Physically smaller rugby player

This case study focuses on a participant that is physically not as mature as his peers and who is lacking confidence in his ability to perform in rugby. However the participant enjoys playing and does not want to stop simply because he is viewed as too small. The case study will highlight areas in which the performer can be helped by coaching techniques and training methods available, which lead to an increase in performance and confidence from the performer. Adolescents and puberty

At the onset of puberty weight gain occurs before height gain, certain parts of the skeleton develop more rapidly than other parts and body parts often do not grow at the same rate. When evaluating the effects of puberty on performance the implications for coaches include the following factors Douge (2000).  Due to growth factors the athletes rate of skill development may slow down  Delaying the introduction of resistance work until the muscle and skeleton growth can cope with weight gain  Providing the athlete with greater privacy and space while they learn to cope with the changes associated with puberty

Douge (2000) states that late maturers have a problem in achieving in a culture that applauds athletic achievement and gives attention to physical maturity. This presents a problem in this case as the participant is a late developer playing a sport where at this age physical development is important and can affect performance. Since the participant is physically smaller than his peers it can be difficult for him to be seen by them as a challenge or serious performer as they view his stature as a limiting factor to his performance.

This has lead to the subjects confidence being undermined by his peer group. Although the subject does not want to stop playing he feels he cannot compete well enough to warrant playing in the same team as his more physically mature peers, however by employing certain strategies to the subject these feelings may be changed. Strategies In order to maintain the subjects interest in rugby it is important to make him understand that he will soon catch up or even surpass his peers when puberty begins.

This will aid in him understanding that he will not be dwarfed the entire time he is playing rugby and that even now he will be able to compete with the bigger children in the group by learning the correct techniques and using them effectively. In order to do this more one on one time with the subject should be used to teach and perfect the basic skills of tackling and mauling and rucking so the subject feels that they are technically as good as if not better than their peer group.

In many ways the subject has a distinct advantage over his peers due to his small size. Since one of the keys of successful tackling in rugby union is to go low the subject need not to focus on this as much as his peers as his stature means he is already in a low body position. This allows one step of teaching the tackle to the subject to be perfected with minimum effort, the coaching of the skill should then focus on the other factors such as the arms and head placement.

Because the subject is already in low position this allows a technically good tackle to be made as he will automatically be tackling around the legs region, and without the legs the attacker cannot move. By spending some time on developing this skill with the subject their confidence will increase as he will begin to feel that he can compete with the more physically developed in the group and can tackle well in a David Vs Goliath situation.

Another area that could be developed is the strength of the subject. Traditionally it has been the view that strength training, in particular resistance training should not be performed by the young athlete. The view has been that resistance training damages the epiphysis (growth plate) of the bone in preadolescents and should not be included in training programmes of the younger athlete Fleck (1987) and Wilmore (1994).

Also research points to the fact that younger competitors have not enough testosterone in their bodies to gain strength through training. However recent research has began to contradict the more traditional views regarding children and resistance training. Wilmore and Costill (1994) stated that various other sports have been implicated in growth plate injuries due to excessive training loads and it appears strength training poses no greater threat to growth plates than other recreational pursuits or organised sport.

Fleck and Kraemer (1997) found that resistance training of prepubescent boys and girls can cause significant increases in strength, although they attributed this to neural mechanisms such as inter muscular co-ordination rather than an increase in cross sectional area or muscle hypertrophy. Ozmun et al. (1994) also stated that neural mechanisms which include increased motor unit activation and changes in motor unit co-ordination are thought to account for training induced strength gains in prepubescent children.

Previous research that found prepubescent children had no significant benefits from resistance training used only modest training loads and did not use progressive overloading techniques a key training principle as highlighted by Bompa (1990). This indicates that if a resistance-training programme is properly designed and supervised strength gains can be seen in prepubescent children. In order use resistance training for prepubescent performers the following points should be adhered to. (National Strength and Conditioning Association 1985).

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