Damien Young, who lectures in strength and conditioning in Limerick IT and Setanta College, says: “If the dual player is ever going to be sustainable, the conditioning of the player by all coaching teams involved has to be merged.
“We have heard reports across the country of players training every night and having to complete full training sessions with both codes. Completing large volumes of high intensity activity on a daily basis without adequate time for recovery will impact the player’s ability to perform to his or her maximum potential,” said the well-known Tipperary coach.
“Every coach or manager wants to win, but if they are dealing with dual players they will not get the best from him or her unless they put the player’s welfare at the centre of their plans. It is the responsibility of the management teams to put the health and wellbeing of the player first. That means all involved sitting down and working out a common plan. At club level the dual player is more achievable as it is generally one management team that is looking after the two codes but at inter-county level it is very much two distinct management teams.”
Young, a specialist in child and youth movement skill development, is currently leading a study into the level of activity of both single code and dual code teenage players in Tipperary.
The research is the first of its kind and involves each player wearing a GPS unit to monitor their workload on the pitch, and keeping diaries to track their indoor/gym activity.
“The current 17 or 18 year old player can be under the guidance of multiple coaches at the same time. For example, they can have a school coach, club minor coach, club senior coach and inter-county minor coach. Each wants to get their time with him or her, and we are only talking here about one code.
“The player wants to play and will turn up for all the sessions as he wants to be part of the team and doesn’t want to let down his teammates. It is essential the player’s welfare is catered for, therefore, cooperation among all these coaches is necessary but rarely occurs. If we examine the players games schedule, we know there is a severe imbalance of games between youth and adult players. An 18-year-old player who may have limited conditioning, stability and possible flexibility and mobility imbalances resulting from their growth spurt, could play as many as 50 games in a year, whereas an adult will play perhaps 20 games.
“The adult player is more seasoned, more ready, more conditioned but has much less games than a teenager. In this schedule there is very little time available for the teenager to complete an injury prevention and conditioning programme to withstand the amount of games he is expected to play. The 18-21 year old is playing more games per year than he will play at any stage for the rest of his career. It doesn’t make sense. There’s a complete imbalance here.”
Young was speaking ahead of the ‘Developing & Maximising Youth Potential’ conference (www.setantaconferences.com), which brings some of the world’s best known coaches from a range of sporting disciplines together on Saturday and Sunday at LIT Sportslab, Thurles, under the direction of Dr Liam Hennessy, one of the world’s leading strength and conditioning experts and founder of Setanta College.