We took a trip to our partner organisation Storm Fitness to discuss The Young Athlete Development Academy (YADA) with head trainer Lome Fa'atau.
Lome, can you give us an overview of what YADA is and what you guys do? The YADA is a training academy for aspiring young athletes across all sports which is run by myself and Spencer Davey, both experienced strength coaches and former professional athletes with a proven track record of working with young, amateur and professional athletes. Storm Fitness believe that training young athletes is a huge responsibility and the team are passionate about developing the talents of the young people we work with and creating the right culture for continued improvement.
We understand that the first point of contact with these young athletes is often in their school? Spencer and myself have spent the last 12 months visiting schools around the north east to promote the YADA. We usually start by sharing a bit about our background and experience then talk about the YADA programme and how it has helped those athletes that we currently work with to become stronger, faster and powerful. We then open to questions from the young athletes, starting by asking them a few questions about their current workout plans and nutrition.
What happens once a young athlete joins the YADA? Young athletes come into Storm where they are shown around the gym and introduced to other Storm trainers. It’s important that they feel welcome, comfortable and a part of the Storm family as soon as they arrive. We then go into the office and talk about their goals, medical and gym history. After the formal stuff and paperwork is done, I take them through a screening process; this gives us a bit of feedback on the athlete’s functional movement through overhead squats, clat test, etc. Every individual is different and will have their own personal goals so each program is tailored and individualised towards that particular athlete.
Can you explain a little about the training structure of the YADA? The YADA training structure is based on two movements: Linear and Lateral. The template consists of an explosive element, followed by a strength phase and volume (hypertrophy). We work with a lot of young athletes from 11-18; depending on the individual's sport, and the current level they are at, we normally start them with the basics. By that we mean teaching the correct form if there are any mobility issues and technique at bodyweight. Over the first ten block introductory sessions we see a lot progress.
You mentioned addressing mobility issues. Do you find young athletes that come to you are often struggling with mobility, and posture issues simply because they're spending large parts of the day sitting at their school desk perhaps, then coming home and playing on the laptop or game console? Are there certain specific areas you regularly need to address? Today we live in a world of information/technology, so it may play a part in reasons to why some of the young athletes (some not so young too!) have mobility issues. I don’t know a lot about the school or educational curriculum here in the UK but in New Zealand, I remembered that it was compulsory for every student to participate in a sport. I don’t think a lot has changed in that sense as it was always encouraged for kids to keep active. From my own experience, and seeing a lot of the guys that I played with too, there wasn’t a lot of interest shown towards mobility or flexibility exercises. It would be get in the gym, do the session and then leave without doing any stretching work for example. One season a Yoga teacher was introduced into taking us through two sessions per week; like most programs you don’t notice a lot of changes in the early sessions and guys simply made a joke about it all until the trainers and coaches noticed some individuals were moving a lot better and this also showed in their performance on the field. With the young athletes, it's not just about getting them bigger and stronger physically. It’s important that we encourage them to stretch and inform them about the benefits. Yoga is another great way to develop strength in the joints and core stability.
Thinking about nutrition, how does the YADA educate our young athletes on nutrition and its importance? Resistance training is only part of the work in improving athletic performance. Nutrition is also a key element which helps athletes perform at their optimal level. As trainers, we need to have a good basic understanding of sports nutrition and hydration so we can provide young athletes with good advice about what and when to eat and drink, in order to maximise training and game performance.
Watch out for the second part of our interview with Lome to appear on the Falcons website later this week. If you are interested in finding out more about the Young Athlete Development Academy, or simply have a question for the YADA trainers, please don’t hesitate to contact the team on Spencer@Storm-Fitness.com or visit the Storm Fitness Facebook page here.