This year’s rugby world cup has helped the popularity of rugby skyrocket around the globe. From Ireland’s TV3 attaining the highest ratings in its history with 1.38 million people watching Ireland vs Italy, to Japan setting a viewing record when a full fifth of the country’s entire population watched Japan vs Samoa, it’s impossible to ignore the impact the event will have on interest in the sport.
Students and young children have now been exposed to rugby at a level that only happens every four years – meaning schools should be standing ready to run rugby classes and after-school clubs to encourage participation in a sport that promotes both fitness and discipline.
Here are some tips on how to get the most from your young athletes as they begin training in the game.
Physical training tips
Sleep: Getting adequate rest post-training has been proven to assist athletes in recovering from tough workouts. Sleep causes the body to secrete growth hormone, which promotes muscle repair. In younger children, it’s an essential part of the puberty process and should be emphasised following heavy training sessions.
Weight training: There is no evidence to suggest any harm comes from weight training in your teenage years. Instead, evidence suggests lifting weights helps build muscle and strength no matter your age (although significant muscle gains will only come once in puberty). Squats, deadlifts and bench press are all compound lifts to boost young rugby player’s overall strength.
Warm-up for a win: Children should spend lots of time (15-20 minutes) warming up pre-match. Gentle aerobic exercise and stretches helps to activate the body and prevent muscle cramps, strains and facilitate good circulation and muscle activation.
Protein power: Children go through incredibly important growth stages during puberty. As a rugby coach, you should be trying to maximise their strength and mass gains by encouraging a healthy, protein-rich diet.
While many people think protein powders are reserved for serious bodybuilders, they are actually a terrific way to get the required protein into a diet and make for a tasty snack post-training. A protein rich diet also helps young athletes recover and prevent delayed onset muscle soreness.
The important of wholegrains: Carbohydrates are essential for providing energy for growth and also for training. Young rugby athletes need lots of carbohydrates to help fuel their training sessions and their natural growth. You should encourage a diet of wholegrains, as they are less ‘refined’ and provide a slower release of glucose, meaning the body is less likely to turn the food into fat.
Hydration: For both adults and children alike, hydration is a vital part of rugby training and playing. Any coach should be doing their best to make sure children are drinking plenty of fluid pre, during and post-game.
A loss of 1-2% of bodyweight due to dehydration accounts for a big negative impact on performance. Good hydration also helps to prevent cramps and mental alertness. Encourage your students to drink water as opposed to sugary drinks.
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