The Importance Of Understanding The Stages of Athletic Development

OPEX Fitness Education Instructor Sam Smith on how to develop an athlete long-term

Sam Smith recently sat down to discuss the stages of athletic development as laid out in the Athlete Development Blueprint (download your copy here). Sam Smith is an OPEX Fitness Education Instructor and current Big Dawgs Coach.

Jack: Sam, you work with a lot of clients. Have you worked with a specific athlete long-term and transitioned them between athletic development stages?

Sam: Yes, I have had the pleasure of working with multiple athletes long-term. There is one client in particular that I started working with when he was a teenager. During our time together he has developed a great deal and we have plans for further development.

Jack: When this client came to you, what stage of athletic development was he in and how could you tell?

Sam: This client came to me when he was in his teens or in the experience part of the Athlete Development Blueprint.

I was able to determine this by looking at his training age and sporting background. This helped paint a picture of the number of contractions he had accumulated over his lifetime. Then I proceeded to test his benchmarks (I.e. back squat, row, etc.). I was able to determine that he was in the experience stage based on his strength development, and gymnastics background etc.

(Coach’s Resource: The athlete development blueprint is a great resource for coaches looking to develop athletes long-term. Download it for free here.)

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ATHLETIC DEVELOPMENT BLUEPRINT

Jack: Once you understood where your client was, what was the goal you two set and how did you plan to get him there?

Sam: The goal was and still is for him to qualify for a sanctioned, functional fitness event. This goal is nice because it not just theoretical. We have analytical data that we can use as benchmarks (previous WODs) to understand what his training needs to focus on. Based on this goal I created progressions to reach these benchmarks.

Jack: What did these initial progressions look like?

Sam: These initial progressions were focused on developing absolute strength, the aerobic system, and a good foundation of motor control patterns. This foundation of motor control is crucial so in the future, under heavier loads and fatigue, his body already has the neural pathways needed to perform the movements needed efficiently.

Jack: Where is he currently?

Sam: I have been working with him for two years now. He has moved into the craft stage of development. In this stage, we are focusing on dynamic metabolic exposure, fatigue testing, and sport-specific training. We are now performing more dynamic contractions in a mixed modal setting with more challenging scenarios of aerobic work. Strength work is also now more varied.

Jack: What are your next steps for the long-term goal?

Sam: We are continuing to build contraction volume and absolute strength. His Central Nervous System (CNS) isn’t fully developed, so we are building the foundation so he is capable of fully tapping into his CNS when fully developed. We are still focused on the long-term goal of qualifying for a sanctioned functional fitness event.

Athletic development is a unique process that differs depending on the individual athlete in question. The Athlete Development Blueprint is a 13-page infographic detailing the components necessary to successfully train an athlete in competitive functional fitness. James FitzGerald created this blueprint to break down exactly what is needed at each stage of development to create podium-caliber athletes. Download today and start developing athletes today.

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