There are many times when highly specific training is recommended. In our eyes this is highly individualized, but a good rule of thumb is the late teens to early 20s. Earlier specialization often inhibits long-term success and peaks in performance. Generally children do not have the necessary training volume tolerance built up to handle extremely specific loading. Injuries tend to happen at a much higher rate with sport specific training in the pubescent years. Because of this it is and is not advised by many professionals to continue loading athletes year round especially a youth athlete.

There are numerous studies which you can find in the final installment of this series, that exemplify the exact reasons that training many things at once is a good idea. We have seen this with our club sport athletes as it decreases burn out, keeps motivation high and yields LONG TERM results.

As I mentioned previously, weight training should be utilized at the appropriate time. If your doctor believes your daughter/son is done growing in terms of height at age 17, we would fully support a comprehensive volleyball program developing individual skills for a libero. Exercises could include heavy pressing variants, explosive work in all directions, and heavy lower body strength training. The exercise variation would depend on the specific needs of the individual. If this girl had a 24’’ vertical jump but her reaction time needed work, much of her development might come solely through skill specific training on the court. If she was overweight and missing routine defensive digs, some speed work and weight loss specific training could very well be implemented.

It is up to the coach to determine what training stimulus is appropriate to implement during an athlete’s career. Vital decision making should involve an extensive plan and some sort of auto-regulation (fancy term to regulate training on the fly). As a general rule the younger the athlete is, the less total
workload and more variance they will need in their training. I would also focus on different training qualities throughout the year. As the athlete ages, their general fitness will be higher and their body will be prepared to train at much higher intensities while simultaneously handling a plethora of different workloads. In summary, the more highly specialized an athlete is you may be sacrificing their long term development with a higher injury rate, decreased motivation level, and lack of continuous performance improvements.

So we must keep all of this in mind when designing a periodized regimen. And after every block of training, the coach should reassess and possibly change an exercise or drill based on what the previous training cycle has shown. Training blocks with high resistance and maximal loading should last NO longer than six weeks. A week of offloading is often necessary to realize performance results through recovery. Individuality and length of training blocks will depend on the athlete, but as mentioned above the more trained one becomes the more exercise and sport practice they can handle. This takes years of development not days, weeks, or months.

Please be cognizant of this and adapt as necessary.

Ryan Benson

Ryan Benson

Director Benson leads the team and personal training programs at Velo Athletics. He plays a significant role in the ongoing growth of youth athletes (volleyball, softball, baseball, basketball, track and field, football, and soccer).