For Coaches coaches - training or overtaining - that is the question

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bogwoppit

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I am creating this thread as I do not want to hijack the nutrition thread, I also want coaches views on the subject. The subject is training long hours, which to me is over 20 hours a week as a pre-teen. We have instances on the board of pre-teens training as many as 38 hours a week on the Elite path, but I do know of clubs that train 24 hours a week on the Elite path. Is there a right way to do this?

How many hours is too many hours for a pre teen child to train, in your opinion?

If a child trains long hours, what should a parent be looking for in the coaching techniques and equipment used?

How do you feel the pre teen body handles the rigors of 30+ hours a week in the gym?

If there is a "good" number of hours to train, what is that number and why?

Have you seen any instances of burnout that you would attribute to hours?

Is there any correlation, in your opinion, between hours trained as a pre-teen and success as an Elite gymnast?

Are there any documents online that support long training hours for the pre teen gymnast?

Are there any documents online that suggest long training hours are detrimental to the health and gymnastics progress of the pre teen gymnast?

If they exist please share.

I am looking for facts, figures and opinions. I am definitely on the con side of this discussion as it seems to be stepping into the world of child labour. I am looking to be educated by the coaches.
 
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Jenny

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I think what is difficult is that at the time the child and family seem to be handling it well. I have heard many parents say after their child has dropped out, moved on, burned out, injured out that it is only looking back with hindsight that they realise it was too much. Even if they were looking for it, it wasn't easy to see at the time.

My issue would be around sustainability. How many years can a child's body stand up to the rigours of 25 hours a week, 35 hours a week, more? If you want your child to be a senior elite which starts the year they turn 16, how do you pace that. If your child is 8 and training 35 hours a week can their body really stand up to at least 8 years of that kind of pounding? I don't know where you could find that information.

It would be interesting to look at all the gymnasts in the 12 olympic teams from this year and find out their training history. I wouldn't be surprised if most of them trained much less than 30 hours a week at 8.

I know older gymnasts often train 'smarter' rather than longer because of the wear and tear on their bodies. Is there a finite number of training hours for a body that you can either burn through fast or spread out through the years more slowly?

A very interesting topic.
 
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Seeker

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Very interesting indeed. Long term sustainability while on the elite path is critical if you're to get there and peak at the right time. It must be very difficult to determine the right balance as all gymnasts are different, but 38 seems like a scary number to me.
 
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Iwannabemargo

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interesting Bog

I noticed this weekend the differerence between the highly drilled gymnasts and the not so highly drilled gymnasts, and unfortunately the highly drilled ones were the ones who came out on top.

Gymnastics is a sport that builds of previous skills. You cant just go and do a double back, you start with jumps and backwards rolls and progress from there. These progressions take many hours and thats where the weekly hours tally up.

However there is a dirence between hours in the gym and productive hours in the gym. In her old gym P&F went 12 hours a week. There were 10-14 children in her group and limited equipment so a lot of queueing and sitting about, plus a lunch break on the saturday.

New gym, 6 1/2 hours per week in a group of 3-4, no breaks, no queueing.
 
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Natasha

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Great thread Bogwogpit. I am also interested in answers to the above. Also, I keep hearing about kids training 20+ hours (pre-teens) that do not have elite aspirations but have the goal of college scholarship. I would love to hear information on that- how many of those kids are able to sustain the hours through their senior year and make it to college.
 
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How many hours is too many hours for a pre teen child to train, in your opinion? Varies, some of this is genetic and has to do with their ability to recover. Ideally, they should still be growing and not showing any signs of overtraining/underrecovery.

If a child trains long hours, what should a parent be looking for in the coaching techniques and equipment used? Ideally, I'm sure this will not be using hard surfaces all of the time. Lots of tramp work, dance/ballet work, and spending ample time stretching and doing basics. You know the stuff, that gets cut down when hours are less.

How do you feel the pre teen body handles the rigors of 30+ hours a week in the gym? Again, depends on genetics and recovery. Nobody in this country does blood testing to determine athletic ability but the Chinese do.

If there is a "good" number of hours to train, what is that number and why? Highly debateable. Again, it varies and also depends on how long the gymnast has trained.

Have you seen any instances of burnout that you would attribute to hours? Yes, especially when they aren't sleeping or eating enough.

Is there any correlation, in your opinion, between hours trained as a pre-teen and success as an Elite gymnast?

Are there any documents online that support long training hours for the pre teen gymnast?

Are there any documents online that suggest long training hours are detrimental to the health and gymnastics progress of the pre teen gymnast?

I guess we need to find out some of the data that the Russian sports school developed and how many hours they exactly trained from what ages. Need to grill Oleg about this one of these days, IF he even remembers.
 
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Aussie_coach

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Overtraining young gymnasts is a big problem in our sport. Many kids are having their bodies destroyed before they even hit puberty, ruining their chances of ever representing their country internationally not to mention their chances of leading a pain free adult life.

How many hours is too many for a pre teen to train? This will be very individual. Some kids can do way more and have no problems, other fall apart on a very small number of hours. A lot also depends if they home school or if they are in school all day. Some kids can handle 20 hours a week and some can't I don't reccomend over 30 hours for a pre teen.

What should pare to be looking for? Well that's a hard question too because most parents are not trained gymnastics coaches they really should be able to trust their children's coaches to do what is best for the kids and should not be expected to have to work this out for themselves. Look at the kids, are they happy? Are there many injuries?

Can the pre teen body handle 30+ hours a week? Most no way, a few can handle it physically but there is also the problem of burn out. If you do nothing as a pre teen except gymnastics when you hit your teen years you are going to start wanting to know what life is like without gymnastics. But in general it is not healthy for a body of this age.

Is there a good number of hours to train? This depends on a lot of factors. Temperament of the child, abilities of the coaches, size of the team and so on. But you do see injuries rise significantly in kids training over 20 hours a week.

Have I seen burn out related to hours? Yes, very frequently. In fact. Of the younger kids who gain that much I see burn out due to hours in more tha half of them.
 

Iwannabemargo

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Was discussing this very point with hubbie as we were watching the cricket on TV this moring. I was commenting how Jimmy Anderson is still going strong after such a long career. For those who dont know he is a fast bowler who runs approximately 25 yards at full pelt and then delivers a ball over his head at approximately 85-90 miles per hour.

He will do this approximately 250 times per match, plus warm ups etc and its a huge starin on his back, legs and shoulders. Most fast bowlers tend to break after a short career. ECB ha introduced new central contracts, reduceing the hours that contracted cricketers play - this has led to longevity in their careers.

Hubbie also recently went to a training session with Bath RFC - one of the worlds top Rugby Clubs. Each player has a gps microchip in their shirts and when they have trainings essions they are montiored to see how far they run/move. When they reach a certain limit they are taken off the training field and not allowed to continue further. This again is designed to counteract burnout.

Now these examples are adult elite atheletes, who are already at the top of their sports and have the necessary skills to compete at top level, not youngsters learning skills.
 

CoachTodd

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Pro athletes don't even train 30hrs a week. I do think if a large portion of that time is spend on dance and maybe areal awareness on tramp or into the pit it wouldn't bee so bad. Even at 3hrs a day with Sundays off it would only be 18hrs a week.
 
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Canadian_gym_mom

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I know older gymnasts often train 'smarter' rather than longer because of the wear and tear on their bodies. Is there a finite number of training hours for a body that you can either burn through fast or spread out through the years more slowly?

A very interesting topic.

I am replying to this one post before reading further, so forgive me if this has been addressed, but isn't there is a difference in training hours required to "maintain" a level of gymnastics, as opposed to the years spent progressing and getting to that high level?
 

Jenny

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I am replying to this one post before reading further, so forgive me if this has been addressed, but isn't there is a difference in training hours required to "maintain" a level of gymnastics, as opposed to the years spent progressing and getting to that high level?

yes I think there is. However I was wondering out loud whether if you got there slower over less hours would you be able to maintain a 'middle' amount of hours through out your career as your body would be less burnt out.
 

iwannacoach

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Geez bog...... a question with eight parts is gonna kill me to answer in less than two pages. I guess I'll just keep it simple with a broad brush answer after addressing the notion that some people have constructive priorities that differ from other's constructive priorities.

Some, maybe all of us have had ambitions, at one time or another, that we've pursued to one extent or the other. Some people chose to invest less in their pursuits, while others choose to put everything they have into their pursuits. In this context I really feel there's no such thing as normal that exists between the extremes of investment, as we are all individual and what we do has to make sense to us.

Using the above "anything goes" approach there are kids that poop out with a 16 hr schedule, partly because they have other interests that may demand energy or create stress, or they lack the desire needed to *feel* their progress and reach a state of renewal that can help sustain their energy level. There are people, kids included, who have a sense for what they want, and wish only to be allowed to go full throttle to get what they want. I think the full throttle people get a boost of energy when they are "set free" to go all out with no hindering cautions and controls.

Figuring out how much is too much is therefore a pretty daunting and elusive task, because it requires you know what's in the heart and soul of each participant, and is further complicated by what renews their energy. I think it's possible to say that most kids can work themselves into the required physical condition to make it through about a 24 hour training week as long as they're interested enough to get into the shape required to be invited to do so by an intelligent coach who knows you don't solve problems by piling on hours on top of lazy or poorly conducted practices. So I guess I'm trying to say that kids who don't care to be doing anything else, that enjoy the sport, can sustain that work load to the point in time they decide there's more to life than sucking down chalk dust and soaking their gym gear with sweat every day.

It's probably been experienced, by all of us, that some kids don't want to be there more than is necessary to satisfy some external force, like parents or team mates they're afraid of letting down, or satisfying the coach just enough to remain on the team with friends they've known for years. Those kids will wear down and show signs of overtraining far short of a 24 hour to the extent they're tired the moment they walk through the door for the 3rd practice of the week.

For some kids, they just can't get enough, and they can go well beyond the 24 hour schedule.... as long as they're working with a coach capable of managing their training time by spending time on valuable basic drills that are low impact and consume little energy while bring the child to a higher level of awareness of exactly how their body works in the gymnastics context. A good example of that sort of training could be the time I watched one of the top olympian gymnasts spend just about 30 minutes doing nothing but forward roll to a stand, and sit back roll into a candle stick to a forward roll up to a stand.

The mention of 30+ hours in a nearly casual manner, like this is what all our L7 kids do, just doesn't float my boat, but deciding some other coaches schedule for the week they put their kids through is not my call to make.
 
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Jenny

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brilliant post. Thank you. Makes a lot of sense.
 

bogwoppit

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Iwannacoach, thanks for that great response. I know eight parts sucked, but I wanted to dig a bit deeper than is it good or bad or in between depending etc etc.
 
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I am not sure if this was mentioned but, the kids just plain and simple must feel loved and appreciated. "You have to show them how much you care before they care how much you know", one of my fav quotes, with that basis you can be strict get results and still have a strong bond that will last throughout the tough times and there lives. We are the surrogate parents for these kids, don't ever forget that.
 
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JBS

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I'll share the very little that I know...

I am creating this thread as I do not want to hijack the nutrition thread, I also want coaches views on the subject. The subject is training long hours, which to me is over 20 hours a week as a pre-teen. We have instances on the board of pre-teens training as many as 38 hours a week on the Elite path, but I do know of clubs that train 24 hours a week on the Elite path. Is there a right way to do this?

I think there is a right way...but it seems to be an individual thing. It might be totally different for each combination of individual gymnast, coaching staff and parents.

How many hours is too many hours for a pre teen child to train, in your opinion?

I think it depends on the individual and their situation. I can see almost any amount of hours being OK if the perfect storm of situations happened. During school...my current mindset is holding me at 24 hours per week. If school is not in session or it is an integrated part of the gymnastics club...then I don't know. I have never had a gymnast that I coach work out over 22.5 hours per week.

If a child trains long hours, what should a parent be looking for in the coaching techniques and equipment used?

Top notch.

How do you feel the pre teen body handles the rigors of 30+ hours a week in the gym?

Depends on the style of training. What if one hour per day of this training was classroom style learning (watching videos, whiteboard work, mind training)? That would make the actual gym time only 24 hours per week.

If there is a "good" number of hours to train, what is that number and why?

24...hey...I'm only taking one of your days per week...you get the other 6.

Have you seen any instances of burnout that you would attribute to hours?

Yes...I have seen burnout in 12 hours per week. The 12 hours plus everything else in her life caused extreme burnout.

Is there any correlation, in your opinion, between hours trained as a pre-teen and success as an Elite gymnast?

Yes...high hours early on seems to be very beneficial...the definition of "high" is the question...

Let's say a gymnast has 5 years until they turn 13 and they work out 48 weeks/year...

---Gymnast "A" averages 12 hours/week over the 5 years: 12 hours/week x 48 weeks/year x 5 years = 2,880 hours trained

---Gymnast "B" averages 20 hours/week over the 5 years: 20 hours/week x 48 weeks/year x 5 years = 4,800 hours trained

...the above is a huge difference.

Are there any documents online that support long training hours for the pre teen gymnast?

Don't know.

Are there any documents online that suggest long training hours are detrimental to the health and gymnastics progress of the pre teen gymnast?

Probably.

If they exist please share.

Yes...please.

I am looking for facts, figures and opinions. I am definitely on the con side of this discussion as it seems to be stepping into the world of child labour. I am looking to be educated by the coaches.

What is coming up here is the changing of gymnastics from a "sport" into a "lifestyle". For some it may be a "lifestyle"...but what is the perfect set of circumstances that allow this to happen?
 
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