Coaching Magic from the Ground Up

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A coaching philosophy that builds from the ground up also works from the top down. Let me explain this. Ground up means, in our discussion, from the toes to the nose and is the physical body. From the top down means mental/cognitive development from the head down. All this has to be done in a highly ethical framework that protects our kids.

We have learned things having taught hundreds of beginning younger students from 4 – 8 years of age. We have also trained from 8 – 70+.  Through our NCCP learning, we have embraced Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD). This has various stages in development of athletes. In WT taekwondo in Canada, we use 8 stages-from Active Start through Active for Life. Since this is NCCP training material, we will not go over this except to identify some of the core ideas. Each child will develop at their own rate but falling into ranges based on some measurables. Environmental and genetic factors will play significant roles. As coaches and instructors, we will be hard pressed to deal with every situation, but we can use normative data from reliable sources to identify training issues. We also use medical data shared by parents and athletes themselves. This is always kept confidential and disclosed only to those who need to have that information.

LTAD outlines 5 factors for physical development:

Stamina (endurance)

Speed

Skill

Strength

Suppleness (flexibility)

Studies have shown that there are optimal periods of trainability for each of these 5 factors. Stamina and strength are based on the athlete’s growth spurt and the other three are based on chronological age. We use Peak Height Velocity (PHV) to determine those dependent on the growth spurt. PHV can be calculated once an athlete reaches a minimum age, 8 for females and 9 for males, but the best accuracy is achieved if females are measured in the 9 – 13 range, even though most will be past their growth spurt age by 13, and 12 – 16 for males. At our taekwondo school, we have a scale for measuring all three factors: height, sitting height and weight.

That said, if we don’t use this information to design exercises that address the optimal periods of trainability, we lose an important opportunity. As is pointed out in LTAD literature, all systems are trainable all the time. But some systems have optimal periods where the child can train more effectively. For example skill is based on the nervous system learning and adapting. According to research, all nerve cells are formed by the sixth fetal month. After that they only increase in size. A single nerve cell can expand up to 200,000 times in mass. It is postulated that the nervous system has reached 90% of its size by age 5 – 6 and fully grown by age 12 -13. It grows extremely slowly, if at all, after that. This means that coordination, a component of skill, should be trained all the time, but the optimal training phase for skill is between 8 – 11 for girls and 9 – 12 for boys.

As noted above, speed and flexibility are age related and are always trainable, however, both have links to the nervous system, so it is important to train them continuously during early growth.

For taekwondo, flexibility is vital for both poomse(forms or patterns) and kyorugi(sparring). While, at first blush, poomse seems to need this the most, the reality is that both need this. In kyorugi, speed is vital in its speed-strength version. To score, the athletes have to deliver their kicks or punches explosively to avoid having it blocked or avoided. By eliminating the need to stretch the tendons, ligaments, nerves, connective tissue and muscles but only move them, the full energy is available for accelerating the limb.

In poomse, almost all kicks start from a chambered position and must launch without a preliminary counter movement. In addition, most movements require full joint extension with higher kicks typically getting higher marks in competition. Having to move only the weight of the arm or leg and being able to fully extend it with minimal effort makes for the ideal poomse motion.

However, getting back to “from the ground up”, we will look at Agility, Balance, Co-ordination for younger students. The core ideas from Functional Range Conditioning will be one of the fundamental sources for our work going forward with a view to strengthening joints at the full range while addressing the ABC’s.

Agility is the ability to move and change direction and body position while keeping the body under control. This draws in balance –the ability to stay in control, and coordination-to be able to move multiple body parts in synchrony or harmoniously.

The cognitive component must be built into training so that decisions can be made with shorter reaction times.

So our coaching opportunity involves selecting appropriate activities that address the movement skills (ABC’s), factors and cognitive development, emphasizing factors during their optimal phases and doing this with just enough challenge to motivate students then blending this into an exercise class lesson that might have students at different levels.

Let’s look at a sample 45 minute lesson plan we might use for some 5 -8 year old lower belt level students that addresses these issues and is still consistent with WT taekwondo LTAD. Expectations for the younger students will be less that for the older ones.  In the plan L = low, M=medium, H=high

Time Exercise Movement skill Factors Cognitive Repetitions Effort
 2 min Skipping with various modes: regular, running, single leg, backwards, front to back, side to side, boxer, [doubles, criss-cross] Balance (M)

Coordination (H)

Stamina (x)

Speed (x?)

Strength (  )

Skill (x)

Suppleness (  )

(L) 140-200 (M to H)
1 – 2 min Horse jumps Balance (M) Stamina ( )

Speed (  )

Strength (x)

Skill (  )

Suppleness (x)

(L) 10 (H)
Mario jumps Balance (H)

Coordination (H)

Stamina ( )

Speed (  )

Strength (x)

Skill (x)

Suppleness (x)

(L) 10 (H)
Monkey jumps Balance(H)

Coordination (M)

Stamina ( )

Speed (  )

Strength (x)

Skill (  )

Suppleness (x)

(L) 10 (H)
Squats Balance (H)

Coordination (M)

Stamina ( )

Speed (  )

Strength (  )

Skill (  )

Suppleness (x)

(L) 10 (M)
4 – 5 min Stretching and joint articulation: top down

Neck, shoulders elbows, wrists, lats, hips, knees, ankles, hamstrings, quads, glutes, adductors, calfs

Balance (M)

Coordination (L)

Stamina ( )

Speed (  )

Strength (  )

Skill (  )

Suppleness (x)

(L) 10 count hold (L-M)
3 min Running, crossovers, bounding, skater hops Balance (M)

Coordination (M)

Stamina (x)

Speed ( x)

Strength (  )

Skill (x)

Suppleness (  )

(M) 40 metres each (H)
3 min Ladder simple stepping drills Agility (H)

Balance (H)

Coordination (H)

Stamina ( )

Speed (x)

Strength (  )

Skill (x)

Suppleness (  )

(H) 8 metres 3 times per drill 3 different drills (H)
1 min Recovery/hydrate
15 min Decision exercise using 4 positions in a 3 x 3 metre square. Athlete starts in the centre of the 3 metre square. Instructor calls out a square number 1 through 4 and student in centre runs to that square and kicks a target held by another student. Odd number right leg, even number left leg. Count correct decisions and total distance run. Agility (H)

Balance (H)

Coordination (H)

Stamina ( )

Speed (x)

Strength (  )

Skill (x)

Suppleness (  )

(H) 30 sec each drill 5 different sequence drills (H)
1 min Recovery/hydrate
10 min Basic kicking and punching Balance (M)

Coordination (M)

Stamina ( )

Speed (x)

Strength (x)

Skill (x)

Suppleness (x)

(M) 8 – 10 per student per kick/punch  type. 3 basic kicks and 3 punches (H)
3 min Cool down slow walking simple stretching

 

Coming back to coaching magic, we will blend biomechanics and technology with ABC’s. That’s where we’ll start with our next blog.

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