4 Jun 2019

Time management 'crucial' to youth sport training

9:29 pm on 4 June 2019

Schools and sporting bodies say it's crucial young people are taught to manage how much time they're training so they don't overcommit and get injured.

 mixed kid teams rugby

Photo: 123RF

ACC figures show a major spike in sports injuries in children under 15 over the last decade with part of the blame being placed on more high-intensity training.

Part of the concern, ACC said, is some children specialising in one sport at too young an age.

After a report into how best to develop athletes, Sport New Zealand has been trying reduce the myth that specialising early is best.

"We've been working really hard over the last three years to help people understand that early specialisation isn't a good thing," its Sport development consultant Alex Chiet said.

He said it was unfortunate the high performance behaviours had crept into youth and children's sport.

"All of the evidence and support we have domestically and internationally is that actually that's not the case in the majority of cases. Every now and then there's one athlete like Tiger Woods that specialises early, but the majority of athletes that go on to succeed internationally have actually grown up with balance, sampling lots of sports when they were young, having a childhood and then starting to focus on one sport more in their late teens."

Sport New Zealand was helping sports to put new systems in place, he said, in order to make everyone's experience a good one.

"This is behaviour change that we're working at here, this is long term change. The belief that sits out there amongst a lot of parents is that, if they want their son or daughter to be a future sporting star, they need to choose one sport and do a lot of deliberate practice around that sport.

"A lot of these initiatives are starting to roll out through sport so I'd just encourage parents to listen to the information, delve into the discussions and really make sure they're doing what's best for their kids today and into the future.

After seeing players burn out, the head of Auckland Hockey Manoj Daji said they reviewed training last year and decided six training or game sessions a week was the maximum young players should be doing.

"The players aren't generally making great decisions. They're probably choosing to do a bit too much in some cases and they're a bit stretched and they don't know when to say no. So we need to do something."

Injuries like stress fractures and shin splints were popping up among young players, and he said they'd stripped back under 18 training from two times a week to once in order to help alleviate the risk of overdoing it.

"When the three institutions operate in a bubble; clubs, schools, and associations like ours, then that can be a recipe for this overloading occurring. What we're trying to do is educate the players we have in front of us and say 'well you might need to be having a conversation with your school coach or your club coach about what your load is actually looking like'."

As well as the message being sent to Auckland's clubs, he was also in touch with schools to ensure principals were conscious of balancing sport with everything else.

"Some principals were a little bit in the dark as to how much their players were doing in a hockey season outside of school."

"If we can do the best by the kids and put them in the middle of the decisions and the three coaches are communicating then we're going to come up with good decisions."

Hamilton Boys' High School has a strong sports programme including an academy and junior elite sports programme.

Its headmaster, Susan Hassall, said while there had always been pressure from young people and their parents to succeed in sport, the standards of sport had grown.

"I've been headmaster here for 20 years and i've seen a genuine change in the level of intensity. The need to manage individual student's needs has become far more obvious to schools and schools do need to have fitness and conditioning people who work with them, it's just the nature of the landscape of that we're working in

Mrs Hassall said young people's enthusiasm was often part of the drive, so it was important to help manage.

"I personally don't think that trying to limit the number of days a student can train will make much different to them. They'll just go underground because it's them that's putting that pressure on it rather than us insisting on it.

"The best way to manage it is through educating young people about how to develop in a systematic and rational way and people talking about the needs of the individual rather than worrying about needs of their sport or their team.

"It's very very important that we're mature in our approach as educators and as clubs and as rep coaches, that we all look at the long term picture of the child rather than worrying as much about our area being the most important.