A key message: Maturation and Long Term Athletic Development

At my home, there is a photo that really got my mind ticking. The photo is of my brother and myself at a young age having a race on the beach in Ireland. The race was a close affair, as was most of our sporting competition throughout our youth. Now the questions I always asked myself was ‘am I ever going to be better than my brother?, why can I never beat him?’. Well I now know the answer to that. Maturation!

Maturation with regards to human growth is the development of physiological and biological characteristics. Maturation is often associated with puberty and hormonal moody teenagers, when in actual fact maturation never stops. You are always developing physically, psychologically and socially. I think two of the best examples of maturation in a sporting sense are Ryan Giggs playing for Manchester United in the toughest football league in the world pushing 40, and Bernard Hopkins still a contender at 48 years old. These men have gone from pacey pushing sportsmen to now efficient, effective masters. Is that not maturation and the on going journey of development?

So where does this fit into strength and conditioning? Well…..everywhere. Just like man evolved and Rome wasn’t built in a day, everything takes time. Their are several long term athletic development (LTAD) models and standpoints which I wont bore you with (Brian Mac lays them out well), but as a coach do you actually consider this as an integral part of your training? Also on the other side of the coin, do the technical coaches integrate this into their programming? These stages presented in LTAD models and age brackets of progression mentioned are all relative to the individual. This is beyond a general training age, because you must consider an athletes ability to learn and motor program. This is such a sliding scale that is too dangerous to generalise and place parameters on in my opinion.

Putting this into a practical sense. How do you progress the lunge? Something that I see time and time again done wrong. You see and athlete completing a forward lunge wobbling all over the place not maintaining control……where was their LTAD? Take it back, start on a split squat then move onto the reverse lunge then finally progress into the forward lunge variations. This is the same message when lifting actual weight. Young athletes will get stronger just by looking at a clock…..MATURATION. Don’t let them chase the numbers, load them strategically and hammer in the detail.

Success = Detail x Time

Hopefully this short insight will provoke some thoughts in and around your training, or maybe just in general. The photo below is the race mentioned above. Half a stride separates the race. My brother and I were born 13 months apart. Maturation should never be overlooked.


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