. Rugby Strength Coach, Eric Cressey, Altis to name but a few have really helped to shape the nuts and bolts of physical development programming for us here at CHP. Brendan Chaplin– for all thing business development, “You can’t be a good coach If you’ve no athletes to coach”

7) Where can people find out more about you and your work? (Social media links, websites etc.)

Facebook- Cornwall High Performance, Instagram- Cornwallhighperformance Twitter- @Cornwallhighper

A huge thankyou to Sam and Rob for being our first guest duo on Ask the Expert! We appreciate their expertise and experience!

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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