The Wookiee League
The new kids on the block have been working hard over the summer and fall months. Their genes have blessed them with great height at such a young age--all are only 16 years old--three of them just last month! But gravity, super long femurs, tight hamstrings and school desks conspire against their spines. Muscles and tendons are desperately trying to keep up. So we move and groove, building awareness, alignment, mobility and strength in hopes of creating frames that will be mechanically resilient and resistant to the pounding these guys face on the basketball and volleyball court.
It takes time, patience and calories. And then more patience, more time, more calories, more reps, more sets, more purposeful mobility work to achieve the same movement competencies we ask of their shorter counterparts. For sure, each athlete has a few different tweaks to his programming and understands that he has specific issues to address. And I make sure to relate these issues to their long-term health, as well as their performance goals.
We cannot rush things with these guys. These guys truly put the "long" in long-term athletic development. Who knows when mother nature will be finished with them? It certainly won't be high school and it might not even be college. We must support the physical and emotional maturation process and hope that sport coaches and parents don't let height, hype and the desire to "play up" against older competition overwhelm their bodies.
Kelvin Giles and Mick McDermott put it very well in Developing the Total Player - An Integrated Strategy. I encourage you to check out the entire article.
In addition to these basic principles we must never forget that each individual player will require their own unique pathway to repeatable excellence. No two players are the same physically, mentally, technically or tactically and so the fundamental principles for all coaches to have in their tool-box are adaptability and flexibility. This is particularly important in the developmental stages of a player’s journey. The ‘before, during and after’ puberty periods present an array of ‘change’ unparalleled in a young person’s life. The difference in the rate of growth and development seen in a group of 11-15 year old players (male and female) is so profound that there can often be a 2-4 year biological difference between players of the same chronological age. Adaptability and flexibility become THE major tools for the coach during this time.