Feb 25

Training Young Athletes

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General Athleticism (or Physical Literacy) Versus Early Specialization


In previous newsletters, we discussed the ‘Educational or Athlete-centered’ Model. It defines itself through the meaning of the Latin ’education’ or e-ducére, which translates as “leading from within to outward.” So, let’s ask ourselves what are we trying to ‘lead out or bring about?’

Frequently, I get asked to link this model to the term ‘general athleticism’, the fact that many European athletes can play several sports or partake in 2 or more sports at the elite level as I did. This has to do with the development of general athleticism or ‘physical literacy’ (as it is called nowadays) versus ‘early specialization’, and of course the philosophical approach to ‘Talent Identification.’ We are going to ignore for the time being the issue of drugs and doping in the past by several Eastern European countries (future topic).

The question rises: How do we define “athleticism or physical literacy?” As early as 1998, I developed a model, which was/is similar to the one introduced over the past couple of years. I might add that at that time, many within the coaching community considered me ‘wacky’ – the least derogatory term I endured. However, Robert Frost once said: I take the road less traveled by and it made all the difference!” If you believe in something strongly, you have to follow your instinct and principle, and ‘become the lonely trumpeter!” Eighteen years later…achieving ‘physical literacy’ has become “the goal.” WOW!

In my model, I used the comparison of ‘baking a cake or building a race car.’ In order to do develop the best version or type one also needs the best ingredients and/or the best parts. Certainly, one can ‘get away’ with less, bake less of a cake, build or construct less of a car but there will be ‘flops, breakdowns, or potential long-term repercussions.’ In the case of the athlete, the components of “general athleticism or physical literacy” are the ingredients to the cake or the parts to the engine.










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