A while back I blogged on the idea of youth athletic development and the Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) model. The idea of overspecialization, which is contrary to LTAD, was the subject of an OpEd in the New York Times. The author focused a lot on overuse injuries. They also, though, mentioned how kids in some sports continue to play on adult-sized surfaces with full-count teams.
In 2014 I attended a Coaching Children & Young People workshop as part of my Volleyball England Level 3 certification. In it I was asked whether volleyball has implemented reduced participant and/or small-court games for young players. Needless to say, small-sided games is something I’ve talked about before. I’m a big supporter, and use them extensively even with experienced players.
For a number of years younger players in the States have played on a shorter net. They also play with a lighter ball. In England the focus is on playing 4-v-4 at the lower levels. They do so on badminton courts, usually with a lower net as well. In Sweden I saw them play a couple different variations of 4-v-4 with the younger kids, and I’ve heard other countries do the same. It’s a good trend in the sports world to give kids more ball contacts and more opportunity to reasonably play the game within the scope of their physical abilities.
What’s a little bit ironic in our sport is that even though many of our participants don’t start playing seriously until they are teens, we still have issues with overuse injury. It is a constant thing on our minds coaching college volleyball in the States. There’s been considerable debate as to whether kids even in the 15, 16, 17 age group should continue to play multiple sports.
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