GAINcast Episode 211: Speed for kids (with James Marshall)

If running is a natural movement, then how come so many adults have poor running mechanics? Children can only develop skills in activities that they do, and therefore coaches and parents have to help them find the right activities that will nudge them in the right direction. On this week’s GAINcast, James Marshall joins us to share his approach to coaching speed for children, as well as the role of testing in PE and youth athletics, ground-based agility, and details on his upcoming GAIN PE courses.

Listen Now

Notes and quotes

James Marshall is the head coach of the Excelsior Athletic Development Club in Devon. Prior to founding the club, he worked with both professional and recreational athletes across a wide variety of sports, including experience with London Welsh RFC, Exeter Chiefs, as well as National Governing Bodies like England Golf, England Rugby and numerous Olympians. He is also a faculty member at GAIN.

  • 0:00 – Introduction.
  • 4:30 – Speed for children: “Sometimes I’ll watch the children run and go, wow, that is poetry in motion and other times they’re fighting hard. The raw material is there and what I am trying to do is see how we can nudge them along the way.”
  • 8:30 – Using games and environment to promote speed, as well as creating puzzles: “Running and gait are natural. Making running mechanical or making them longer than they can run fast takes that speed away and then they hate running too.” “Kids naturally run as fast as they can, until they can’t run any more, then they stop until they can run fast again. Their training should replicate this.”
  • 15:30 – Learning to skip and exploration in training: “One of the mistakes that we make is that as the children grow up, we take the children out of them.”
  • 20:30 – Examples of teaching the hammer throw to kids, the power of imitation and peer to peer coaching by kids.
  • 24:00 – Teach first, test second: “Coaches are teachers first, testers second. If we have the right progressions, we’ll get results out of them and we don’t need a world champion at 6 year old. We need a kid who is encouraged about their ability to progress at 6 so they stay with the sport.”
  • 29:15 – The power of achieving a goal and finding appropriate challenges.
  • 33:30 – Balancing free play and structure: “I don’t want listeners to think you just need to take your kid to a park and leave them for 2 hours. There is some direction and structure needed as well. But over structuring will take away the instinct. Find that balance.”
  • 37:00 – Ground-based agility: “You have to learn to negotiate the ground. We do all of our running on our feet, but it is when you fall or tackle, how can you not get hurt, and then return to your feet and the game.”
  • 41:00 – Contact conditioning.

To hear more about these topics you can listen to the full episode above. If you like what you hear on the GAINcast, don’t forget to give us a review and subscribe on iTunes.

Further reading

The following links were referenced in the podcast or provide some additional reading material on the topic: