Sunday, March 2, 2014

The BEST way to support and care for our young sports people’

27 February 2014
Guest blog by Carmen Taplin

If we lead with our hearts, they will never walk alone….

What is a 39-year-old Maori woman with an immense passion for helping others and who cares deeply about cultural diversity doing living in Sydney, over 2000km from her homeland?

My husband and I are house parents for a progressive-thinking NRL club and have eight young sportsmen living with us for the 2014 season. We provide a network of support that they wouldn't normally have at home. Quite simply, we are living the dream and wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Our main responsibility is to care for these boys, to set boundaries, and provide good advice and assistance on everything they think is important. We are the 'home away from home' for our multicultural whanau (family), who comprise a mix of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Maori, Samoan, Fijian and Croatian nationalities, all living together as one. Our experiences back in our home town of Papakura, South Auckland, where we previously coached and managed an U20's team of 28 Polynesian, Maori, Indian and Pakeha young men, and being a part of their journeys through sport and life, have helped to shape and prepare us for the nurturing role we're playing today.

What first motivated me to investigate doing a house parent role were the tragic suicides of Mosese Fotuaika and Alex Elisala last year, both young Polynesian men playing in the NRL. These senseless tragedies raised countless questions on how we can understand and protect the welfare of players from different cultural backgrounds and how we can assist them in times of crisis.

These days the NRL is a diverse mix of race, ethnicity and culture – over 10 per cent of players are Indigenous and 30 per cent have a Polynesian background. At the time of the tragedies last year, Peter Badel (Courier Mail) wrote: 'The proliferation of Islander talent has provided fresh challenges for the code. On the field, with their enormous physiques, they may seem impervious to weakness. Off it . . . there are cultural nuances and pressures that are not easy to understand'. This is so true; these players have different cultural specific issues and once they get outside their comfort zones and are living away from their families they can struggle to cope and are often reticent to seek help.

While I understand the NRL has invested heavily in player welfare and education, I remain somewhat skeptical about how our sport helps young, emerging talent deal with the rigors associated with trying to make it to the big league, and if they do, how it helps them deal with the pressures and requirements of being an elite athlete. As a rugby league community I think we need to embrace all of our many cultures, learn more about them, and appreciate why each of these young men fit differently into what I call 'the BEST box'. This is something my husband and I have tried to do with everyone we have cared for in our rugby league 'family'.

Our BEST is Belief – building a relationship on belief in each other, where our athletes feel valued and respected and have ultimate belief in themselves.

Our BEST is Empathy – having the ability to understand our players, learning about what home looks like for them, and being able to empathize with or appreciate what these boys have been through – on and off the field.

Our BEST is Synergy – that your expectations meet their expectations and your values and core beliefs are the same or are similar.

Our BEST is Trust – a sound relationship is ultimately built on trust and an outcome of this is respect. They will trust the decisions you make for, and with them, as they believe you have their best interests at heart, and not your own.

As house parents for up-and-coming rugby league players, my husband and I have always made a conscious effort to be culturally aware of the boys' backgrounds, their families, their hobbies (good and bad) and what motivates them each day. We care about the complete person, not just the athlete. We realize that they rise well to the occasion of success and happiness, but they may also suffer immensely and often in silence when things don't quite go to plan. It is at these testing times when we should support them the most, because this is when they are most vulnerable.

In this way, we earn the trust and respect of the boys, through valuing their heritages and beliefs, and embracing their thoughts and opinions. When we speak to each and every one of them they know we genuinely care for their wellbeing and that we put them first, not by chance, but by choice. We understand that to make a difference in their lives that it can never be about US – it has to always be about THEM. We teach them that values are vital and so necessary to grow as an individual, and that without them, we have no true direction or sense of being. We teach them to celebrate their successes no matter how big or small they may seem – any personal achievement is a success worth acknowledging.

This to us is 'true' player welfare. It is genuine investment in caring about young peoples' lives and their futures. If we listen more, value what is said and do the BEST we can, the results will speak volumes, on and off the field. And if we lead with our hearts, they will never walk alone.

Carmen has worked in various roles for New Zealand Rugby League and was part of the Kiwis squad for their Rugby League World Cup campaign in the UK last year. She is currently living and working in Australia.

Terima kasih/ Thank You

Jefri Ngadirin
Majlis Sukan Negara/
National Sport Council

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Coaching Young Athletes

Young athletes are physically developing, from early childhood to late adolescence. This means they have different capabilities for, and adaptations to, exercise and for this reason, young athlete training programs should not be just scaled down versions of adult training programs.

Growth rates

In the first two years children grow about 5 inches (13 cm). Growth then continues at a steady rate of 2.5 inches (6 cm) per year until about the age of 11 in girls and 13 in boys, when the pubertal growth spurt begins.

The pubertal growth spurt lasts about 2 years and is accompanied by sexual development (growth of pubic hair, development of sex organs, deepening of the voice in boys, and beginning of menstruation in girls). Normal growth stops when the growing ends of the bones fuse.

This usually occurs between the ages of 13 and 15 for girls, and 14 and 17 for boys. The typical pattern of rate of growth for boys and girls from birth through adolescence is shown in the figure "Growth Rates for Boys & Girls" (Rieser 2002) [1]. This growth rate is an important factor in the Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) of a child.

Bone development

Bones develop from a cartilage growth plate, called epiphysial plates, at each end of the bone shaft. These growth plates divide the calcified head of the bone (epiphysis) and the calcified shaft (diaphysis). The bone lengthens as cartilage is calcified into bone. At the same time, cartilage continues to grow on the epiphysial border, so the epiphysial plates retain a constant width of cartilage throughout. Growth ends when the plate eventually calcifies.


Muscle mass increases steadily until puberty, at which point boys show faster muscle growth.


The hormonal changes at puberty also affect body composition in terms of fat.

At birth, both boys and girls have around 10 to 12% body fat
Pre-puberty, both girls and boys still have a similar 16-18% body fat
Post-puberty, girls have around 25% body fat due to high serum oestrogen, which causes the hips to widen and extra fat to be stored in the same area.
Post-puberty, boys have 12 to 14% body fat
Most athletic females, post-puberty, tend to keep body fat at around 18% [Wilmore & Costill, 1994] . Any lower than 12% body fat for females can be considered unhealthy in terms of maintaining bone density and disrupting hormone levels, which may increase the risk of stress fractures.

Coaches need to ensure female athletes are aware that until they are 19, they will steadily gain in muscle and so will naturally be gaining weight and that by eating the right kinds of foods is the way to avoid unwanted weight gain.

Potential growth related injuries

The change in female body shape during the growth spurt has its particular injury risks. The hips widen, placing the femur at a greater inward angle. During running or walking, this increased femur angle leads to greater inward rotation at the knee and foot. This rotation can result in an injury called chrondomalacia patella, which occurs when the knee-cap does not run smoothly over the knee joint and pain is caused at the front of the knee. Appropriate preventive training to avoid chrondomalacia patella would be to strengthen the vastus medialis muscle, the lower abdominals, obliques (side of stomach), hip abductor and hip external rotator muscles.

Traction injuries are another type of injury associated with bone growth. They are caused by repetitive loading while the tendon is sensitive to stress as the bones and tendons are fusing. Traction injuries occur at different sites at different stages of growth.

10 to 13 years of age - at the heel (Sever's disease)
12 to 16 years of age - at the knee (Osgood Schlatter's disease)
late adolescence - lower back and iliac pain
The only cure for these traction injuries is rest.


Exercise will neither stunt nor promote growth in terms of height but it does thicken the bones by increasing mineral deposits (Wilmore & Costill, 1994) [2].

Growing bones are sensitive to stress so repetitive loading should be avoided. The epiphysial plate is susceptible to injury and therefore a fracture to the epiphysial plate prior to full growth could be a serious injury as it could disrupt bone growth.

A more common kind of epiphysial plate injury, and the one coaches must take care not to cause, is called epiphysitis. This is a repetitive-strain injury that occurs when excess loads are placed on the tendons that attach to the epiphysis, causing an inflammatory response. In extreme cases, this type of injury can result in a separation of the epiphysis from the epiphysial plate. The most common epiphysitis, called Little Leaguer's Elbow, occurs mostly in the USA among young baseball pitchers.

Use of steroids

Anabolic steroid use in young athletes can stunt growth by causing premature calcification of the epiphysial plate (Strauss & Yesalis 1991) [3].

Strength training

From research [Weltman et al (1986)] carried out on the effects of resistance training on young athletes, it would appear that, in general, strength improvements are possible. If coaches are to place young athletes on strength training programs then they must ensure:

young athletes are properly taught (skill development)
young athletes undertake a well controlled progressive program (planning)
young athlete's joints are not subject to repetitive stresses (injury prevention)
Strength can be developed with circuit training programs where the young athlete's body weight is used as the load.

Aerobic and anaerobic development

The aerobic ability of young athletes can be developed so it makes aerobic training worthwhile, since it will improve their performance. Anaerobic training is of limited use to young athletes as they possess little anaerobic capacity. Training for aerobic and anaerobic endurance is best left until the young athlete reaches adolescence.

Skill development

The development of sport specific skills along with agility, balance and co-ordination are important areas to focus on when coaching young athletes.

Training Programs

Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) is a sports development framework that matches training needs to a child's growth and development.

The following are links to suggested training programs for the:

Sprint events - 100m, 200m, 400m, 4×100m relay and 4×400m relay.
Throw events - Discus, Shot, Javelin and Hammer
Jump events - High Jump, Long Jump, Triple Jump and Pole Vault
Endurance events - 800m, 1500m, 5k, 10k, Walks and Steeplechase.
Coaching Children

Coaches of young children need to ensure that every child or young person who takes part in athletics is able to participate in a fun and safe environment and be protected from neglect and physical, sexual and emotional abuse. For more details read the Scottish Athletics Federation (SAF) policy for Child protection in athletics.

Referenced Material

RIESER, P. and UNDERWOOD, L. (2002) Growing Children: A Parents Guide. 5th ed. Genentech Inc
WILMORE, J.H. and COSTILL, D.L. (1994) Physiology of sport and exercise. Human Kinetics, Champaign, Illinois
STRAUSS, R.H. and YESALIS, C.E. (1991) Anabolic Steroids in the Athlete. Annual Review of Medicine, 42, p. 449-457
Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

MACKENZIE, B. (2000) Coaching Young Athletes [WWW] Available from: [Accessed 9/9/2011]

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fasting does not deter athletes from training: Experts


DOHA FASTING during the Holy Month of Ramadan would not mean less work for sportspersons in Qatar who are to continue with their training and work-out routines while on fast.

According to Qatar Women’s Sport Committee (QWSC) Secretary-General Lolwa al Marri, national teams in Qatar will continue with their strict trainings during Ramadan but with changes in schedules. She told Qatar Tribune on Monday, “The handball and basketball teams have just returned from training camps in Hungary, while the table tennis team is just back after training in China.

We are preparing for the upcoming Arab Games in Doha in December so trainings for the various national teams will continue until the competitions.

However, trainings which were normally conducted during daytime will now be conducted after Iftar (breaking of fast). Our athletes are already used to this and they have very good coaches who will guide them.” Currently, the QWSC has more than 2,000 women athletes who make up the national teams for handball, volleyball, basketball, football, table tennis, and swimming among others. Al Marri said that all the teams barring the women’s swimming team would continue their trainings during Ramadan. She also said that the committee is currently organizing a Ramadan competition for football and basketball. The games are open to athletes as well as schools in general.

According to experts, athletes or fitness freaks need not cut back on their training and work-out regimes while fasting during the Holy Month of Ramadan, as it is mainly sleep deprivation, not starvation which affects an athlete’s performance during Ramadan fasting.

Moreover, exercise is vital for weight control even during the fasting month, say experts.

In an earlier interview with Qatar Tribune, Dr Hakim Chalabi, director of National Sports Medicine Programme at ASPETAR Qatar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital, spoke about the effects of Ramadan on athletes. He had said that it was mainly sleep deprivation, not starvation during fasting which affected an athlete’s performance during Ramadan.

“Most people suspect that it is fasting that may decrease an athlete’s performance during Ramadan but studies now show that sleep deprivation may be the main reason for the impact of Ramadan on athletes’ performance,” he said.

Dina Isaifan, nutrition and diet expert at the Nutrition and Diet Center, Doha, added, “Sleep deprivation causes tiredness, headache and irritability.

But waking until the wee hours of the morning and sleeping in daytime is not advisable.

Sleeping hours may be changed in Ramadan due to new meal timings.”

Health: Fasting and sports performance

The 2012 London Olympics falls during the fasting month and Muslim athletes are concerned about the effect it will have on their performance, writes SUZANNA PILLAY
HOW does fasting affect an athlete’s performance? The answer is a complex one, says Dr Ahmad Munir Che Muhamed, chairman of National Coaching Board.

But the topic is important to Muslim athletes worldwide, he says, as the 2012 London Olympics will be held during the fasting month from July 27 to Aug 12.

“With the London Olympics 2012 being held during the fasting month, the topic of fasting is of interest to Muslim athletes and the sports science community. Many are concerned that Muslim athletes will be at a disadvantage because they will fast throughout the event.”

Many coaches and athletes share the general perception that fasting will have a negative effect on sports performance.

During Ramadan, Muslim athletes will refrain from fluid and food intake between the hours of sunrise and sunset, with an average fasting period of between 12 and 15 hours, depending on location (latitude) and timing of the month.

The general perception on exercise during Ramadan is that there will be increased physiological strain during exercise, reduction in capacity to perform submaxial exercise for an extended period of time, reduction in the cognitive function and motor control and a decline in sport performance.

“Athletes are particularly concerned about dehydration which, even at a mild level, has been proven to have adverse effects on their performance,” says Dr Ahmad.

He adds although both athletes and coaches harboured this negative perception about fasting affecting an athlete’s performance negatively, there was little supporting scientific evidence so far.

“Various studies have shown that fasting during Ramadan has no significant effect on sports performance and variables, such as total energy intake, body composition, cellular and biochemical properties of blood.”

Other concerns raised are the changes in eating habits, sleep patterns, reduction in energy reserves, timing of testing done and fitness levels of subjects.

“Not surprisingly both groups would like to know whether training intensity can be maintained with fasting and what health concerns can surface when training or competing.”

To better tolerate training while having to fast, he says athletes should increase their overall physical conditioning prior to Ramadan, while coaches should alter the training programme to accommodate the expected changes in the sleep-wake cycle of the athlete.

In the research of Reilly and Waterhouse (2007) on Circadian rhythms during Ramadan, athletes reported having a lower quality sleep time, which resulted in a decrease in the willingness to train.

Ensuring that a fasting athlete maintains a good nutritional intake despite the change in meal time is another important step for coaches to follow.
As a general rule, eat sahur (morning) as a lunch portion, iftar (breaking of fast) as a dinner portion and morae (after tarawih) as supper. Delay sahur as late as possible.

Read more: Health: Fasting and sports performance

Ramadan and sport

Precompetition taper and nutritional strategies: special reference to training during Ramadan intermittent fast.

A marked reduction in the training load in the lead-up to major competitions allows athletes to reduce the fatigue induced by intense training and improve competition performance. This tapered training phase is based on the reduction in training volume while maintaining pretaper training intensity and frequency. In parallel to training load reductions, nutritional strategies characterised by lowered energy intakes need to be implemented to match lowered energy expenditure. The Ramadan intermittent fast imposes constrained nutritional practices on Muslim athletes, inducing a shift to a greater reliance on fat oxidation to meet energy needs and a possible increase in protein breakdown. The training load is often reduced during Ramadan to match the absence of energy and fluid intake during daylight, which implies a risk of losing training induced adaptations. Should coaches and athletes decide to reduce the training load during Ramadan, the key role of training intensity in retaining training induced adaptations should be kept in mind. However, experienced elite Muslim athletes are able to maintain their usual training load during this month of intermittent fasting without decrements in measures of fitness and with only minor adverse effects.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Use It or Lose It - Detraining and Deconditioning in Athletes

Use It or Lose It - Detraining and Deconditioning in Athletes

We've all heard the saying. And while it's true that you will lose fitness when you stop exercising, how quickly you lose it depends on several factors, including how fit you are, how long you have been exercising and how long you stop.

Losing fitness when you stop working out is one of the key principles of conditioning. The principle of use/disuse simply means that when we stop exercising, we generally begin to decondition, and lose both strength and aerobic fitness. Most of us need to stop exercising on occasion for any number of reasons. Illness, injury, holidays, work, travel and social commitments often interfere with training routines. When this happens, we will often see a decline in our level of conditioning.

Detraining in Fit Athletes
Deconditioning in fit athletes doesn't appear to happen as quickly or drastically as in beginning exercisers. One study looked at well-conditioned athletes who had been training regularly for a year. They then stopped exercise entirely. After three months, researchers found that the athletes lost about half of their aerobic conditioning.

Detraining in Beginning Athletes
The outcome is much different for new exercisers. Another study followed new exercisers as they began a training program and then stopped exercise. Researchers had sedentary individuals start a bicycle fitness program for two months. During those eight weeks, the exercisers made dramatic cardiovascular improvements and boosted their aerobic capacity substantially. At eight weeks, they quit exercising for the next two months. They were tested again and were found to have lost all of their aerobic gains and returned to their original fitness levels.

Detraining and Exercise Frequency and Intensity
Other research is looking at the effects of decreasing training level, rather than completely stopping all exercise. The results are more encouraging for athletes who need to reduce training due to time constraints, illness or injury. One study followed sedentary men through three months of strength training, three times a week. They then cut back to one session per week. They found that these men maintained nearly all the strength gains they developed in the first three months.

There are many individual differences in detraining rates so it's impossible to apply all of these study results to all athletes. But it appears that if you maintain some higher intensity exercise on a weekly basis, you can maintain your fitness levels fairly well.

Studies have shown that you can maintain your fitness level even if you need to change or cut back on you exercise for several months. In order to do so, you need to exercise at about 70 percent of your VO2 max at least once per week.

If you stop exercise completely for several months it's difficult to predict exactly how long it will take you to return to your former fitness level. After a three-month break it's unlikely that any athlete will return to peak condition in a week. In some athletes it may even take as long as three months to regain all their conditioning. The time it takes to regain fitness appears to depend on your original level of fitness and how long you've stopped exercise

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Young Athletes (6 - 18)

Save the Life of Your Young Athlete Today!

You know that sports can bring out the best in your child, fostering discipline and teamwork in pursuit of excellence, but there may be something you do not know. Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) is believed to be two to three times more likely in your young athlete or college athlete than in their less-active peers. Exercise, usually a healthy choice, can push an already compromised heart over the edge. The United States Congress prioritizes heart screenings for children "who participate in, or intend to participate in, organized sports" as part of the Teague Ryan Act.

Parents, coaches, and caregivers are encouraged to have your young athletes screened with an electrocardiogram (ECGAn electrocardiogram (ECG) is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart. ECG is used to measure the rate and regularity of heartbeats as well as the size and position of the heart chambers, the presence of any damage to the heart, and the effects of drugs or devices used to regulate the heart (such as a pacemaker).) as soon as they begin competitive activities, and then every two years after up to age 35.

A heart screening could be the best way to equip your children for sports.