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Building a coaching strategy around FUNdamentals for coaching cycling | Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Coaching Children (Ages 5-12)

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Posted in: Managing Parents

Building a coaching strategy around FUNdamentals for coaching cycling

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  • Anonymous

    Apologies for the verbal onslaught! 

    I coach cycling to ages 8 to 18 (plus adults) in road and time trial, cyclo-cross and mountain biking. As a club we've been making great progress with our 12-16 age groups and our under 12's regularly win the top 4 or even 6 places at local cyclo-cross events. We now have 3 u16s who have been selected for the British Cycling Regional Schools of Racing in track and in road. For the past two seasons the Club has won the regional 'club' awards at youth and last year we won the adult category too. So things are working pretty well.

    However, we're starting to have problems with a number of parents who seem to think 'little Joe' or 'Katy' needs to be prepared to launch his/her bid for a place in Tokyo despite being only 8 or 9 years old! This has meant that our 12-16 year old coaching sessions that are aimed at the stronger, older and more able kids are starting to see parents bring 8.9 and 10 year olds along. What then ensues is an increasing heated debate about why 'Joe' and 'Katy' can't join in, heated on the side of the parents, not the coaches.

    Anyway, we decided to fall back on FUNdamentals and in that context try to explain to parents why we coach the way we do and why some of the youngsters are unable to join certain sessions and also why some kids are given tougher things to do than others. Unfortunately this has not (yet) worked and so we're trying to put together some evidence based information we can push out to parents.

    Whilst there is a lot of research on 'the fundamentals of movement' and quite a bit on specific sports such as athletics and rugby (to name but two) there is not much that we've yet found specific to cycling. Unfortunately British Cycling haven't been able to provide much either as they suggest that......

    "there can be discrepancies between chronological age and maturational age so we don’t have anything in our guidelines to help you with the parents at your club"

    Can I put out a request for anyone who has information or experience related to FUNdamentals in a cycling environment or who has solved a similar problem to share their experiences as we need to come up with something before we kick off 2017 in January. Thanks in advance.

  • Anonymous

    Canada has done a lot of work of this sort of stuff. I had a quick look on the SIRC website and found this. If you spend time looking around, I'm sure you'll find more stuff. Look at some other sports (Ice Hockey, Swimming, etc). Good luck! http://sirc.ca/blog/inclusive-sport-structure-children-targetting-performance-participation-and-personal

  • Anonymous
    I also coach cycling in a similar environment and occasionally see the issue you describe, your post has got me thinking about it more too. Do you think this is an issue because the parents feel their child should be pushed harder or the children want to be challenged more? The approach at my club is that to attend a session a rider has to be invited by a coach, which happens when the coach ‘feels’ the rider will fit into the next session – totally subjective based on their skill, strength and maturity. To prevent this problem we try to ensure that there are always stretch activities within a session to keep all riders engaged and equally challenged – session diversity of standard is easier at the moment for cyclocross than for road because the speed differentials are less. I know of another club that takes a much more performance driven approach with clear criteria that have to be achieved to move up a session. – based on defined speed, endurance and skill requirements where success is in no way subjective. I guess this removes the possibility of parents getting up tight but creates other challenges; in particular stronger riders missing out on the social aspect of being with their peers. Perhaps the information we should be giving parents is to demonstrate that each child is enjoying their session and is sufficiently challenged, after all, fun and challenging aren’t mutually exclusive. Reflecting on what I do as a coach, I always start the session by talking to the children about what we’re going to do and why, perhaps I should be making sure the parents hear that too. However this doesn’t resolve the problem if parents want their children coached to be racing machines if your objective is wider. Conscious I haven’t given you any tangible information to manage your parents expectations and I too would be interested in other people’s experiences.
  • Anonymous


    Thanks for the response. It's not that kids aren't challenged enough per se, it's rather that we have a relatively small number of coaches, in the case of cyclo-cross we have just two qualified coaches, and the parents see the older ones doing more challenging/technical things and want their own kids to do the same.

    Bearing in mind that u12s race for between 10 and 15 minutes on largely flat terrain with few if any obstacles in stark contrast to over 12s who have to ride (largely) the same course as the adults for at least 30 minutes it's both impractical and somewhat of a waste of time to try to coach more advanced techniques to the youngsters.

    Additionally, from age 11/12 we start to introduce 'skills in a fitness environment' where the kids are coached to perform technical skills safely but moving towards or near to race pace. As an example, the more able 10 and 11 year olds are coached moving dismounts/re mounts even though there will be little opportunity to use these skills in a race. We also do some climbing, descending and a little off camber work plus, cornering, starts, sprints and finishes. Group riding and min irace drills are also coached as is race-craft

    For 12s and over everything above is 'amped' up plus there are new techniques to learn line negotiating trickly off-camber sections, steep terrain, hurdles etc. So mixing u12s with 12s and above is largely impractical at best and potentially hazardous at worse. Also many of the younger riders cannot cope with the higher levels of physicality in the mode advanced sessions.

    Some parents don't seem to get this and the fact that inappropriately mixing wider aged/maturational level riders spoils it for everyone as well as risking injury. I feel passionate about pushing individuals at the appropriate level as much as is practical and I hope we do this pretty well. Of course a 9 year old turning up to a 12-16 age group coaching session is totally inappropriate. If we could run a separate session at the same time that is suitable for a 9 year old we would but it hasn't been possible for our evening sessions. We do so on a Saturday afternoon.

  • Anonymous

    Great news! British Cycling is running a workshop in March at the Go-Ride conference and is asking questions prior to agreeing the format/content. 

  • Anonymous

    I thought I would share my experience of completing the Fundamentals of Movement workshop a couple of weeks ago. The sessions were great, thought provoking, physically challenging and fun. I'd recommend any coach or parent to attend such a workshop as the basics are straightforward enough to learn and can have a big impact right away. 

    The next day after the workshop i ran a short Fundamentals session with a group of Year 9 boys. They enjoyed it, especially the scorpions vs crabs activity and the final bear relay race. I'll be looking to incorporate Fundamentals movements into my sessions from now on.

    At the highest levels Fundamentals can still play a part. Check out the following video which was highlighted during the workshop. 

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