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Primative Screwhead
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys,

I've just begun coaching a very young XC rider. He's the national champ in his country. On his holidays he won two or three races internationally as well.

IMO, he's doing too much, too soon, and no doubt his enthusiasm will overtake what his young body is capable of delivering (if it hasn't already)

So, any tips on how to broach the subject of slowing things down a little?

Cheers,

F.

Pm me if you want my coaching background.
 

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Feideaux said:
Hi guys,

I've just begun coaching a very young XC rider. He's the national champ in his country. On his holidays he won two or three races internationally as well.

IMO, he's doing too much, too soon, and no doubt his enthusiasm will overtake what his young body is capable of delivering (if it hasn't already)

So, any tips on how to broach the subject of slowing things down a little?

Cheers,

F.

Pm me if you want my coaching background.
Introduce him to other sports or other displines in cycling. Juniors shouldn't be one trick ponies.

Have him do some track, DH, BMX, even (god forbid) road.;)
 

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Primative Screwhead
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
LMN said:
Introduce him to other sports or other displines in cycling. Juniors shouldn't be one trick ponies.

Have him do some track, DH, BMX, even (god forbid) road.;)
One trick pony - good phrase :thumbsup:

Thanks for the suggestion - I agree, it's not the time to specialise in things just yet, plus he will learn to adapt.

I will be providing those opportunities, and also encouraging him to keep doing his traditional school sports so he doesn't get wistful later on.

Cheers, LMN.

F.
 

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Primative Screwhead
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Berkeley Mike said:
What country are we talking about?

How much control do you think you have?
Country - a Western one :D I'm trying to be as confidential as I can on a public forum, and does it really matter?

Control - well, as you have inferred, being a kid he is likely to run (sorry, ride) a thousand miles from too much structure and control imposed from outside of his family - which is an aspect to be monitored. So it'll be all about guidance, options and opportunity. Thanks for the reminder, though.

Check your PM for some answers to your questions.

F.
 

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Feideaux said:
Hi guys,

I've just begun coaching a very young XC rider. He's the national champ in his country. On his holidays he won two or three races internationally as well.

IMO, he's doing too much, too soon, and no doubt his enthusiasm will overtake what his young body is capable of delivering (if it hasn't already)

So, any tips on how to broach the subject of slowing things down a little?

Cheers,

F.

Pm me if you want my coaching background.
Introduce him to members of the opposite sex. Lot's and lot's of promising juniors have given up on cycling all together after finding out there are even funner things to do than ride a bike.

Or, pretend you're his parent and just don't let him enter so many races. Of course, this implies that you believe adults should have more say over a kid's life than the kid himself.
 

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It's about showing up.
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Yes, it matters a lot.

Answers depend upon who you are talking to and what their experience is. Lots of people can talk about how to coach an athlete but few can manage young athletes and fewer still have any sense at all about how to manage the family. In fact most of the advanced coaches I know would rather never talk to the family except to get a check. It is a highly advanced skill. Further, few youth mtb coaches know how to manage anything other than a pure drive to victory in the short term. It IS a new field after all.

The candle which burns twice as bright.....

I will assume we are talking about a boy. We need to look at why this athlete needs to be bridled in. At the age of 13-15 growth becomes a huge factor as bones, muscles, soft tissues, and the nervous system all change at different rate. Growing pains are a soft sign of the conflicts caused by these events. At the same time the kid is accelerating his use of his entire body with the facile commitment of a child at play into the demands of the first adult-like work efforts. As he has not yet found his limits and believes he has none as his psyche is rapidly changing, the whole a mix of new hormone levels. Stressing systems at this age can cause huge amounts of damage through over-use or simply exceeding his own skill level and that of the racers around him. I have seen damage from both sorts of use where athletes hurt themselves by over-use while growing or crash by exerting themselves into situations they cannot manage yet.

So your job is to appreciate the degree to which this kid needs to be reigned in. Once he is into years 16 and up the growth issue is reduced but not eliminated. You can make general predictions about his needs by comparing his size to the size of the adults in his family. You can also fine-tune this understanding by getting a sense of what kinds of racehorses this family produces. I have seen families who simply, as a way of life, have a very high tolerance for physical and mental stress and do quite well with it. Additionally some families breed rawboned specimens who seem to elude the growth injury problems though turning these kids loose can bring crash injuries as described above. In a family accustomed to producing athletes how we handle the phenom can be quite different. For all the fear we have as responsible developers of talent and concern for over-use and burn-out, for some family lifestyles it is just not a problem. For some athletes it is deadly.

Additionally, you have to look into where the motivation for participation in this sport, and in this level, is coming from. The choice to perform in this sport must, at all times, come from the athlete and not the parents. Once that is understood then we have to deal with issues of success, the value placed upon it and how it is defined. Early success can creat a false sense of urgency or can feed a monster of excitement that thrives within an entire family , dreams runnning rampant, and this has to be appreciated as well. Early successes, read: victory, can pervert an appreciation for any other kind of overall success. Sure everyone loves to win but the richness of the experience, good health, cameraderie, academic efficacy, in the context of a healthy teen social life can suffer at the cost of winning. It is a heady price to pay for a child. And these ARE children, make no mistake, not miniature Olympians.

The mitigation of this athete is a two step process but both of these steps depend heavily on the regard the family and the athlete have for the coach:

1) Help the athlete and the family to understand the value of reducing the overall intensity.

2) Impliment strategies to structure the variety of efforts.

If you have determined the source of the motivation in this system then you can focus your effort. If, as we all hope, the main motivation comes from the child then we can deal with issues concerning a typical adolescent drive to express newfound power without the incumbent skills to manage it. It is a classic expression of a teens need for firm and fair limits in service of lifelong goals for a good life. These parallel parenting responsibilities in the best of worlds. The better your work is with your family the easier it is going to be to guide your young racer.

As a coach you are the authority figure where this sport is concerned. With consideration of your athletes needs you will describe the program in the context of workouts and rest periods over time and the execution of what you feel to be a reasonable number of races per season, a space of time which you also will define. Post season activities will specifically prescribe substantial amounts of time off the bike. I know that this sounds a bit severe but that is your job. It is not a method which works with adults but remarkably well with teens who are still operating in a teacher-pupil mode no matter how much they are struggling to independence. Besides, rest, outside recreation, and other enrichments are the best solutions to avoid burn-out.

The great challenge is that your success, that is, the health of the athlete in a consistantly satisfying competitive expression, can always be challenged to have been greater or more productive after the fact. What we hope people will never see is that those efforts allowed for greater or more productive results end in damage and real failure. In my years of working with teens and in healthcare respected collegues have helped me learn that if you make mistakes with people in your care, especially children, make them on the conservative side. At bottom: where is the urgency. These are kids. This is a much longer game that teh families realize with consequences you, not they, can forsee.

I am not one to promote excursions into other aspects of cycling except to dabble. It only leads to more time on a bike (see substantial amounts of time off the bike above.) I have also seem some pretty substantial damage when a highly skilled athlete jumps into another aspect of cycling with the will, not the skills, absent the ability to see the difference. I do encourage participation in other kinds of sports like swimming and running, especially because they serve my purpose in conditioning the athlete without the risk of soccer, football or rugby. This is my bias.

It has been my great fortune to enjoy the confidence of the families of the athletes with which I have worked. I have also developed teen athletes on a par with some of the best you will see though they weren't great when I got them. I transitioned them from other sports, kept them healthy, and resisted pushes from them (which had some root from a Dad or two) to fine results. When you have kids like this they are already winning so what are the next goals. More winning? Winning all the time? Winning everything?

It takes a lot to win; skill, power, luck, talent, and brains. In this case you are the brains for the racer and the family and your goal is to manage a talent, perhaps greater than your own, and hand him off in good form, to the next brain at the next level. Meanwhile your phenom has a life in the busom of his family and you are a guide to them all. You are dealing with a huge amount of pre-existing momentum born of years of experience without your presence. And they are winning with their method.

As I reread you inquiry I saw a phrase which always leaves me with despair, a plea for "tips". Just as with anything we do there are no "tips" or tricks or shortcuts to any of our goals, least of all turning the tide of a family. Be patient, educate. It is a much longer course than many families can appreciate yet when you bring this understanding to the table they understand that you are talking about the life of their child, not just some trick and a trophy.Yet this will not happen in one conversation or maybe not even in one season. Be the expert. Share your insight with the family about their child, not just how hard he pedals, and if you are in tune they will know it and you will have their faith. The rest will come.
 

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Primative Screwhead
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
ok...

Berkley, you appear to have interpreted my concern as callousness and my brevity as ignorance. At least you got all that off your chest, though.:thumbsup:
 

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Not at all, Feideaux.

My apologies if this sounded dismissive as this was not my intention. I did ask for more information in response to your brevity. Your question is not a simple one and provided me with an opportunity to briefly address an interest of mine. However, the participants in this XC racing forum are a pretty interesting and informed bunch so the answer is expressed and elaborated for members of the forum who might not be so familiar with the challenge you face. My response does focus on your concern and lays foundations for answers. As you are aware, far more than most, coaching mtb teens is really cutting edge stuff and very different than coaching adults. What you do is special.

The fact that such an effort as your is funded is fantastic. It is gratifying that some country sees the value in such work. Here in California development of new riders is largely done by skilled volunteers. Our NorCal High School Racing League works at 30 schools to develop nearly 500 teen racers. This model has been used to guide and develop 100 more in the SoCal League which has just finished its first year with great success. These athletes are brought to a certain level and end up being harvested by more advanced coaches after both the athlete and their families are trained. As such they never see, and often take for granted, groundwork essential to a good coaching relationship. I made no assumptions about your knowledge base or attitude.
 

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After all my blather

and having it bounce around in my head I come up with this: you don't need tips, you need a strategy based upon a developed relationship. In order to help with that one needs to know more about the family system otherwise one just takes pot-shots.
 

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As a person who works with HS kids daily (teacher), you are facing a very different beast than most people realize. Does he respect your opinion? Not just listen to you because he must, but actually respect you? If so, you have crossed a major hurdle to accomplishing your goal.

Sit down and talk with him. Find out about what his mind is doing. I have to work hard at not continually riding myself to exhaustion so I can sleep. My brain rarely slows down and I crave the relaxation such intense exercise brings me. He may be facing that at well.

How is school going? If he is struggling in classes, he may be chasing where he is successful. Many of our HS coaches require study-hall time for the athletes to make sure the grades are maintained. You may need to work with his teachers on this.

If he is rebelling against an overcontrolling family, he needs to feel as if he is in control of the training regimen. Talking with him will help. If he respects you, get him to learn from your experience. If he is an analytical thinker, show him the research that says he needs to slow down. Not only because of the growth he is experiencing now, but so that he will be stronger overall.

Have you worked together to set goals? What does he want to accomplish? A specific plan to reach those goals can help slow him down a little.

Then there is one other option. one that may backfire. If he is on vacation, push him. Push him clear to the point of total exhaustion one day. And then beyond it. Then the next day. Then the next day. Completely wear him out. Find his limits ... his real limits. THEN have the talk with him.

Tough. Very tough. Bottom line: He has to feel as if he is in charge. And trust you enough to get him to his goals.
 

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Great, Des

Skilled insight into the dynamics of a kids mind and heart.

I'm not one to support pressing the kid to exhaustion, though. I see it as a clear tactic and can see how it functions mechanically but it is fraught with dangers. It forces an athlete to the limits of fatigue and control and this is where I've seen good talent get hurt. I saw it twice this season. Two young riders, highly touted, were put into Varsity. This is unusual. In both cases they were running with the big dogs with great speed but without all the skill and experience to do it as well as the big dogs do. Great boys, both. Both spent considerable time at the Medical tent with some pretty decent damage, nothing broken, but huge exhaustion.

While adults may see this as part of mtb, I do not, especially with kids. Damage is a result of overreaching due to lack of guidance and self-control. The unacknowledged curosity is that this is the context for adults learning mtb so they figure damage is dues. As coaches developing young racers we guide riders to extremely high levels of self control at high levels of stress but you don't just send a fast kid off like a bottlerocket to find the her limits. That is, in my own peculiar book, irresponsible. The more competitive coaches in my League don't always agree, especially if they have a new hot talent with a chance to win. Funny how that changes things.;)
 
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