To Screen or Not to Screen? That is the Question.

In the last blog we pressed pause and reviewed the work we conduct at Millfield Institute of Sport and Wellbeing and its impact on our understanding of our student population and the wider context of youth sport. The start of the new academic year provides a platform to reflect on best practice within this context. This process allows us to constantly check and challenge our practice. It is in this vein that we visit a well trodden path, screening.

Screening, for injury risk identification and risk reduction has see a substantial rise and fall over recent years. Evidence has been able to substantially disprove the initial theories that we would be able to identify and effectively predict those who may be at increased risk of a certain injury by assessing them while healthy. Some tests described in the literature demonstrate a high level of statistical significance in identifying the targeted risk factor, however they still provide little value in being able to predict if an injury will occur. Furthermore, the test in question must be applicable to the groups being tested. If the studies demonstrating statistical significance to the risk factor in question have only been in conducted in adults, then their extrapolation to youth populations only diminishes their statistical value.

A more critical piece of the puzzle was muted by Bahr (2016). The outcome of an injury prevention screen is an injury risk reduction programme. This is an exercise-based intervention designed to address the identified risk factors from the screen, thus reducing the impact of that risk factor and therefore reducing the risk of injury occurring. As pointed out there has been no study to date which has compared or shown, that a targeted injury risk reduction programme (based upon an injury prevention screen) is more effective than the same programme given to all athletes.

Considering the significant practical limitations to screening, a more valuable use of practitioner and student time would be to implement, on mass, proven injury risk reduction programmes. Programmes such as the FIFA 11+ and RFU Activate have been able to show up to a 75% reduction in injury in youth populations following relatively modest exposure. These benefits were seen in both healthy individuals and those with injury history, and presumably existing risk factors.

Physiotherapists are often seen as a those who have knowledge or understanding of humans that transcend others within the medical field. Screening may have been seen as a magic bullet to rid athletic populations of injury. As we have seen there are many flaws in the ability of screening to predict injury risk. In contrast mass exposure to injury risk reduction strategies appear to be effective at reducing risk in both those with and without injury risk factors making them a much more efficient option at attempting to rid athletes of the often-inevitable risk of injury. Injury risk reduction strategies are inexpensive to run, time efficient, evidenced, effective and should be included in all youth sports programmes.

Long Term Consistency Beats Short Term Intensity: Key Take Homes from our UKSCA Posters 2020

In our first blog of the 2020/21 academic year we will summarise the five conference posters that we successfully submitted to the United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association Poster Week 2020. The aims of this blog will be to disseminate our findings and sharing insights into the profile, development and wellbeing of pupils (and coaches) within our domain of practice. In this blog we will press pause and consider some broader take home messages from our projects.

From the analysis our of 2020 conference posters, this is what we think we have found:
• Considering the in-season load of a school based rugby programme, alongside the academic and pastoral demands of a boarding school environment, we can maintain acceleration, body mass and momentum in a school rugby union programme through a 15 week in season phase. The regular exposure to strength training and speed training during the season within this cohort may be advantageous for maintaining such physical qualities – Maintaining Mass in Motion
• With youth athletes, specific range of motion interventions may be required according to sport category, chronological age and gender. As such, efforts should be may to individualise range of motion interventions depending on the needs of the youth athlete – Better to Bend than to Break
• The early and deliberate preparation, effective communication and alignment of expectations may assist in the development of movement skill and competency through a talent pathway. As such, efforts should be may to support the long term development of these physical qualities for all youth athletes – Working Together to Make Youth Athletes Move Better
• A holistic and general physical preparation programme may reduce the risk of lower limb injury irrelevant of age or playing position within the context of youth netball – What’s Good for Them is Good for Us
• To facilitate job satisfaction in early years strength and conditioning coaches, organisations may consider providing high quality supervision, a sense of community and opportunities for successful and independent coaching practice – If Success is Satisfaction, What is Satisfaction?

In summary, consistency in approach with physical preparation in youth athletes across a range of physical training aims may provide the best platform for successful athletic development moving forwards. However, practitioners may consider the individual context of youth athletes around range of motion interventions. To support the next generation of strength and conditioning coaches, employers should ensure technical and personal supervision meets the needs of the early years coaches and the environment is supportive of opportunities for independent practice.

Better to Bend Than to Break: An Analysis of Joint Range of Motion by Gender, Chronological Year Group and Sports Categorisation of Youth Athletes in a Leading Talent Development Programme

Introduction
Reduced joint range of motion (ROM) has been associated to an increased likelihood of injury and a reduced expression of optimal physical performance. There is a paucity of data in the literature pertaining to the lower limb joint ROM for youth athletes across genders, chronological year groups and sport categories. An analysis of joint ROM in this cohort may assist in the optimal delivery of targeted interventions for a range of physical training outcomes. As such, this study aimed to analyse joint ROM across multiple lower extremity sites in youth athletes across genders, chronological year groups and sports categorisations.


Methods
Data was analysed retrospectively for the time period 2017 to 2019. Across year (YR) groups 10-13, 449 datasets were collected. Hip flexor ROM was measured via the modified Thomas test. Ankle ROM motion was measured via the knee to wall test. Hip internal rotation (IR) was measured via the seated medial hip rotation test. Hamstring ROM was measured via the 90/90 active extension test. A goniometer was used to measure ROM. Data was analysed via magnitude-based inferences, comparing genders, year groups and sport categories. Sports were split into team sports (TS), striking sports (SS) and centimetres, grams and seconds sports (CGS).


Results
Girls have a likely trivial difference to boys in hip flexor ROM and possibly greater ankle, hip IR and hamstring ROM. YR11, 12 and 13 showed possibly to likely greater ankle ROM compared to YR10. Hip IR in YR13 compared to YR12 was possibly to likely lower. There were unclear comparisons between all YR groups in hamstring ROM. Striking sports showed possibly to likely greater hip flexor ROM, possibly to very likely lower hip IR, possibly to likely lower ankle ROM, and trivial to possibly lower hamstring ROM compared to CGS and TS.


Practical Applications
The results suggest ROM interventions targeting youth male athletes may be advantageous, with an emphasis at the ankle and posterior thigh. In addition, advanced chronological age may be a consideration for interventions to enhance proximal joint ROM, but not distal joint ROM of the lower extremity. Finally, results suggest that sports categories may display compromised joint ROM relative to others, whereby SS may benefit from targeted ROM interventions involved hip IR, ankle and hamstring ROM. Therefore, specific ROM interventions in youth sport, based on categorisations of gender, chronological age and sport type may be warranted.

If Success is Satisfaction, What is Satisfaction? Self-Reported Satisfaction of Early Years Strength and Conditioning Coaches in a Formalised Coach Development Programme

Introduction
Evidence across a number of industries suggests that job satisfaction (JS) can positively influence employee performance and commitment (Abdelmoula & Boudabbous, 2020; Badrianto & Ekhsan, 2020; Platis et al., 2015; Saridakis et al., 2018). However, there is a paucity of evidence identifying the JS of early years strength and conditioning (S&C) coaches and the factors associated to JS. Given the importance of JS on performance and commitment, understanding JS in this demographic may be important in optimising development in the formative years of the coaching journey. Thus, the aim of this study is to provide a retrospective analysis of JS in early years S&C coaches in a formalised coach development programme. It is hoped the finding of this analysis may provide the opportunity for a more targeted and supportive approach to optimising the development of early years S&C coaches.

Methodology
12 S&C coaches completed the Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ). The MSQ is a valid and reliable instrument that measures satisfaction with several specific aspects of work and the work environment (Weiss et al., 1967). The participants had all graduated through a formalised S&C coach development programme. Participants completed the long-form MSQ consisting of 100 items with response alternatives as per the 5-point Likert scale. All participants received instruction on how to complete the MSQ. Respondents were encouraged to answer the questions rapidly as per the MSQ instruction manual (Weiss et al., 1967) and responses were anonymised.

Results
Mean general satisfaction was 88.6 ± 11.8. Referenced against normative data (employed non- disabled) from the manual for MSQ this represented a high degree of JS and a score at the 88th percentile. Items scoring in the 90th percentile or above against the reference population were supervision – technical (Mean 24.1 ± 1.7), supervision – human relations (Mean 24.0 ± 2.2), co-workers (Mean 24.3 ± 1.8), achievement (Mean 23.67 ± 2.2) and responsibility (Mean 22.67 ± 2.5). Apart from compensation (Mean 14.58 ± 5.03), all other items scored an average to high degree of satisfaction.

Practical Applications
These results provide a novel insight into JS in early years S&C coaches in a formalised and full-time coach development programme. Overall, participants reported a high degree of satisfaction with their early years S&C coach development programme. Participants reported high satisfaction with the technical skills and support provided by their supervisor, the interaction with their co-coaches, the feeling of accomplishment from their coaching and having freedom to use their own judgement in their coaching practice. As such, early years development programmes in the field of S&C should ensure high quality supervision is in place to support both S&C and non S&C related practice, develop a sense of community within the coaching group, provide opportunities for successful and independent coaching and ensure compensation is in line with national association guidelines. Such factors may contribute to the satisfaction, commitment and performance of early years S&C coaches in formalised coach development programmes.

Working Together to Make Them Move Better: The Importance of Coherence in the Development of Fundamental Movement Skill and Movement Competency within a Talent Pathway

Introduction
The importance of fundamental movement skill (FMS) and movement competency (MC) through childhood and adolescence has been well established in the research literature (Collins et al., 2010; Lloyd and Oliver, 2012; Lubens et al., 2010; Robinson et al., 2015). In addition, the constructs of effective talent development environments have been identified previously (Martindale et al., 2007). However, there is little evidence outlining FMS and MC performance as youth athletes transition through stages of a talent pathway and whether FMS and MC are enhanced if youth athletes have already been part of a talent pathway, albeit at a more junior stage (i.e. an effective talent development environment). Thus, the aim of this study is to provide retrospective analysis of FMS and MC from Millfield Prep School (MPS) and Non-Millfield Prep School (NMPS) youth athletes as they transition into Millfield Senior School (MSS). It is hoped the finding of this study provide the opportunity to consider a coherent, developmental and effective approach to enhance FMS and MC within a talent pathway.

Methodology
59 youth athletes were recruited in the study. 27 joined MSS from MPS and 29 joined MSS from a NMPS. All participants completed an assessment of FMS and MC. Both assessments satisfied the criteria for FMS and MC as outlined by Hulteen et al. (2018). The FMS assessment consisted of A-walk and hold, arabesque walk and hold, lunge walk and hop and stick. The FMS assessment was scored from 0-4 points per exercise and collectively out of 16 points. The MC assessment was an overhead squat. The MC assessment was scored from 0-6 points. Both FMS and MC assessments were completed by a qualified physical training practitioner.

Results
In order to compare FMS and MC performance between MPS and NMPS, an independent samples t-test was conducted. For FMS, this test was found to be statistically significant (p < 0.05). The effect size for this analysis (d = 0.38) was found to exceed Cohen’s (1988) convention for a small effect (d = 0.2). These results indicate that individuals in the NMPS group (M = 22.58, SD = 4.1) performed better, with a low practical significance in the FMS assessment than individuals in the MPS group (M = 20.94, SD = 4.62). For MC, this test was found to be statistically significant (p < 0.05). The effect size for this analysis (d = 0.19) did not exceed Cohen’s (1988) convention for a small effect (d = 0.2). These results indicate that individuals in the MPS group (M = 3.70, SD = 1.50) performed better, but with trivial practical significance in the MC assessment than individuals in the NMPS group (M = 3.95, SD = 1.0).

Practical Applications
These results provide a novel insight into the FMS and MC of two cohorts of youth athletes transitioning onto a talent pathway. These results suggest youth athletes that transitioned within the talent pathway (i.e. MPS to MSS) performed no better in FMS or MC compared to youth athletes transitioning into the talent pathway (i.e. NMPS to MSS). Authors have previously highlighted the importance of vertically orientated and coherent coaching practice within a talent pathway to support the longitudinal development of youth athletes (Webb, 2019). Given the findings presented in this study, physical training practitioners with a talent pathway should work coherently to ensure the long-term development and quality preparation of FMS and MC for all youth athletes at all ages. This process may be enhanced through the early and deliberate preparation of FMS and MC, the effective communication of training aims and an alignment of expectations at each stage of development.

What’s Good for Them, Maybe Good for Us: Physical Differences of Youth Netball Players Across Age Categories and Playing Positions.

Introduction Authors have recently outlined the significant differences in activity profiles and movement demands across playing positions in youth netball (van Gogh et al., 2020). In addition, Smith and colleagues (2020) identified high injury rates in community level netball, with lower limb injuries most common. Finally, authors suggest injury prevention strategies should mirror the positional demands of netball (McNamus et al., 2005), while injury incidence is greater in more junior compared to senior age categories (Sinclair et al., 2020). As such, the aim of this study is to explore the differences in physical qualities between junior vs senior and attackers vs defenders in youth netball across a range of assessments associated to injury risk of the lower extremity (Read et al., 2016). It is hoped the findings of this study provide netball coaches and physical training practitioners with the opportunity to consider a bespoke and targeted approach to reducing injury risk in youth netball.

Methodology 53 youth netball players were recruited for the study. Participants ranged from 13-18 years of age and were assigned as an attacker or defender based on their most common playing position and junior or senior based on their school year. In line with the injury risk factor hierarchical model as proposed by Read et al. (2016), four physical assessments were chosen to assess the difference in performance between junior vs senior and attackers vs defenders for tasks related to lower extremity injury risk. The assessments were the single leg riser, anterior reach, horizontal hop and lateral trunk hold. All assessments were administered by a qualified physical training practitioner. Following familiarisation, participants complete the single leg riser and lateral trunk hold for one maximal effort. For the anterior reach and horizontal hop assessments, participants completed three tests with the average of the three used for analysis.

Results In order to compare performance between age categories and playing positions an independent samples t-test was conducted. For the single leg riser, anterior reach and horizontal hop, tests were not found to be statistically significant between junior vs senior netballers (p < 0.05). For anterior reach and horizontal hop, tests were not found to be statistically significant between attackers and defenders (p < 0.05). For the single leg riser and lateral trunk hold, the test was not found to be statistically significant between attackers and defenders for the left leg but was statistically significant for the right leg (p < 0.05), with the attackers performing better with moderate practical significance compared to the defenders. For the lateral trunk hold, the test was not found to be statistically significant between junior vs senior netballers for the left side but was statistically significant for the right side (p < 0.05). The test was also not found to be statistically significant between attackers and defenders for the right side but was statistically significant for the left side (p < 0.05).

Practical Applications These results provide a novel insight into the physical differences between junior vs senior youth netball players and attackers vs defenders in a series of applied lower extremity and trunk physical assessments. These results suggest that there may be little difference in the lower extremity strength, explosive strength, proprioception and trunk strength of youth netballers across divergent age categories and playing positions. Authors have previously highlighted the importance of developing such qualities for improving the physical preparedness of netball players (Barnes et al., 2020), whilst a bespoke and tailored injury prevention programme has been promoted (McNamus et al., 2005). Given the findings of this study, physical training practitioners may be warranted in ensuring a holistic and general physical preparation programme is implemented with youth netball players to reduce the risk of lower extremity injuries, irrelevant of age or playing position. It is advised that such physical preparation considers the physical demands of netball as outlined previously (van Gogh et al., 2020) given the high risk of low extremity injuries in this sport.

Maintaining Mass in Motion: The Longitudinal Tracking of Acceleration, Momentum and Body Mass in School Rugby Union Through a 15 Week In Season Phase

Introduction
High speed running has been identified as an important physical characteristic for performance in Rugby Union (RU; Duthie, 2006; Gamble, 2004). Indeed, authors have proposed that the combination of sprint velocity, sprint momentum and body mass is able to discriminate between playing levels and age categories (Barr et al., 2014; Till et al., 2014). However, research suggests there is a need to describe seasonal changes in such physical characteristics to provide perspective on variation in performance across playing positions and age groups (Darrell-Jones et al., 2015). Given the importance of these physical qualities in youth RU and the paucity of longitudinal data on such performance markers, the aim of this study was to explore the change in acceleration, momentum and body mass over a 15-week in season period within a school RU season. In addition, the study aimed to assess the difference in these physical qualities between age categories and playing positions. It is hoped the findings of this study provides an insight into the potential for development in acceleration performance and body mass during a school RU season, as well as highlighting the differences between divergent categories of players to aid physical training practitioners in supporting the development of acceleration, momentum and body mass in school RU across age groups and playing positions.


Methodology
34 school RU players participated in the study. Participants ranged from 16-18 years of age and were assigned as year 12 or 13 based on their academic year (Yr) and forwards or backs based on their most common playing position. All testing was completed at the same time point in the training week and all testing was undertaken by an accrediated strength and conditioning coach (UKSCA). All players engaged in a physical training programme consisting of strength, power and speed development, as well as rugby training and matches. Body mass was measured to the nearest 0.1kg using Seca alpha (model 813) scales. Acceleration was measured at 10m using timing gates (Brower Timing Systems, IR Emit, USA). This distance was chosen to enable assessment of initial sprint velocity and momentum as used by Barr et al. (2014). Each sprint was started 0.5m behind the first timing gate. Players were instructed to set off in their own time and to run maximally through the second gate. Times were measured to the nearest 0.01s. The average of three trials was used for analysis of acceleration and momentum.

Results
In order to compare the change in performance in acceleration, momentum and body mass over 15 weeks, a single factor anova was conducted. An analysis of variance showed that the effect of weeks was significant for acceleration, F (14, 183) = 2.05, P = 0.02. However, the only significant difference between consecutive weeks was for weeks 10 and 11 (p < 0.05). The effect of weeks on momentum and body mass was not significant and there were no significant differences between consecutive weeks. In order to compare performance between age categories and playing positions an independent samples t-test was conducted. For 10m acceleration, the test was not found to be statistically significant between Yr12 vs Yr13 but was statistically significant between forwards vs backs (p < 0.05), with the backs performing better with a small practical significance. For momentum, the test was found to be statistically significant for both Yr12 vs Yr13 and forwards vs backs (p < 0.05), with forwards and Yr13 performing better with a large practical significance. For body mass, the test was found to be statistically significant for both Yr12 vs Yr13 and forwards vs backs (p < 0.05), with forwards and Yr13 performing better with a large practical significance.

Practical Applications These results provide an insight into the changes in acceleration, momentum and body mass over a 15-week in season period, as well as the difference between age categories and playing positions in school RU. These results suggest that, with the regular inclusion of weekly strength, power and speed development sessions, acceleration, momentum and body mass can be maintained through an in-season period in school RU players despite the fatigue associated to regular training and playing load (Oliver et al., 2015), in addition to academic and pastoral commitments. As such, the consistent exposure to such physical training qualities should be encouraged during the competition phase of a school RU season. Given the greater mass in motion of older forwards, physical training practitioners may consider appropriate training formats to drive further adaptations within particular age categories and playing positions, i.e. younger forwards, to prepare for the physical demands of more senior RU as outlined by in the literature (Darrell-Jones et al., 2015).

Research Review – Sensitive Periods to Train General Motor Abilities

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-7n68f-d775da

In this episode we view the research paper titled, Sensitive periods to train general motor abilities in children and adolescents: Do they exist? A critical appraisal’. In this review we explore the paper’s proposal of the concurrent training of motor skills and general motor abilities, as well as the application of an holistic rather than reductionist view on physical development in youth. 

The Sky is not the Limit, There are Footprints on the Moon: The Benefits of Performance Analysis for The Dyslexic Youth Athlete

In our previous blog we explored the 4-Cs of positive coaching in a physical development programme. We proposed that the 4-Cs and their integration into physical training can provide rich rewards for the youth athlete later in their development journey. In this blog we explore and share our thoughts and beliefs on the role that performance analysis can play for dyslexic sports pupils and their active involvement in sport. We believe performance analysis can offer an opportunity to enhance this cohort’s engagement within this area and in doing so boost their confidence through empowerment; utilising and optimising their individual strengths.

There is growing evidence to show that individuals who suffer from dyslexia can often display abilities in creativity, visualisation, expression and cognitive flexibility. These can be considered core skills that make a great performance analyst. Being creative via ‘out the box’ thinking, problem solving skills and using visualisation skills to compile and generate data and video content are all important attributes of the analyst. Therefore, with this research area in mind, we believe that analysis allows pupils with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia to explore sport in a way that they may have not been able to do otherwise. Over the years several famous sports stars have highlighted their struggles with dyslexia. This shows how sport can played a significant part in their coping with everyday life, empowering them in ways a classroom could often not.

Sir Jackie Stewart, whose dyslexia went undiagnosed until years after he retired as a Formula One driver, was quoted in saying, “I was labelled thick at school, but sport saved my life.” This is likely to be down to the increased self-worth, confidence and inclusion that being part of a sport provided for him.  As performance analysts, we place a high value on, particularly with our pupils with dyslexia, ensuring pupils thrive in our learning processes particularly around self-worth, confidence and inclusion.

At Millfield pupils in sport actively review video footage during and post training sessions and post matches. We aim for this process to be empowering for the dyslexic pupil, providing a space for these individuals to utilise their visual learning ability and creativity as highlighted above. Through the process of analysing sport, pupils can better understand the challenges of development in sport, taking time and space to generate solutions to sporting problems and a platform to share these with other pupils and coaches. This approach allows pupils with greater cognitive flexibility, creativity and expression to show their true potential and build their productivity and their confidence in an environment which is often considered safe, fun and enjoyable. We hope that is provides an overall positive learning experience for these pupils

In conclusion we strongly believe that the analysis of sport can play a vital role in the development of the Millfield graduate and offers a dangerously modern learning environment which allows students to discover their brilliance and become modern disruptors in sport no matter what their ‘learning abilities’ are.

“It Doesn’t Get Better By Chance, It Gets Better By (Purposeful) Change: The Development of Positive Coaching Practice in Athletic Development

In our previous blog we explored we the importance of reason and choice in developing nutrition behaviours in youth athletes. We proposed that at the epicentre of our nutrition programme is education. The provision of meaningful education messaging, through signage to workshops to bespoke individual support, will always be the foundation of developing positive behaviours and practices around nutrition and fuelling in our environment. In this blog we will explore the importance of the coaching environment in the context of athletic development. At the heart of this will be the role of positive coaching in the acquisition of physical, psychological and behavioural skills and capabilities to support an individual’s developmental journey in sport.
Positive coaching as been previously defined in the research literature. The 4-Cs of positive coaching have been commonly identified, as can be seen below. I have added my interpretation of the 4-Cs within my coaching practice:

  1. Competence – to experience success
  2. Confidence – to experience independence
  3. Connection – to experience a sense of belonging
  4. Character – to express training behaviours

Whilst I am constantly looking to challenge and support the development of these areas in the young athletes I coach, I am conscious there are several factors that may accelerate or derail the development of these characteristics, including but not limited to:

1. Maturity – both physical and cognitive
2. Training age – the impact of past physical training experience on current ability
3. Commitment – a reflection of one’s application and/or contribution

These factors may be influential at various stages of development and I must be progressive yet considered in my approach to the development of the 4-Cs to ensure realistic goals and expectations are set and met. In this context, I would see the process of development through a guided discovery approach in which several critical stages exist:

  1. Autonomy – programme ownership
  2. Mastery – process ownership
  3. Purpose – motivational ownership

In summary, I believe striving to achieve the 4-Cs of positive coaching in a physical development programme is an intention that will provide rich rewards for the youth athlete later in their development journey. It is my role therefore, to consider the interaction of maturity, training age and commitment and offer both challenging and support in my coaching practice and coaching context to facilitate development. The outcome of programme, process and motivational ownership is always front and centre of my professional judgement and decision making and for me, provides the operational basis on which to see the 4-Cs of positive coaching come to life.