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Training for teenagers

Ah yes teenage years. The moaning, complaining, back talking, grumpy hormonal years we all look back on and wish we could do again, but when we were there all we wanted to do was get them over with. Firstly I’ll give you a quick bit of my history with sport in my teens.

I quit everyhting when I was 16, and didn’t start again until I was 19. That’s a long time off, three years of more or less doing nothing. During that time I ran a bit (not with a club though), played a bit of football (again, not with a club) and lifted a few weights with the idea of making myself as big as a house, which didn’t work. But mostly I tried to get my hands on as many things as possible that I wasn’t supposed to have and lusted after many, many girls. Both of these endeavours ended, for the most part, in various degrees of failure but they only made the successful attempts all the more sweet. Still, I could probably have kept up the sports I was involved in and still tried to chase skirts, so why didn’t I?

If you asked me at 19 why I was only stepping back into formal sports then, I think I would say that the problem was because all my coaches were arseholes and there was pressure here and there from my Da (who, because I was 16, shared responsibility with my Ma for all life’s problems, from why I wasn’t getting any to global warming. Actually back then the issue was probably the ozone layer… I digress) and from my coaches and man it was just all too much all I want to do is be happy man! Pass me that fake ID I’m off to have 3 beers and fall over…

Luckily the me of today has the benefit of hindsight and I can say that there were two causes:
1) I was a headstrong kid, and I didn’t like authority. I wouldn’t do anything for people I didn’t respect, and I hardly respected anyone. I got into a lot of silly arguments with figures like that, and if it happened somewhere where I didn’t have to go, then I would walk away from it, or better yet engineer a situation where I would be forced to walk away so it didn’t look like my fault.
2) The coaching systems for juniors in the clubs I was involved in was poor. I would say that most of the coaches involved were inexperienced and didn’t have a clue how to handle children. In one club we were constantly told we weren’t fit enough, and so there were many, many laps of the park, followed by almost no ball work on basic skills. Sometimes you’d be lucky and certain coaches wouldn’t be available to take training so you’d get someone who took the footballs out of the bag from the first moment onwards, but mostly you weren’t.

Thnakfully, things are changing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they have changed, as there are still lots and lots of coaches out there who treat kids as little adults, and lots of kids who are right now getting sick and tired of turning up. Anyway, enough of my moaning, what do I do?

With teenagers, I try to do a number of things. I’ll deal with skill and technique in a sec. Firstly, they are here to be active, so the same thing applies with the basic gymnastic movements as applies to the young kids. But they’re also growing, so the plan is to get them into a physical condition they can be proud of also, without pressuring them into doing it and making sure they have fun too. So they do circuit training once per week, some with bodyweight exercises, and some with medicine balls, light bars etc. They want to be challenged, one of the biggest mistakes of the last few years is to view kids as some sort of chinaware, wrap them up and hope they don’t break, then unwrap them in adulthood and hope for the best. By some people’s definition, kids should only do what they want to, and not be pushed. I would agree to a point that unneccessary and unachievable pressure is bad, but kids should also be encouraged to strive for the next level. Give a kid a goal and watch him change when he achieves it, watch the confidence grow. A quick example would be push ups. Most kids can’t do one at 13, but help them work towards that and their first one becomes 5, then 10 and so on.

With the complications of all that psychology and sociology out of the way, teaching actual skill is easy by comparison. At secondary school level, kids begin to learn submissions, chokes and armlocks, and do a night of striking which includes light to moderate sparring, although sometimes I have to reign that in, and sometimes I just have to let them go. Luckily at this age, kids want to wrestle and friendly competition is great as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. Right now I have two kids who walk in and right away begin to have a submission match, every night. I think that’s great. At this stage I begin to teach skills more like the adults, with focussed drills and sequences they can relate together. You’re still dealing with the concentration factor, sometimes these guys drift off so keeping it short and snappy and interesting is important. The last thing is just to let them play the game, whatever game that is, be it wrestling or stand up or MMA. There has to be a good portion of the class set aside for that. That’s the goal of the training, so they need to see that and experience it.

Oh yeah, and set aside a portion of time each session to deal with smart arse comments and jokes about “Yer Ma”.

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