September 30, 2019

Rob Anderson



We’re excited to have Rob Anderson guest posting on the #YADacademy blog today, utilising his extensive knowledge base to chat with you guys about the importance of incorporating athletic development into technical sessions, and the ways in which to do so. Thanks, Rob! We’ll have to get you back again to share more of your expertise with us all soon!


Athletic development: What’s in it for the coach?

As a technical coach, incorporating athletic development into your technical training sessions may not be high on your list of priorities. Time constraints are often already a factor, which means that most coaches manage to give the technical or tactical elements of the sport enough attention already.

But what if I told you that focusing on these physical elements could bring a whole host of benefits to your athlete’s health and sporting performance, without requiring you to sacrifice large portions of your session, or add another session to your already busy training week?


Benefit #1: Injury prevention

Wouldn’t you like to have a full roster of athletes available and able to perform as frequently as possible? What if I told you that many of the injuries affecting your athletes’ availability for training and competition could be reduced, or even eradicated altogether?

One of the biggest benefits of athletic development to both the athlete as an individual, as well as yourself as the coach of a larger squad, is injury prevention. It’s difficult for an athlete to improve if they are stuck on the side lines due to injury. As athletes’ abilities increase in basic stability, strength and fitness, injury rates can be reduced dramatically. By decreasing injury rates, you can increase the availability of athletes for training and competition, leading to greater opportunities for improvement; therefore, creating better athletes in the long term.

↓ injuries = ↑ availability for training/competition = ↑ opportunities to improve = ↑ performance



Benefit #2: Improved sporting performance

Wouldn’t you love to have stronger, faster, more explosive athletes?

As well as simply maximising athlete availability, incorporating athletic development can actually improve performance on the track, court or pitch. Consider the infographic by Yann le Meur below. An analysis of 43 different scientific studies showed improvements in strength, sprint agility, vertical jump and sport specific performance. Are those really benefits you’re prepared to leave on the table?



So, where do we fit athletic development into our sessions?

“I don’t have time for an extra session for athletic development!” is a phrase I hear often, and I’ve got some great news for you. You don’t need any extra sessions.

You don’t need to sacrifice whole sessions, and you may not have to sacrifice any of the existing time you have at all! If you do, it’s only minimal. That’s because the most efficient way to incorporate athletic development into your sessions is by utilising an efficient, planned warm up.

Often, the ‘warm up’ I see before technical training isn’t a smart use of time. It’s usually some players having a chat or a joke, trying to learn a new trick or performing a few symbolic stretches. If you take control of the warm up, and use it to deliver an efficient and effective athletic development component, you will gain the benefits at no extra time cost.

For example:

3 x 10 min warm ups = 30 mins per week

4 x 10 min warm ups = 40 mins per week

3 x 15 min warm ups = 45 mins per week

4 x 15 min warm ups = 1 hour per week


What should we deliver in the warm up?

Again, this is a very easy answer. In fact, you may well find that an NGB (National Governing Body) in your sport has already done this for you. Consider the FIFA 11+ and World Rugby Activate Program as great examples of what content to put in your warm up. Programs such as these have been proven to dramatically reduce injuries in youth football and rugby respectively.

If you want to design your own warm up, then consider the RAMP Protocol, suggested by the United Kingdom Strength & Conditioning Association. See the below infographic by Science for Sport for a good overview of the RAMP method.



Here are some examples of activities you could use in each section:

R – tag variations, 10 pass game, Simon says

A – fundamental movement patterns (push, pull, squat, hinge, brace, rotate), animal movements

M – dynamic stretches such as hurdle stepovers, leg swings, hamstring walk outs, shoulder circles

P – jumping, landing and sprinting activities


“But I don’t have any specialist equipment!” is another phrase I often hear from technical coaches. Here’s some more good news: you don’t need any!

For young, developing athletes, bodyweight exercises are demanding enough without needing to add extra load in the form of dumbbells or barbells. By performing the fundamental movements (push, pull, squat, hinge, jump, land, brace, rotate) with bodyweight, your athletes will improve in motor control, stability, strength and power, leading to the previously discussed benefits: injury prevention and improved sporting performance.


Hopefully, you can now see the benefits of implementing athletic development into your technical sessions, as well as understanding where you can utilise it and what content to utilise to make it efficient and effective. I hope you’ve found this article beneficial to your coaching!

Sources and recommended reading:

Animal Shapes

Yann Le Meur Infographics

RAMP Method

FIFA 11+ Program

Science for Sport

World Rugby Activate Program


Rob Anderson currently leads the youth athletic development for the Scottish Rugby Academy in the Caledonia Region. He has previously worked for numerous organisations, including NYFA Sweden, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Team Palmer-Grimson Beach Volleyball, London Thunder Basketball, British Gymnastics and Leaf Studio School. Rob created Athletic Evolution to provide the best practice in the athletic development and coaching of young athletes. He is dedicated to improving the quality of athletic development training delivered to young athletes. Rob holds numerous qualifications, including MSc in Applied Sport and Exercise Physiology; BSc (Hons) in Strength and Conditioning Science; World Rugby Coach Educator – Strength and Conditioning; UKSCA Accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach; ISAK Level 1 Anthropometrist; Precision Nutrition Level 1; Level 2, Level 3 and Level 3 Advanced NASM qualifications. Follow Rob on Instagram and Twitter, and make sure to visit his website for more information.

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