Coach Holness urges colleagues to take charge of growth process in young athletes


Coach Holness urges colleagues to take charge of growth process in young athletes

Friday, January 15, 2021

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Veteran Coach Jerry Holness has urged high school track and field coaches not to be pressured into pushing their young charges too fast too soon, whether by prinicipals or parents.

He said they should instead follow the principles of coaching as they have been taught.

There are procedures as set out by the Technical Committee of World Athletics as to how the development of young athletes are to be handled, Holness said, adding that children develop at different levels amd stages.

Holness, who has coached in Jamaica and internationally, was making a presentation at last month's virtual coaching symposium put on by the Jamaica Track and Field Coaches Association (JATAFCA).

“As coaches we have to be aware of how we treat them and not forgetting the fundamental principles of looking properly on the growth and development of the athletes, be aware of the different stages and how the athletes go through the stages and make sure that we are not pressured or we don't change our phi-losophy based on pressure in order to achieve too much of an early goal,” he said.

The World Athletics Level Five coach said pressure has been brought on coaches from various quarters by others who unwittingly might not have the best interest of the young athletes at heart.

“Coaches come under pressure when it comes to preparing our young athletes, as coaches we come under pressure because of the objectives given to us by our employers and sometimes from parents, that pressure ofcourse is all about performance, in the world of athletics especially here in Jamaica even at the early stages it is more about performance for most individuals rather than looking at development itself,” said Holness.

The former William Knibb Memorial, Spalding High and Manchester High coach, said: “As coaches what do we do, do we follow the principles as we know them in theory, or do we fall to the pressure for early performances, we need to be cognisant that a lot of changes happen during the early development stages hence we need to be very careful.

“We have to remember that children are just not just small adults,” he said, “we have to treat them accordingly, at times during our coaching we tend to think that even the little toddlers can be treated as professional ath-letes and because of the pressure we are under we tend to force ourself to treat their program and development as such.”

Coaches, Holness said, need to understand “how children grow and how children develop”.

“Once we get that type of understanding and we try to follow the principles, then we would be on the proper path,” he said, adding that the prescribed procedure for children being introduced to sports is that they should be exposed to different sports early but specialisation can start at around age 14 or 15 years old.

Holness said parents can also get in the way of the development of youngsters when they force them into their preferred sports, for example former football players ignoring others sports and only exposing their children to football.

When youngsters are being introduced to sports, coaches must ensure they “practice within the limitation of the children,” and urged them to “keep things simple, once it gets too complex; children will get discouraged, don't give them too much to think about as they wont get things per-fect and don't try to correct everything at the same time, don't expect too much too soon, as coaches we have to be very very patient,” Holness said.

Outside influences, he said, can also play a major role in how children see themselves.

“They are developed through things they can do and cannot do and from the influence of others, from parents, other children, other athletes and coaches,” noting that the adults “have to be aware they are several factors that influence the athletes and as coaches”.

“We have to be aware of how we treat them and not forgetting the fundamental principles of looking properly on the growth and development of the athletes,” he reasoned.

When coaches try to rush the development of youngsters, Holness said that could “damage the self image of the individual, we are damaging certain developmental aspects of the individual”.

— Paul Reid

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