Make training fan

HARARE - If you cannot find the fun in training then you need to step out the program and reassess. We all love to have fun and enjoy life and there is no reason why you cannot have the same approach to your training.

I am not saying that as an Olympian you need to joke around every training session and as a result miss your goals, but to rather find ways to incorporate elements of fun into your training that keeps you enjoying it. Especially through the hard times!

Any good coach out there knows that children are motivated by fun and that the vast majority of all their sport and activity related sessions should be focused around fun, games, basic skill and motor development.

This is compliant of the Long Term Athlete Development pathway that appropriately and progressively guides young athletes through the stages of both physical and skill development.

The aim is to hopefully ensure that by the time they reach what would be an elite or performance level they are capable of meeting the skill and physical requirements of the sport.

The biggest mistake coaches of young athletes make is progressing them too hard or coaching them outside of their abilities. Never neglect the fun, they need to enjoy themselves and they need to keep coming back for more because they learn and develop while they have fun.

If you are a sports based coach then Small Sided Games are an essential coaching method for young athletes for a number of reasons:

1. Easy to manage - smaller training spaces allow the coach to move and manage the session without having to shout or miss out on areas that need attention. You are always within the playing zone, within the game and within reach of helping the child.

2. Develops numerous skills - communication, sports specific core skills, hand-eye skills, evasive ability, movement patterns, general conditioning, coordination and motor development are but some of the skills that you can develop.

3. Inclusive - everyone gets a chance to play, learn and develop. This is imperative as children want to let them play!

4. Limitless - think out the box as a coach and be creative to develop the fun in many different ways. You are only limited by the confines of your imagination.

The global objective is no different on the other end of the continuum when it comes to working with elite level athletes at a high performance levels.

The manipulations lie within the session objectives, intensities, skill developments and conditioning requirements.

Trust me, fun must still be had. They need to know that there is still some good to the work they do when it gets hard...when they go to those dark places and the mind and body questions everything!

Small Sided Games can still be used in your field sessions. Try bringing in challenges and forfeits and scoring systems that promote fun yet disguise the intensity of the conditioning (two birds with one stone).

It is evident that when you bring the fun to training, barriers can be broken down and partnerships between players and between the player and the coach can either be established or enhanced.

This in turn fortifies the team culture and promotes the underlying ingredient of what every great team has, and that is a unified approach.

Within the gym sessions fun can be had too. In your warm up and cool down sessions basic skill and motor development games can be utilised that target all the key requirements for a warm up and cool down.

This stimulates the athletes mind and excites their approach to the session. The rewards to you as the coach are impressive due to the gains made each session. How you say?

Well, when an athlete invests themselves purposefully into the session and program then their rate of progression is significantly increased and hopefully this translates to an improvement in their sports based performance. Objective achieved.

Keep the fun in training!

*Ex-Zimbabwe rugby international Grant Mitchell is High Performance Director at Innovate High Performance Centre in Harare and a top strength and conditioning coach.

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