If anyone understands how to incorporate TRX Training with the youth population, it's Brian Grasso: founder of the International Youth Conditioning Association. This blog post picks up where he left off in Part 1 and Part 2 of this series on youth training, introducing us to the "O" in the acronym “MOLD,” which explains the specific demands of training this particular demographic and how the TRX is ideal for meeting them.
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O = Open to Communication Variances
With young athletes, the "Lombardi-style" coaching system doesn’t work. You can’t just bark orders and think every young athlete you train is going to be listening. With coaching, one-size DOES NOT fit all. Just like physical ability, size, relative strength and potential, the way a young athlete needs to be communicated with is specific to that child or teen.
When you have a group of kids (say, 20 six year olds), getting to know them well enough and being able to provide individual attention to them is challenging, to say the least. But that doesn’t mean individualized communication isn’t possible. It just takes a system. Brian has found that every one of the young athletes he trains fits somewhere into the following four categories:
High Motivation/High Skill
High Motivation/Low Skill
Low Motivation/High Skill
Low Motivation/Low Skill
Some young athletes will adapt to exercise on the TRX faster than others. Understand that the way in which you communicate can have a dramatic impact on that reality. With young athletes in the first category above, consider allowing them to create exercises for themselves on the TRX. It’s a virtual playground, and I think you may be very surprised how many of your young athletes will "invent" TRX-based exercises you’ve never even considered. Create five minutes within each training session and allow your young athletes to "play" on the TRX. Watch carefully and take note of what you see. They will experiment and consider movements you may have never thought possible. One of the benefits of your TRX is that it is a literal playground on which young athletes can create for themselves. That will make communication dramatically better.
A brief overview of the template that shows how to communicate with each of these young athletes is as follows (the number corresponds to the numbered categories above):
1. Delegate – Look to get these young athletes involved in the training and planning process. Have them lead warm ups for the group. Have them create the warm up within the boundaries of your system. If the athlete is a bit older, have him or her help you co-coach your younger groups. Keeping young athletes who fall into this group engaged is a critical part of fostering excitement about the training process; it will provide a perfect communication scenario.
2. Guide – These young athletes don’t require more motivation; they need to enhance their skills. Rather than trying to incite them positively (because they’re already incited!), slow them down and guide them through the process of increasing skill slowly. Break down complex exercises into specific stages and teach them in a whole-part-whole method. Communication will be automatically improved.
3. Inspire – These young athletes are great at everything, but lack the necessary motivation to produce consistent effort (likely due to pressure from other coaches or parents). Don’t "ride" them or even ask them to work harder. They will tune you out quicker than you can say TRX! Instead, talk with them about what inspires them and what gets them excited. We all have a switch on the inside we can turn on when something inspires us. Find out what it takes to turn their switch on.
4. Direct – Don’t put these young athletes on the spot, even in a positive manner. They crave autonomy and the ability to just "blend in." So give it to them. Provide instructions for the group at large, and then quietly be sure that they know what is expected of them in the upcoming exercise or drill. Once they realize your communication with them will be non-threatening, they will deem your training environment a "safe" one and start to open up. That’s where the fun will start.
Next up, the “L” in MOLD, which stands simply for “Learning.” Just like with "O," it is important to understand that young athletes learn in different ways and at varying speeds. Stay tuned for the next installment in this series!
Brian Grasso has trained more than 15,000 young athletes worldwide over the past decade. He is the Founder and CEO of the International Youth Conditioning Association (www.IYCA.org), the #1 certification for Youth Fitness and Youth Sports Performance.
Disclaimer: Assess each young athlete’s health and ability level, and the suitability of any exercise routine, prior to starting this or any fitness program.