There are ten “S”s of training which need to be integrated when developing annual training and competition plans. The ten “S”s include five physical capacities that sport scientists have identified in player development: stamina (endurance), strength, speed, skill, and suppleness (flexibility). The remaining five “S”s create a complete, holistic training program building on these physical capacities.
Each capacity is trainable throughout a player’s lifetime, but there are critical periods in the development of each capacity during which training produces the greatest benefit to each athlete’s long-term development.
These sensitive periods vary between individuals as each player is unique in their genetic makeup. While the sensitive periods follow general stages of human growth and maturation, scientific evidence shows that humans vary considerably in the magnitude and rate of their response to different training stimuli at all stages. Some players may show potential for excellence by age 11, whereas others may not indicate their promise until age 15 or 16.
Consequently, a long-term approach to athlete development is needed to ensure athletes who respond slowly to training stimuli are not compromised in their development. The sensitive periods in trainability are referred to as “windows of accelerated adaptation to training.”
If players are to reach their genetic potential, correct training must be provided during these critical windows.
The sensitive period for training stamina occurs at the onset of Peak Height Velocity (PHV), commonly known as the adolescent growth spurt. Players need increased focus on aerobic capacity training as they enter PHV, and they should be progressively introduced to aerobic power as their growth rate decelerates.
There are two sensitive periods of trainability for strength in girls: immediately after PHV and during the onset of menarche. Boys have one strength window, and it begins 12 to 18 months after PHV.
In both boys and girls, there are two sensitive periods of trainability for speed. For girls, the first speed window occurs between the ages of six and eight years, and the second window occurs between 11 and 13 years. For boys, the first speed window occurs between the ages of seven and nine years, and the second window occurs between 13 and 16 years. During the first speed window, training should focus on developing agility and quickness; during the second speed window, training should focus on developing the anaerobic alactic energy system.
Girls and boys both have one window for optimal skill training. For girls, the window is between the ages of eight and 11 years, while in boys it is between nine and 12 years. During this window, young players should be developing physical literacy – that is, competence in the fundamental movement and sport skills (including decision-making skills) that are the foundation of all sports. Competence in these skills will make it easier for players to learn and excel later in all late-specialization sports, including field hockey.
The sensitive period of trainability for suppleness occurs between the ages of six and 10 years in both girls and boys. However, special attention should also be paid to flexibility during PHV, due to sudden growth.
A reminder: The windows are fully open during the sensitive periods of accelerated adaptation to training and partially open outside of the sensitive periods.
Structure / Stature
This component addresses the six stages of growth (Phase 1: very rapid growth and very rapid deceleration; Phase 2: steady growth; Phase 3: rapid growth; Phase 4: rapid deceleration; Phase 5: slow deceleration; Phase 6: cessation of growth) in the human body linking them to the windows of optimal trainability. It recognizes stature (the height of a human) before during and after maturation guiding a coach or parent to the measurements needed to track growth. The tracking of stature as a guide to developmental age allows planning to address the sensitive periods of physical (endurance, strength, speed and flexibility) and skill development. Diagnostics to identify individually relevant sensitive periods of accelerated adaptation to training is essential to design and implement optimal training, competition and recovery programs.
The Six Phases of Growth
(Adapted from The Role of Monitoring Growth in LTAD)
Sport is a physical and mental challenge. The ability to maintain high levels of concentration, yet remain relaxed with the confidence to succeed, is a skill essential to long-term performance in sport. This skill also has the potential to transcend sport and affect our everyday lives. To develop the mental toughness for success at high levels, training programs are required which address the specific gender and LTHD stage of players. The training programs should include key mental components identified by sport psychologists: concentration, confidence, motivation, and handling pressure. As a player progresses through LTHD stages, the mental training aspect will evolve from: having fun and respecting opponents; to visualization and self-awareness; to goal setting, relaxation, and positive self-talk. To master the mental challenge of sport, these basic skills are then tested in increasingly difficult competitive environments. Ultimately, the planning, implementing, and refining of mental strategies for high-level competition will have a large impact on podium performances. Consequently, the mental training program is critical at all stages of LTHD, as dealing with success and failure will determine continuation in the game and physical activity in general, dramatically affecting both active lifestyle and podium performance.
Sustenance recognizes a broad range of components with the central theme of replenishing the body. This is to prepare the player for the volume and intensity required to optimize training or living life to the fullest. Areas addressed are: nutrition, hydration, rest, sleep, and regeneration, all of which need to be applied differently to training (life) plans depending on the stage of LTHD. Underlining sustenance is the need for optimal recovery management: the player moves to a 24/7 model which places a high degree of importance on the individual’s activities away from the field of play. For proper sustenance and recovery management, the coach and/or parent must monitor recovery through the identification of fatigue. Fatigue can come in forms that include metabolic, neurological, psychological, environmental, and travel. While overtraining or over-competition can lead to burnout, improperly addressing sustenance can lead to the same result.
In training program design, the demands of school must be considered. This is not only limited to the demands placed by school sports or physical education classes, but it also includes consideration of school academic loads and timing of exams. When possible, training camps and competition tours should compliment, not conflict, with the timing of major academic events at school. Overstress should be monitored carefully. Overstress refers to the every day stresses of life, such as schooling, exams, peer groups, family, and boyfriend or girlfriend relationships, as well as increased training volume and intensities. A good balance should be established between all factors, and coaches and parents should work together in this regard.
The sociocultural aspects of sport are significant and must be managed through proper planning. Socialization via sport occurs at the community level, and it can lead to International exposure as players progress through the LTHD stages. This socialization can involve broadening of perspective, including ethnicity awareness and national diversity. Within the travel schedule, recovery can include education related to the competition location, including history, geography, architecture, cuisine, literature, music, and visual arts. Proper annual planning can allow sport to offer much more than simply commuting between hotel room and field of play.
Sport socialization also must address sport subculture to ensure general societal values and norms will be internalized via sport participation. As well, coaches and parents must guard against group dynamics which create a culture of abuse or bullying. Ethics training should be integrated into training and competition plans at all stages of LTHD. Overall sociocultural activity is not a negative distraction or an interference with competition activities: It is a positive contribution to the development of the person and the player.
Other Considerations in Trainability
Children often begin to play field hockey after the sensitive periods of trainability for speed, skill, and suppleness have past. These children are therefore dependent on schools, recreation programs, and other sports to provide timely training in these capacities. LTHD advocates that field hockey groups build relationships with these organizations to promote and support appropriate training. If players miss these training periods entirely, coaches will need to design individualized programs to remedy any shortcomings.