Growth spurts in athletes is inevitable, we all grow! So how do we manage and limit regressions?
In order to better understand how to limit regressions, and provide the tools and the environment for our athletes, we need to understand HOW a growth spurt affects our bodies.
In short, when athletes have a growth spurt, it is often the case that the growth of the bones outpace the growth of the muscles/tendons. Mainly the changes are losses in flexibility and strength/power at the hips and shoulders. As well, the changes in arm/leg bones can alter the ‘feel’ of normal technique, which can negatively impact core strength and may cause the athlete to lose their tightness/control for the short term. Also, be aware there are many hormonal and physiological changes that occur during a growth spurt that may also contribute to poorer outcomes.
There isn’t a magic cure, other than patience, open communication, and being accommodating. We recommend coaches spend a lot less time on hard impact skills, and instead focus on basics, technique, soft surfaces, tramp/Tumbl Trak work, core strength, leg strength, handstand development, flexibility maintenance, and so on.
To give you a full picture from an athlete perspective, we sat down and spoke with CDTT athlete Trey (Beach Cheer Athletics), who really sprouted this past year, and faced significant regressions. After stepping up, buckling down and working hard, Trey has regained all his skills and more with the help of the Cheer District workouts!
One significant change Trey pointed out as being a key factor is his difficulties through his growth spurt was his lack of power. He really noticed the change in the length of his body and his ability to have enough power to complete a full rotation in a standing tuck, or even the length of his arms when executing handsprings. These changes really challenged the mental aspect of the sport for Trey, which is something we often see with athletes who are going through these changes.
As soon as Trey really started to notice his skill regressions, he decided to take ownership of his skills and his changing body and buckled down to do everything he could to increase his power and strength. Trey committed to a Cheer District workout almost every single day. Along with his Cheer District workouts, Trey also committed to going back to the basics. Instead of throwing his body into skills it could no longer safely complete, he went back to level 1 skills and worked his way up from there. Building back his strength, power, flexibility and balance.
Something Trey also noticed early on was his inequity from his left side to his right; his skills were lopsided.
When we see performance variables dip below a certain threshold, this is where we can run into the increased risk of injury. This is why it is more important than ever to keep up your at home training. This will help maintain coordination, stability, strength, range of motion and power. For this reason, in the Cheer District app workouts you will often see a range of exercises covering the needed components to maintain or lessen the impact of these growth spurts.
Although Trey had been a user of Cheer District prior to his regression, he was also navigating a pandemic, gym closures, and a lack of motivation. Understandably, his consistency in his workouts wasn’t as strong as they then became! Our recommendation in order to avoid regressions is to be consistent with proper conditioning *OUTSIDE* of practice before the growth spurts happen and throughout the growth. Communicate the importance of preparing athletes' bodies for sport, especially at the younger age groups when their bodies are constantly changing! Work to limit regressions, limit injury and even INCREASE skill acquisition by addressing the problem before it happens.
Along with the training, it is also important to address the mental side of growth spurts, as Trey mentioned, this was one of the most difficult aspects to overcome. As coaches, it is important to understand the changes that are occurring and provide the physical and mental support for these athletes. It is important for them to understand the regressions are not their fault and are in fact a common side effect of growing! If your athlete is going through a growth spurt and is struggling with the mental aspect, we highly recommend reaching out to Jeff Benson of Mind, Body, Cheer to support you and your athletes.
Do you have more questions about managing growth spurts? Are you interested in adopting the Cheer District platform into your programs? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be more than happy to support you however we can!
STRENGTH TRAINING DOES NOT STUNT GROWTH.
This MYTH comes from the observation of children in child labour camps. It was assumed the heavy lifting was the cause of the children's stunted growth, however it was later determined that it was in fact a result of the malnutrition. Unfortunately, this misconception has spread far and wide around the world, but we are here to bust that myth!