What are the qualities that differentiate the “injury-prone” from the "resilient" athlete? If we can identify these qualities, then we can develop these qualities within our athletes to improve performance and reduce injury risk. Two qualities of a resilient athlete are: 1) higher aerobic fitness levels and 2) increased strength.
These qualities tend to improve athlete performance while increasing the likelihood of competing injury-free. Building these qualities takes time and should be systematically trained, using current age-based training strategies. Appropriately loading athletes to build high chronic loads based on an athlete’s physical qualities is essential within coaching.
What Should Be Considered In Building Youth Athlete Resiliency?
When training young athletes, additional factors that need to be identified include age, training history, and injury history. The biological age of the athlete or maturity depends on whether they are pre-adolescent, adolescent, or an adult. This can help determine what type of training should be provided. As an example, an athlete who is in the process of puberty will often find their coordination reduced. With their bones growing and muscles not yet developed, the law of physics kicks in. Longer lever arms without the muscle mass needed to redirect them are a part of this phase of growth. Being aware of this quality will help coaches direct training as needed and understand that athlete coordination will improve as the maturation process continues.
How Can Training Help Athletes Become More Resilient?
The training history of the athlete helps to direct training and avoid athlete injury. Finding out if an athlete is playing another sport, how long they have been competing, and if they participate in outside training helps to identify athlete fitness along with the possibilities of undertraining or overtraining. Helping athletes to develop a training strategy before preseason to help them begin preseason at the correct level is also advantageous. Using this knowledge to load athletes accordingly during preseason, season, and post-season play has been proven to improve team performance, by having healthier athletes.
Accommodations For Injured Athletes
Identifying injury history is key so training accommodations can be made as needed. If we are looking to find ways to build resilient athletes, we may need to look a little deeper into an athlete’s injury history. If an athlete reports repetitive soft tissue injuries, time off and waiting to return to play is a reactive treatment. Determining the cause and finding a solution is more advantageous to limiting repeat injuries. Is the problem due to limited flexibility, a lack of warm-up, a lack of strength, fatigue or under or overtraining, proper equipment, or external factors? Once identified, training can be modified to help load the athlete to build sustainable high chronic loads that the athlete can tolerate. Athletes who tend to work within a chronic rehab loop, need this extra care.
Consider Unique Athlete Characteristics
When training athletes, the physical qualities of each athlete need to be identified before training begins. These qualities include age, training history, aerobic fitness, strength, and injury history. This can be done through a simple questionnaire and a few basic aerobic fitness and strength tests. With these qualities identified, systematic training of an athlete at their current training level to match the physical demands of the sport can commence. These principles are taught to female athletes, ages 13-17 during our 6-week Ultimate Virtual Soccer Training for Female Athletes, starting March 15th, 2021. For more information click here.