Firstly, I'm not saying it's not important for children to be aerobically fit. Far from it. Unless they're specifically training to be an endurance athlete, and require a specifically high maximum volume of oxygen (VO2 max), endurance-type training can be done when they're older - even marathon runners need to be able to sprint. Having a high VO2 max does not need to be taught, it can be trained. It has no upper ceiling whether you start training during childhood or as an adult. In fact, because the cardiovascular and respiratory systems have not fully developed until adulthood, you’re probably wasting your time training VO2 in children.
Speed is king….
Of all the physical attributes that help athletic performance, the one that is coveted above all others is speed - speed is king! The first across the finish line on the track, beating the outside man in American football, the first to a through ball in football; to do all this you must be faster than your opponent.
Why is it important?
It is argued that speed is nature not nurture, and there is a large genetic component to an athlete’s peak performance potential, but without the right nurturing at the right times, that athlete will likely never reach that full potential.
Speed needs to be coached, it cannot be trained....
Speed is a catch all term which includes:
- · first step quickness
- · acceleration
- · maximal speed
- · game speed
Each component requires high levels of coordination and are complex skills in their own right. Like other fundamental movement skills, the above need to be coached and developed progressively throughout childhood. During this time a child’s central nervous system is developing rapidly, allowing them to learn these skills more effectively, proficiently, and to a higher level than they're capable of as a fully mature adult.
What to do….
Do you coach a junior sports team and prescribe jogging or long runs for ‘fitness’?
Instead, create small-sided games that challenge their sport specific fitness. Keep the games short to keep them interested, but make it hard work and give them a good rest between each game. Coach top speed running, acceleration, deceleration, change of direction footwork, lateral and linear running, the basics of strength training, and plyometrics. This is hard work in itself; they won’t need extra ‘fitness’ work.
coach speed when they 're most likely to benefit from it, and train aerobic fitness once they're adults and are already fast.
Pub Quiz Trivia: Mo Farah runs the last 400m of his 5000m races at under 51 seconds.