Children are now starting to play sports at an extremely young age in many cases, however they are also starting to train harder too. The desire to become more skilled and fitter is greater than ever, both from the kids themselves and their peers, meaning that overtraining often becomes an issues. The balance between skill development, fitness and rest periods is often something that coaches regularly fail to get right, which can lead to a number of physical and mental issues.
As a result, it is important for both coaches and parents to recognise when overtraining is becoming an issue, with the following being the standout signs of this:
However, there is even a tendency to push kids even harder when such signs begin to show, which will, of course, only worsen the situation. Overtraining can lead to more serious issues surrounding injuries or mental stress, with the body ultimately being unable to deal with the demands placed on it by constant activity. So, just how much is too much?
There is very little information regarding this subject, with the amount of training that is suitable differing between individuals. However, most coaches should have a basic understanding of how much physical exercise children should go through, with sports scientists suggesting that no child should carry out more than 20 hours of training per week, however this does range between ages.
A significant amount of research has been carried out in the US, with experts stating that young baseball pitchers should not be allowed to practice for more than seven innings per week, which equates to around 300 throws. Meanwhile, soccer players in US academies train 2-3 times per week by the time they reach seven-years-old, which can be compared to around 4-6 hours of team training and 1-2 hours of individual coaching per week in European organisations.
Such differences can perhaps be explained by the fact that there is a greater emphasis on winning games from a young age in the US, while European academies focus more upon development. As a result, coaches in the US often aim to enhance the physical development of their players.
How to Increase Training Safely?
There will undoubtedly come a time when there is a need to increase the amount of training, however it is important to slowly increase the frequency, duration and intensity. One of the most effective methods of doing so is by taking on board the “10% rule”, which is a rough guide as to how much a child’s training can be increased each week.
However, it is important that any increases are mainly focused around developing technique, rather than physical prowess, with going against this increasing the likelihood of injuries and long-term damage. Overtraining has the opposite effect of what coaches are aiming to achieve in youth sport, with an enjoyable amount of training likely to inspire involvement for an extended period of time, even into their adult years.
For youngsters, sport should really only be about one word, fun! However, ensuring that organised physical activity is enjoyable is easier said than done, with everyone having different personalities and needs in this area. So, just how can coaches ensure that they consistently put on engaging sessions?