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MANAGING THE GROWTH SPURT

The time from the start of the growth spurt at puberty to about one year following the peak rate of growth is a critical time in coaching junior athletes. Windows of training opportunity open up during the growth spurt that include suppleness, speed, 3D integration, and stamina. These trainability phases are a consequence of the development of the nervous system, muscle fiber differentiation, acquiring strength, and hormonal influences. Training that focuses on these phases at the optimum times helps junior golfers accelerate their golf skill development. Following the growth spurt we find additional windows of opportunity for strength, skills, power, and stamina. In each of these phases, juniors need supervised balanced training to prevent injury or burnout. The "golf should be fun" rule is definitely in effect here.

Growth velocity is the rate at which a child is growing, and it can be measured in cm/yr. A graph of growth velocity calculated as cm/day vs age makes it convenient to show changes in growth velocity. At the beginning of puberty growth velocity increases, reaches a peak height velocity, then decreases during later years. We can consider the growth spurt to be the period from the initial take-off in velocity to the equivalent point on the downside of the curve following the peak height velocity. The growth spurt for boys is typically more rapid and occurs about two years later than the growth spurt for girls. It is a sensitive phase in development.  (Illustration courtesy of Greg Rose, TPI)

During development, body segments and tissues grow at different rates. Bones grow first and provide a framework for muscle development to follow. Growth plates set limits to weight loads and to rotational stress. Training needs to consider these changes to minimize conditions that contribute to injury. Overtraining is a real potential hazard. Lower back pain is often found in junior athletes due to lumbar spine injuries that have been associated with overuse. Fractures and stress injuries are another consequence of improper training that can derail a developing athlete's dreams. We recommend regular visits with a medical professional for the guidance needed by growing athletes.