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Youth athletes: don’t forget skills and technique training

“Skiers are made in the summer” is a sentence familiar to many skiing enthusiasts. But what kind of training should youth athletes do in the summer, and how should training change towards autumn?

Photo: Touho Häkkinen

Illustration photo.

According to Roope Haapakangas, coach for a Finnish under-18 group, the most significant difference between youth and adult summer training is versatility. Skills and technique elements should also be part of youth athletes’ training.

“Training for youth athletes is aimed at enabling them to start doing adult training without major weaknesses. It means that the speed, endurance, strength characteristics, and techniques would be sufficient,” says Roope to Maastohiihto.com.

According to Haapakangas, “Skills and technique training should play a big role in youth athletes’ training. The younger the athlete, the more skill training there should be,” he states.

Skill exercises can be included during the remainder of the training. It can mean, for example, downhill workouts, skiing turns, doing tricks on roller skis, and group skiing.

After the massification of group skiing, it should already be included in the training of youth athletes quite a lot.

“Fortunately, there are many camps in Finland that you can join, and some districts and clubs work well. I would encourage you to apply for group training because nowadays, most prestigious medals are decided in mass start races,” Roope states.

It would be essential to get the skill of group skiing in shape at a young age, in which case learning it is easier than at a later age.

“The speeds have increased a lot, and the tracks are technical, so you want to shave every second off the race performance. Getting everyone comfortable skiing in a group is important so the athlete’s technique works in the middle of the group.”

Practice other sports as well

Haapakangas encourages young athletes to play other sports in the summer as well. It would be good to have a sport that would bring speed stimuli for skiing.

Good sports besides skiing are, for example, ball games and athletics. According to Haapakangas, summer is an excellent time to accumulate a lot of weekly training time when school does not limit training. The training doesn’t have to be long, as long as there are many of them in the form of different sports.

“Often young athletes ski in winter and orienteering in summer. Then there are two endurance sports, and the speed side is slightly left out. It is good that too young people don’t start doing too much endurance-oriented training.”

The school has a significant influence on the training of youth athletes

In autumn, youth athletes’ training must consider the start of school and the additional load it brings. That’s when planning plays an important role.

According to Haapakangas, you should start preparing the training program by planning the main training of the week. Otherwise, the weeks consist of basic training. School sports and the time spent on school trips should also be taken into account.

“Moving from middle school to high school is new, and many may have to move away from home. It becomes more stressful when you take responsibility for your life.”

Even if the summer didn’t go well with the training, according to Haapakangas, there is no reason to be frustrated. Despite the additional load school brings, autumn is still a good time for development.

You can also practice skiing well, for example, despite various injuries.

“If you have an injury in your leg, for example, you can double pole, swim, and water run. You can practice skiing and endurance in many ways, and injuries are often a good time to develop weaknesses,” Haapakangas states.

Read More: Junior skiers should train at different speeds and in various ways: “Slow jogging is not good.” 

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