#ChildToChampion LTAD Conference 2016 Highlights

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#ChildToChampion LTAD Conference 2016 Highlights


Just under a month ago we were joined from coaches from across the UK and Europe for the Child To Champion LTAD Conference at St. Peter’s R.C. High School in Gloucester.

The weekend was a fantastic learning experience providing an opportunity to learn, share and connect with leaders from the field of strength & conditioning working at all levels of the athletic development continuum.

The video below provides a superb snapshot in to the weekend and the mixture of theoretical and practical sessions that took place.

A huge thanks must go to everyone who took the time out of their busy schedules to attend the event, the phenomenal speakers and our sponsors Exxentric, Nutrition-X and Perform Better who all played their part in making it a huge success.

You’ll be pleased to know we are already in the planning process for Child To Champion 2017 but in the mean time, if you missed this years event, you can now catch up through the online video series available through our On Demand Service. Check out the highlights reel below.

Child To Champion 2016: LTAD Conference from Proformance Network on Vimeo.

Weights vs Skills Debate

Weights vs Skills Debate

In case you missed it the other evening on BT Sport’s Rugby Tonight Austin Healey set about putting the S&C industry back 20 years when he decided to proclaim a number of the old ‘myths’ about weight training and young athletes were true facts. Stating on national TV they shouldn’t be lifting weights before they are 17 and that it would damage them and stunt their growth! You can check the clip out on Twitter here. Since then the debate has raged on about whether young players should focus on weights or skills as a priority.

Now whilst the educated viewer will know research has shown that resistance training is both safe and beneficial for young athletes, the danger now is that less aware parents and their kids who would directly benefit from resistance training, may now be put off the idea of engaging in a structured S&C programme as a perceived Rugby expert and role model has made these statements (Healey being a former England International and British Lion).

It was interesting to see the reaction on social media with a strong S&C community on Twitter. There was a backlash with many coaches pointing him in the direction of the many documents of recent research, and many high profile coaches stepping forward to try and rectify his views, but he seems fairly set on his beliefs and is unwilling to be educated on the area. We have even extended and invitation to him for the Child To Champion conference early next month, but we’re yet to receive his RSVP…

After my initial outrage settled down, I started to consider his point of view and whilst completely misguided and ignorant in terms of the ‘facts’ he presenting regarding the safety of weight training, don’t shoot me, but I think in there somewhere there may actually be some good messages or reminders in there that we can take away.

Having worked with a lot of young rugby players over the last 8 years, I think I do understand where he is coming from. With older athletes in the 16-18 range, that haven’t come up through a structured LTAD system, I’ve had to do a lot of work to undo pre-conceived ideas about training that are heavily biased towards upper body pushing exercises and bicep curls, which Austin mentioned, in the pursuit of increased muscle mass. Many of them completely ignore glaringly obvious deficits in their technical-tactical skill set or other physical capacities (e.g. speed, agility, cardiovascular endurance).

However, rather than remove weights from their development our job as technical and/or S&C coaches is to educate them in how to train effectively, guide and motivate them towards further developing strengths and addressing their weaknesses wherever they lie.

Here are some key things I think we need to consider:

1) We must pursue balance and address the needs of the individual athlete

It is important to keep balance in our programmes and ensure the technical, tactical and mental aspects are developed as well as the physical elements. For me it isn’t an either/or situation for physical preparation and Rugby specific skill training, it is both. To get the balance right we must consider the individual needs of the athlete. I can think of some phenomenally skilful players at our school that lack the physical presence to dominate the contact situation. Likewise, I can think of some monster strong kids who can’t catch a cold and just run straight into contact. We aren’t going to train them the same way.

As athletic development coaches I think we can take some responsibility for helping to developing higher level manipulation skills by incorporating challenging tasks with smaller objects (e.g. tennis balls, golf balls) to warm ups or expose them to a completely different sport skills with some skills that could transfer to Rugby, in some of my sessions recently with I’ve done 5 minutes in a warm up dribbling and passing a basketball with both hands, which has been a big challenge for some players. The athletes were switched on, concentrating and engaged from the off and we had a great S&C session after.

2) Weight training is only ONE of many tools

Weight training is only one of many tools that should be in the S&C coaches tool box, and we must understand why we are using it with a specific athlete. For me it’s about producing more robust players, that can produce high levels of force relative to their body weight.

However, there is also a lot of training that can/should come before we begin traditional weight training with dumbbells and barbells. As well as a lot of different training that needs to be done to complement it (see point 3). With a lot of our young athletes on the Elite Performance Pathway we spend a considerable chunk of time up to 1-2 years developing strength and grooving the fundamental movement patterns against their bodyweight then low/soft load resistance (e.g. bands, powerbags) in a wide range of progressive movements across the squat/lunge/push/pull/hinge/brace categories before getting into any significantly loaded traditional weight training exercises.

3) Develop a broad range of sports generic movement skills

“Sport is movement, if we improve movement, we improve performance” Ian Jeffreys

In addition, to the basic movements, it is important that we teach/coach young athletes a broad range of sport generic movements through effective movement training in addition to resistance training so they can safely and effectively accelerate, decelerate, cut, spin, jump, land, leap, hop and throw at a range of speeds, in all planes of movement.

If we do a great job of developing these movement patterns in progressively challenging and specific situations (e.g. closed -> open -> reactive/CHAOS) as well as enhancing the force producing/reducing and energy system capacities of the athlete we can see significant improvements in a players ability to exploit and use space on the pitch, rather than taking route one into contact all the time.

Movement training in open & reactive scenarios for me is vitally important for several of reasons. First, it provides a highly engaging and challenging environment that young athletes really enjoy. Secondly, it allows us to develop the perceptual-cognitive component of agility by challenging decision making and familiarising the athlete with common movement patterns they may need to read quickly/anticipate in defence and execute swiftly in attack.

Certainly, the feedback we’ve had from our Rugby coaches at the school is that the boys who have been involved in this combined approach of strength development and movement training over the last couple of years have significantly improved their performance on the pitch.

In summary, I think it is vital we keep our eye on the big picture and not become to obsessed/biased towards any one type of training. In my opinion we need to be developing players who can efficiently and effectively produce high levels of force using appropriate means for their stage of development, and then ensuring they are capable of utilising it in a broad range of movement patterns at varying speed. Crucially this shouldn’t be developed at the expense of technical and tactical skills rather a solid working relationship with open communication channels should be established between the Rugby coach and the S&C/Athletic Development coach to ensure a rounded development of the individual player into a highly skilled and physical, elusive runner.

If you are interested in learning more about Long Term Athlete Development you can join a host of practitioners from across the developmental continuum at Child To Champion on April 9th & 10th 2016 in Gloucester.

#ChildToChampion: James Baker – Integrating S&C to Secondary Schools

#ChildToChampion: James Baker – Integrating S&C to Secondary Schools

Back in September I managed to get my first article published in the UKSCA‘s Professional Strength and Conditioning Journal providing an insight to the LTAD system I have developed and implemented with the help of my colleagues at St. Peter’s R.C. High School in Gloucester, the host venue for the Child To Champion LTAD Conference.

Certainly in the UK, strength and conditioning in schools is still a developing area. It is quite well established in the independent sector with many schools adding S&C coaches to their full time staff, and those guys are doing some outstanding work furthering S&C in Schools

In contrast, in the state sector it remains largely under developed which is something I certainly hope will change in the near future as such a large percentage of young people in our country are educated in the state schools – 93% of them in fact!

The article in the UKSCA journal provides an overview of the programme and some case studies of the impact a year round strength and conditioning within the curriculum has had on the pupils enrolled on the Elite Performance Pathway.

The presentation and practical I will be delivering at the conference will be based around the content covered in the article and will hopefully provide a detailed insight into realistic, effective and engaging ways strength and conditioning can be implemented by state schools; with an insight to our programming at the different stages, how we have applied the research, the challenges we have faced and overcome whilst integrating S&C in to the PE curriculum across 5 school years.

You can download the full article below and you can check out the full conference line up & book tickets here

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 23.06.16

Download the full article here

#ChildToChampion – Future Leaders: Kev Paxton

#ChildToChampion – Future Leaders: Kev Paxton


Last night we took spent some time chatting with Kev Paxton, Head of Academy Sport Science at Leicester City FC, about his upcoming presentation at the Child To Champion LTAD Conference through the Future Leaders Programme.

In the video, Kev gives us an insight to what attendees can expect from his presentation titled: “Age Related Performance Benchmarking” as well as some discussions about how they implement their benchmarking system within the Academy set up.

Are you interested in seeing the full presentation at the conference? You can check out the full schedule (including a FREE Velocity Based Training workshop) and buy tickets here.


Future Leader Confirmed: Kevin Paxton – Leicester City FC

kevinpaxtonLCFCWhen we set out on a mission to build the LTAD conference we also totally committed to offering up and coming coaches in the field of Athletic Development the chance to showcase their work.

We are very pleased to be able to confirm Kevin Paxton from Leicester City FC as our first successful Future Leader applicant.

Mike & I have both checked out the slide deck and I spoke to Kevin last week about his presentation ‘Age-Related Performance Benchmarking’ and it promises to be an excellent presentation showcasing the great work being done at Leicester City FC in their Academy set up. 

Kevin will be providing a detailed insight to what the top young footballers in the country are capable of from a physical stand point across the age groups and how they use the testing data to better inform their programmes and assess the success of the department as a whole.

We are currently working through all the other applications and whilst we initially only had one space lined up we’ve decided to expand it due to the quality of the applicants. The final deadline for applications is this Friday, 19th February.

If you are interested in attending to see Kevin’s presentation along with the other great presenters we still have a limited number of Early Bird Tickets available for the conference which you can book here.


Child To Champion Full Weekend Line Up

Child To Champion Full Weekend Line Up Announced…

We are really pleased to be able to announce a more complete weekend schedule for the upcoming LTAD conference. When we set out on our mission to build the Proformance S&C network of education events, our main aim was to help coaches improve their practise and further their careers in the field of athletic development.

To achieve this we have set out to provide opportunities for you to:

1) Learn from leaders in the field of strength and conditioning in both a theoretical and hands-on, practical settings. Ensuring you can effectively apply what you learn to your own practise.

2) Build a network, connecting you with other great coaches that you can share ideas and best practises with.

3) Enhance your profile within the industry through our Future Leaders Programme. Through this programme we provide up and coming coaches the chance to present alongside our keynote speakers at our events.

With the following line up we have assembled and the organisations already represented at the event including a number of Premier League Football Clubs, we are confident Child To Champion is a conference that you don’t want to miss.

To make it more accessible we have also just released a limited number of single day tickets for the Saturday and Sunday which you can buy here or at the bottom of the page. Check out the full line up below:

Friday 8th April Pre-Conference 6-8pm

Velocity Based Training Workshop with Dr. Mike Young

Mike has adopted Velocity Based Training technology at his facility in the US ( so he can share with you his experiences on how to get the most out the technology we now have at our disposal.The session will provide a unique opportunity to work with Mike in both a theory and hands-on practical setting where you will get to use VBT technology which will allow you to gain a deeper appreciation of how to effectively apply and use it with your athletes and teams.

Access to the pre-conference workshop is FREE to full weekend conference attendees

Saturday 9th April 2016 – 9am – 5.30pm


Dr. Rhodri Lloyd – Plyometric Training and the Young Athlete

Rhodri is currently a senior lecturer in strength and conditioning and the Programme Director for the BSc Sports Conditioning, Rehabilitation and Massage (SCRAM) degree at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Rhodri is a qualified physical education teacher, accredited strength and conditioning coach with both the UKSCA and NSCA and has consulted on the long-term athletic development pathways of professional sports organisations including the Irish Rugby Football Union and the Lawn Tennis Association.


Ian Jeffreys

Dr. Ian Jeffreys –  Effective movement in sport – What it is and how to build it (theory & practical sessions)

Effective movement is a critical element of elite sports performance, allowing an athlete to maximize their technical and tactical capabilities. This presentation & practical will look at the challenges facing the development of effective agility, and how this needs to be viewed as a journey towards effective movement; a journey with a clear destination and facilitated by the delivery of effective practice at all stages.


Shayne Murphy – Peak Height Velocity & Injury

Shayne will be presenting some of his research within the Manchester City Academy which investigated the relationship between injuries and peak height velocity in their young players. The results found helped us understand this cohort better and consequently had a positive influence on the training processes with this age group.



Dr. Mike Young – Best Practises For Developing Speed Across the Developmental Continuum

We’re super excited to have Mike back with us, after the outstanding workshop he ran for us in May 2015. Mike will be discussing the best practises for developing speed at the different stages through the developmental continuum.


Dr. Neill Potts – Head of Athletic Performance for Scottish Rugby 

Neill will be providing a detailed insight into the system he has implemented with the SRU from the Academy to Elite/International Level. It promises to be an incredible talk looking at the various stages with in the programme and challenges he has faced putting the system in place to produce a number of International Rugby players for Scotland.

Sunday 10th April 2016 9am – 5pm


Simon Brundish – Move Like A Superhero

Simon has developed progressive programme of movement skills, fundamental to the development of body control and movement efficiency, the times tables of movement. Giving children the tools to use in sports specific actions such as running, jumping, catching, kicking and throwing, Developed from elite sports to provide a structured long term athletic development pathway for 5 year olds through to their pubescent years of physical development for use in both Primary schools and youth sports teams.

James Baker – Building An Athletic Foundation

James will be providing an insight to the Elite Performance Pathway system implemented at St. Peter’s R.C. High School as part of their secondary physical education programme. James will be discussing how he has applied the latest research and created a progressive system to provide a strong foundation of strength, power, speed & agility for secondary school age athletes to set them up for their progression into high level training environments.

Kevin Paxton – Age-Related Performance Benchmarking
(Leicester City FC) 

Kevin has joined us through our Future Leaders Programme, and has pulled together a super presentation looking at age-specific performance benchmarking that they utilise at the Leicester City FC who play in the English Premier League. Having seen the slide deck for this already we know it’s going to be a knockout lecture!

TOmRUsgaEISTom Rusga – The Complex Developing Athlete

Tom will be providing an insight to Dynamic Systems theory and how he has applied practically to his work with GB Hockey at the English Institute of Sport.


Mike Young – Advanced Techniques for Developing Elite Speed & Power

During this session Mike will be providing you with a detailed insight to the advanced techniques he utilises to develop elite levels of speed and power, building on from the presentations earlier in the day to provide you with a tool box of training methods to provide you with the necessary ideas to develop athletes across the entire continuum.

There are also another couple of speakers that are yet to be added to the programme who will be joining through the Future Leaders Programme. Keep an eye out for further up dates to the line up.

FREE Pre-Conference Workshop: Velocity Based Training with Dr. Mike Young


Well just in case two days of learning from leaders in the field of strength and conditioning at our Child To Champion LTAD Conference wasn’t enough we’ve just confirmed an AWESOME pre-conference workshop on Velocity Based Training with Dr. Mike Young on Friday 8th April between 6pm-8pm.

Mike has adopted Velocity Based Training technology at his facility in the US ( so he can share with you his experiences on how to get the most out the technology we now have at our disposal.

The session will provide a unique opportunity to work with Mike in both a theory and hands-on practical setting where you will get to use VBT technology which will allow you to gain a deeper appreciation of how to effectively apply and use it with your athletes and teams.

Access to the pre-conference workshop is FREE to conference attendees, to take advantage of this exclusive offer you can check out the full line up and sign up here!

3 BIG reasons why our early LTAD programmes, didn’t make it to the long term!

3 BIG reasons why our early long term athlete development programmes, didn’t make it to the long term!


Long Term Athlete Development is a phrase we hear a lot now.

It’s certainly a phrase I’ve used a lot for the past 8 years, but when I really reflect on the early days of running what we were calling LTAD/Youth S&C programmes, they didn’t make it to the point where they could really be called long term, for a number of reasons.

#1 People didn’t understand S&C / LTAD programmes

People were less aware of S&C back in 2008, what the high level/elite guys were doing was not as visible on social media platforms and there were less people engaged in strength and conditioning. When it came to working with younger athletes I much more frequently encountered the traditional ‘myths’ from concerned parents – “Isn’t that dangerous?” and “Will it stunt their growth?. At times we simply did not get the parental buy-in required to convince them to invest in a long-term programme, so our contact with the athlete may only have been 8 to 10 weeks, limiting the progress that could be made.

#2 Competition with sport-specific training schedules

Getting a regular time slot with a talented athlete in their weekday evenings can be nearly impossible, especially when they perceive their sports-specific training to be the be all and end all of their development.

That evening time slot between 4-7pm was chaotic for most of the teenage boys and girls – it could be any of the following that would need to be negotiated around: schools clubs and fixtures, local clubs and fixtures and representative (e.g. district/county/regional) training and fixtures.

As much as I tried and educate parents and athletes of the value or S&C as well as rest and recovery the pressure to be involved in all the training sessions and games was huge from all the different parties.

The result was less consistency on the physical development process, less progress, working around a great number of injuries or having athletes arriving completely fried at sessions limiting what we could do.

3# I got it wrong!

Something I’ve learnt from my time teaching at school, is that sometimes when something goes wrong in a lesson it can quite often be down to you NOT the pupil or athlete.

When I look back at my involvement in these LTAD programmes and the battle to engage athletes and parents for the long haul, I’m certain I got it wrong, not them. Even though at the time I was couldn’t understand why they didn’t want to train.
The bottom line is, whilst my programmes were effective they didn’t do a lot to excite or enthuse the younger athlete or I hadn’t done a good enough job of helping athletes to understand what we were going to do; why we were doing it, how it was relevant to them and how it was going to help them.

Fortunately, I learnt from my mistakes and I’ve now managed to build a much more successful LTAD programme. So what did I change?

Painting the BIG picture

I began taking more time to educate the athletes and engage with the parents to explain the different stages of our LTAD systems and the relevance of the different aspects of the programme, in a way they could understand and relate to has been a big step forward in improving engagement in our programme. We also tailor our focus points to the recipient of the message.

Rather than talking to kids about the long-term health of their spine as they maintain their neutral spine, I save that conversation for the parents to explain why it’s safe for their daughter to be squatting more than her Dad. Also, we always relate back to the big picture of where similar movements/positions occur in their sports and how the exercise will help them perform better.

Another important part of the big picture is understanding what I call Point B. For each key physical variable – strength, power, speed and agility we paint a clear picture of where they need to get to and what they need to do to get there.

Introducing A Games Based Approach

For me there’s an art to making sessions ‘fun’ and ensuring it’s still achieving some of your important outcomes. What I’ve come to appreciate over the years is that whilst I love pure S&C and getting super geeky about the technical intricacies of squatting, cleaning and snatching, kids often do not!

What I have introduced over the last few years is a game based element to my programmes (especially with the youngest groups) around a foundation of strength work. For example, this week alone our athletes have played tag games, speed games, chase games, relay races and even tackled this Ninja Warrior course:

Whilst on face value it may appear that we are just having fun, the games/play elements are selected because they challenge certain movement patterns in an open environment or a different physical or skill related quality that we aren’t getting from our foundation strength work.

The Impact

The impact of implementing these changes, along with a few others, has been huge. What it has enabled us to do is achieve a much higher level of engagement from the athletes in the programme. At the school I am based at now we have in the region of 120 athletes training regularly each week. With this greater consistency have come better results in the key physical performance elements: strength, power, speed and agility. With better results and the data to evidence it we’ve seen even further engagement and interest in the training process from athletes and their parents.

James will be presenting on his approach to ‘Building An Athletic Foundation’ at the Child to Champion: LTAD Conference on the 9th and 10th April in Gloucester. Where leaders from the field of S&C, including Dr. Mike Young, Dr. Rhodri Lloyd, Dr. Ian Jeffreys and Dr. Neill Potts, are also coming together to present tried and tested systems and training methods that have been successfully applied at all stages of the developmental continuum from primary school right through to the elite international level. Find out more here!



Future Leaders Programme


Future Leaders Programme


Over the last few months we’ve been working hard behind the scenes developing our education network as we try to build on the successes of last year’s programme of events.

We’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about and establishing a clear philosophy for the network and the events we’re going to run. Something that we were clear on very quickly is that we want it to be a network for coaches that are committed to sharing ideas.

From the events last year, it was clear that we had some super smart people sat in the audience from some of the leading sports organisations in the UK (England Rugby, Manchester City FC, Liverpool FC, EIS, WRU and the Scottish Rugby Union to name just a few) and some extremely sharp up and coming coaches too. I probably learnt almost as much from our attendees as I did from our presenters!

So whilst we are committed to providing opportunities for you to connect with and learn from leaders in the field of S&C from around the world, we also have developed a new element which we will be launching at our first live event of 2016 – The Future Leaders Programme.

What is the Future Leaders Programme?

The Future Leaders Programme is designed to provide members within our network an opportunity to raise their profile in the industry by providing them with a platform to showcase their current work in the field of strength and conditioning.

At our LTAD Conference on the 9th & 10th April which will be announced very shortly we have saved a slot in the programme for a ‘Future Leader’ to step up and present alongside our keynote presenters at the conference to showcase their current work. That line up currently includes Dr. Rhodri Lloyd, Dr. Ian Jeffreys and Dr. Mike Young.

We are now inviting applications from S&C coaches/researchers/lecturers that would like to be considered to present. To apply please contact James Baker by email on with the following details:

  • Your name
  • Current role & background in Strength & Conditioning (education, experience etc.)
  • Proposed area/topic to present – detailing what you will cover and how it would be delivered (theory or practical)

**The subject must relate to the theme of Long Term Athlete Development in line with the rest of the conference**

All applications will be reviewed and considered by our panel, and shortlisted applicants will be expected to present to the panel via Skype/Hangout as part of the final selection process.

The successful applicant will receive a full conference package including access to the evening VIP dinner, as well as having their presentation showcased through the Proformance S&C media channels.

If you have any further questions don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.







The Impact of S&C In Schools – An Athlete Case Study

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The Impact of S&C In Schools – An Athlete Case Study

There is no doubt in my mind that all schools should be working towards implementing a long term athlete development pathway. In schools, we have the more time than anyone to be able to positively impact up on young athletes.

We are at a point in time where the physical capabilities of young people are much lower than they used to be in a large number of cases.

Whilst many are actively playing in sport and developing sport specific skills, most are not being exposed to high quality movement training that enables them to develop a high level of athleticism to support their technical tactical development.

The Elite Performance Pathway

We have just completed the second academic year where we have delivered an in-curriculum Strength & Conditioning programme at Key Stage 4 (14-16 years old – Year 10 & Year 11).

Athletes on the programme receive 5 hours support across a two week timetable and are exposed to high quality training. We have developed a curriculum / pathway that covers movement preparation, strength training, jump/plyometric training, linear acceleration and top end speed, change of direction speed, agility and energy system development. In addition, they have completed psychological preparation workshops.

What the time in the school timetable provides is an incredible level of consistency, they have to turn up like they do to English & Maths. So what we’ve got is consistency beyond which I’ve ever been able to achieve with young athletes before.

When working as an external coach in schools previously, attendance at after school sessions was always variable due to other commitments in the evening, issues with travel getting to & from the sessions and clashes with sport specific training/fixtures.

The Impact

So people can understand the positive impact this type of programme can have I have included a real athlete profile of one of our 15 year old Rugby Players from this academic year.

Pre-training (Sept 2014)

Weight 64.1kg
10m Sprint – 1.96sec
Squat 10RM – 30kg
Bench 10RM – 30kg

Squat Jump* 35.8cm
Countermovement Jump* 47cm
Depth Jump (12″)* 39.4cm

*March 2015 measured with a Jump Mat

Post-training (July 2015)

Weight 64.5kg
10m Sprint – 1.81sec (-0.14sec)
Squat 10RM – 90kg (+60kg)
Bench 10RM – 65kg (+35kg)

Squat Jump 47cm (+11cm)
Counter Movement Jump 51.3cm (+4.3cm)
Depth Jump (12″) 46.7cm (+7.3cm)

There is still a long way to go with this athlete but what we have managed to put in place over the last 10 months is a foundation of strength to build up on over the next couple of years he is with us on the programme.

Another exciting development is that we are moving towards having a similar amount of time in the timetable at Key Stage 3 from September. We have been worked with an 11-14 year olds already but with much less time and consistency due to it being an extra-curricular session but we are really excited to see what the next academic year brings.

You can check out a more detailed insight to our school based LTAD system here with the full article featured in the UKSCA’s Professional Strength and Conditioning Journal.

Interested in joining other coaches to discuss LTAD? Check out the upcoming conference Child To Champion where a wide range of practitioners are coming together to present from different stages of the developmental continuum.