Strength and conditioning in schools

This past year I’ve coached many athletes performing at varying levels from elite to recreational in a variety of sports. During many of the coaching sessions I have experienced a range of emotions including those ranging from mild surprise to astonishment at how some of these athletes have performed to as high a level that they have. There is a fairly common theme in many of the cases and that is a necessity for a ground up building of movement skills.

We’re not just talking Olympic lift technique, which is obviously common to have to coach from early levels, that’s bread and butter for a strength and conditioning coach. I’m talking primarily about basic movements; a lack of ability to balance on one leg, to bodyweight quarter squat without losing form or to bodyweight split squat while maintaining posture. Basically a lack of core strength and flexibility. I may be fantasizing here but how good would it be, and I’m sure a lot of coaches would agree with me, to have these basics taught in schools.

I think about the athletes I’ve worked/am working with and the difference in where they are now and where they could’ve been if they’d been coached these basics during that key development period from 12-16 years old. Maybe the development of a movement curriculum, a minimum standard, that has to be attained alongside maths, English and science could solve the problem. A schools’ purpose is prepare children for continued education, to teach social skills and ease entry into the working environment. I would tag onto this to be able to maintain their health through continued exercise/sporting participation. How is this possible if they are unable to support their own bodyweight adequately or move properly?

Maybe it is something that would be better targeted at primary school age? Is it the role of teachers (primary/PE) to do this? Should local councils employ strength and conditioning coaches? These are all questions that would have to be addressed before such a scheme was introduced. It would be great to hear some other opinions on this.

Neil Welch

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