This article is part 4 of the “How to use fitness training to make better young cricketers” series.
Some time in a cricketer’s early teens their focus shifts.
No, I’m not talking about the strange attraction to the opposite sex. I mean that the type of fitness training they can bear moves from movement skills to more traditional strength and endurance.
Between the ages of 12-16 (11-15 in girls) a development window opens up that a good cricket coach can exploit to make players fitter and more able to deal with the stresses of playing.
This article will show you how to identify that period and make the most of it without sacrificing cricket skills.
Reaching the peak
Unlike previous ages, coaches have to be flexible when it comes to fitness training because puberty arrives at different times for different players.
Anyone who has coached a teenage team will recognise the sight of two boys in the same under-15 side; one who is nearly 6 feet tall and shaving, the other who looks like he is 10 years old.
The difference is the first player reached his PHV or “peak height velocity” (the rate he is growing) earlier, and as a result is more able to take advantage of strength and endurance training.
And that peak is all-important.
Because, for boys 12-18 months after this growth spurt is the perfect time for pushing hard at improving strength and endurance (for girls this phase is straight after the growth spurt).
Training to train
As soon as a player enters this phase you can change the focus of training from the previous “Learning to Train” stage. In the LTAD terminology it’s called Training to Train.
Of course that means being flexible in how you coach players. Most coaches of this age group will have players at both stages. That means doing the same en-masse will either be too hard for the Learning to Train players or missing an opportunity for the Training to Train players.
However, simply splitting these players up should cover it.
Improving strength, improving performance
Your first role as coach is to encourage players at this phase to get proper strength training.
Safe strength training at this point in a cricketer’s development has been proven to give more resilient bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
In other words; better performance and fewer injuries.
Most cricket coaches are not qualified to do serious strength training and besides there is little time or equipment to do more than the basics you already cover in previous phases.
Training teenagers in strength needs specially qualified experts so seek out someone who knows what they are doing.
A good practitioner in youth fitness training will:
- Focus on developing safe and effective technique
- Look to strength and endurance first but understand the need for mobility and flexibility
- Understand how to prevent common injuries to shoulders, back and hips
- Plan a different off-season and in-season programme
- Not try and develop hulking bodybuilders
You don’t need to know this stuff so refer your players to this person when the time comes.
Stepping on the gas
One thing you can feel happy doing is getting this stage of players out of breath.
Endurance levels soar during this phase and you can do your bit to push it further by introducing some serious interval training.
You could set aside an extra training session to do this (or refer it out) but most coaches with a very limited time will want bang for the buck and combine it with other drills.
Fielding drills and fitness make a lot of sense. Most out-fielding drills can be adjusted to make the distance covered longer. Keep groups small and waiting times short. Work time (that's when they are doing the drill) should be on a 1:2, 1:1 or 2:1 basis depending on fitness levels. So a 1:1 ratio is 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest. 1:2 is 30 seconds work with 60 seconds rest.
Running between the wickets can be added to net training ore middle practice easily. You can even have specific sessions that focus on running between the wickets that will do the fitness job too. Again, keep your mind on work to rest periods so players systems are overloaded.
Filling the gaps
Of course, the good work you have been doing previously continues:
- Mobility drills in the warm up
- Basic core stabilising exercises
- Speed and agility drills
While these are not the focus, and can be kept in the warm up, they are vital.
You should also insist on a post-training and match stretch out at this age. It’s not only a good habit it helps with the range of motion at joints which is crucial to the developing body.
This stage continues until about the age of 16, where players move on again. We will cover that in the final part of this series, coming up soon.
Click the links below to see the other parts of this series: