Your Children & Fitness

Getting pitch perfect with our SCC Rugby Pro

Here's John Brake - former England rugby player - and one of our well-known head coaches here at the SCC and UFIT Rugby Holiday Camps coach. John's also a Personal Trainer at UFIT Amoy - and as someone who has been on the rugby world stage he's really well placed to teach kids the physical and mental qualities needed to succeed in this great sport - as well as the challenges of every day life.

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John's international rugby career

John represented England as a schoolboy at Millfield in the under-16 and under-18 levels. After leaving and joining Northampton he progressed to the under-20 side and made his debut for the England Sevens team in San Diego in 2007.

John  went on to represent England Sevens for six seasons, playing in 41 World Series Tournaments, two Commonwealth Games, a Sevens World Cup and ten European Tournaments.

John captained the winning England Sevens team in the 2012 European Sevens Grand Prix.

We asked John more about his background and approach to kids' coaching.

What sports did you play as a kid?

I played and took part in every sport possible. I loved playing football, hockey, rugby & basketball. I was never a great swimmer though and just felt I was more of a sinker. 

My parents were brilliant at giving me opportunities and support. They never pushed me, just highlighted to me at times why I enjoyed sport so much. They were just very supportive. 

What pushed you toward professional rugby?

When I was ten I went to boarding school where rugby was the no 1 sport in the school. The enthusiasm and buzz around game day just ignited my passion to play with my mates. I had some very influential coaches in the senior school who were incredible at man-management and inspiring. 

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What values did you learn that you share with kids you coach?

a) TRUST. You have to trust your team mates and yourself to get the job done. 

b) COMMITMENT. You set a goal and you go out to achieve it with everything in your power to do that. It's like a switch. You're either on or off. 

c) ENJOYMENT. Unfortunately people can lose sight of this when playing and coaching. The only reason we all took part to start with was to enjoy the experience. Keep things fun.

d) DISCIPLINE. To turn up to training on time. To make the extra effort to prepare. To put the team first at times. Practice. This has been so important my entire career. 

e) ENERGY. Bring as much as you can. Whether that's mental or physical. It's infectious to those around you. 

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My approach to coaching kids

It has to be enjoyable. And about kids first. It's good to develop the individual and install good values to develop and enhance their lives on and off the pitch. 

Why I love coaching kids

I love their energy, and having the challenge and the opportunity to witness them really improve over a period of time. Kids are not pros. They are all here for the love of the game, not for a pay cheque. It's refreshing! 



How I can help their rugby

I'd like to think they'll improve their key skills. They’ll end up knowing how effective they are and how to play to their strengths. I want them to leave with loads of confidence and to make decisions for themselves. At the end of the day, they're the ones on the pitch. Not the coaches. 

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What I get out of coaching kids

A sense of responsibility to pass on my knowledge and love for the game. To enhance someone's life is pretty cool. Plus the fact if I can have the same effect as my coaches did on me that's pretty incredible. 

I once took an intro session to contact skills in a big inner city London group. It's a charity to help less privileged children. I told the 6ft 3" 18 stone 16year old to demonstrate what I just told in tackle technique. I told him 25% intensity.

I don't think he heard and took a 10m run up at 100% and smashed me. I was on my back surrounded by 30 boys crying with laughter. 

I now always emphasise. It's only 25% when demonstrating. 

Life with UFIT and in SG

Life has been very exciting since I moved over with my wife UFIT Nutritionist Becky six months ago. Of course getting married and moving to the other side of the world has been an incredible experience for me. The people and opportunities I've had have been really great since I arrived. The diversity here is astonishing. It's been fun exploring a new place. With regards to rugby I've been thoroughly impressed with the competitiveness of youth rugby and the high standards at a number of tournaments I've been to. It's surprised me and has been really good. 


About John Brake

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John Brake retired from Rugby in the summer of 2016 after a ten-year career playing for England 7s and Northampton Saints. Throughout John’s career he received world class strength and conditioning experience and soon gained a passion for it. This interest led to John becoming a fully qualified PT and taking on clients.

John can assist clients with a variety of health and fitness goals whether that’s gaining muscle, improving body composition or just becoming fitter to support a lifestyle. 

QUALIFICATIONS

  • Level 3 Qualified Personal Trainer
  • Level 2 Qualified Rugby Coach
  • England Sevens, Northampton Saints.

The benefits of strength training for kids

Adults often fear that strength training is unsafe for kids - find out in three simple steps how your child can benefit. 

As a parent, it’s easy to understand these natural reservations, but it's important we set the record straight. The truth is, strength training is safe and good for kids - when it's done the right way.

Strength training provides many benefits for children and adolescents in a physical and physiological capacity however it may also have a profound effect on their health later on in life as well, and here’s why:

Regular physical activity is essential for normal growth and development and kids should be encouraged to engage in 60 minutes of vigorous activity every day. However, most parents shy away from allowing their child to participate in strength training activities. This is normally down to a belief that performing this type of work can be dangerous for their growth and development or simply a lack of a safe appropriate venue and instructors for them to go.

Research over the last decade has repeatedly suggested that strength training can have a unique benefit for kids when appropriately supervised.

Similar to adults, a structured strength training program can have favourable effects on a child’s musculoskeletal strength, body composition, cardio vascular risk factors and psycho-social well being.

When is the right age to introduce them to strength training?

Between the ages of 11 to 16 is an ideal time to develop musculoskeletal strength, this will have a positive effect on a child’s ability to perform life’s everyday activities with greater energy and will increase a young athlete’s resistance to sports related injury. There is a growing trend in sports related injuries amongst young athletes this can be caused by muscular imbalances, poor conditioning and overtraining (doing to much too soon).

Mentoring and learning from highly experienced strength & conditioning coaches is crucial to your child’s development.

Causes of injury

A common cause of injury amongst young athletes is early specialization. This is where a child performs a high amount of training in one particular sport which often leads to overuse injuries due to the repetitive stress on the body. Young athletes should be encouraged to take part in a variety of sports along side an appropriate strength training program in order to combat repetitive strain and overuse injuries.

It’s not just the physical you need to look into…

It is important to stress here that strength training isn’t only important for kids that participate in sport.

One of the most overlooked benefits is on a child’s physiological well being. Research has suggested the health and body image benefits that come with strength training have improved the self confidence and physiological health with young boys and girls alongside the social skills that are developed when training in a group setting. Research has also found that physical activity habits that are established in early life tend to carry over in to adulthood.

An important part of this is developing what we call fundamental movement skills (FMS) such as jumping, hopping, squatting, pressing, balance etc. Research has also shown that children who develop these skills at a young age are less likely to be sedentary during adulthood.

UFIT Clinic provides one of the best Performance Psychologists in Singapore - Dr Jay Lee. She works with parents and children to develop their mental focus and get the best out of their performance. Furthermore, children who do not develop these skills will find it hard to learn these requisite movements which allows them to participate in physical activity and sport later in life, thus effecting their confidence and vigour when it comes to working out.

So what kind of exercises are we talking about? 

Joe Williams, Personal Trainer from UFIT one-north and UFIT Youth Academy and UFIT Kids Holiday Camps coach shares his top five exercises right here:

Box Jump
An important exercise to teach proper landing mechanics for youth athletes. The box takes away some of the landing force, allowing for a better landing. Important to land in a good position, with hips above knees - so don't make the box too high!

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Single Leg Hop, Stick and Catch
Single leg control is really important for most sporting movements, and helps to strengthen the ankle knee and hip dynamically. Catching a tennis ball on landing encourages correct posture, and can be progressed by throwing the ball harder to difficult catching positions. It also adds another element of fun to the drill!

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Goblet Squat
Squatting is what we call a fundamental movement skill, or FMS. It teaches a young athlete the move simultaneously at the ankle knee and hip while maintaining correct posture, as well as building strength and stability in the lower body.

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Push-Up
Correct push-ups are much harder than they look! Whole body stability (like a plank), scapula (shoulder blade) function and control and strong pushing muscles are taught here. All these things are important for any sports or games, especially those that involve the potential of falls - a strong stable upper body can make landing much safer!

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Pullunder
Similar to the push-up, a pullunder works the posterior shoulder and is simply the same movement reversed; again, whole body control is developed. It's really important for all athletes - not just developing ones - to balance their pushing and pulling exercises.

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If there’s three things you should take away from this article, then make sure you’re doing this for your child…

  • Strength training should be an essential part of a child’s development
  • Make sure they are following a supervised and appropriate program both physically and psychologically
  • Despite concerns by parents, scientific evidence has proven that strength training provides many benefits not just on improved sporting performance but overall long term health and well being.

 

Does your child need Strength Training guidance?

Content brought to you by Tom Clarke who runs UFIT Youth Strength and Conditioning Academy out of UFIT one-north gym. The Academy is designed for 11-18 year olds to help improve sports performance and increase overall fitness and health. Tom has a Master’s degree in sports strength and conditioning with a focus on youth training and has previously worked professional sports team’s youth academies in the UK. For more information, contact academy@ufit.com.sg.

And we also run UFIT Holiday Kids camps where you kids can have guided supervision and loads of fun at The Jungle!

KIDS COACHING TO BUILD GREAT ATHLETES

UFIT recently formed a collaboration with THE FRY GROUP - who provide tax-led financial advice for British expats in Singapore - and won the International Adviser Best Practice Awards Singapore 2016 by Best Adviser. They're inviting all UFIT clients to meet them and attend their highly informative Tax Tips Seminars at the end of June.

Not only does The Fry Group provide an important and valuable service to us as adults, they share our passion for kids' fitness. Recently they hosted a Lions rugby training session for kids from the SCC Rugby Academy, Dulwich College and Tanglin Trust School, featuring three rugby legends - Peter Winterbottom, Fergus Slattery and Justin Marshall. The kids got to learn and practice key skills and listen to stories based on the players' international experience.

DON'T FORGET UFIT KIDS' CAMPS ARE BACK THIS JULY AND AUGUST!

Let your kids improve their athletic ability by participating in different sports whilst continuing to develop their main sport. They will train with Singapore's top strength and conditioning coaches and have fun with new friends while doing that!

ATHLETE DEVELOPMENT CAMP - 10 to 14 July

RUGBY DEVELOPMENT CAMP - 17 to 21 July and 14 to 18 August

Dan Norton, the England 7’s superstar and Team GB Olympian will be making guest appearances and running coaching clinics during the camp on 17 to 21 July. His presence electrified the kids last year and he will inspire the boys and girls with his enthusiasm and knowledge of the game.

 

 

Early specialisation of sports in kids - yes or no?

Most parents and young athletes know of Tiger Woods. Often, they’ll know about his route into the sport; hitting golf balls by the age of 2 and a half with razor sharp focus. In other words, Tiger was born to play golf, and everything he did was designed to make Tiger the Number 1 golfer in the world, and he achieved his goal.

But for most of us, and most of our children, early specialisation is not always a good idea. Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova – and for every sports star who made their entire childhood about playing and being the number one in the world at that sport or event - there are literally a million children who, being forced to play and play and play the same sport, fell out of love with it and never picked up a racquet again.

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But when to specialise? If we as parents or coaches feel the need to hit our magical “10,000 hours” of practice in order to be elite, when else can we hit these numbers? Children want to achieve, and how is swimming, basketball and cricket going to help with my 9 year old rugby prodigy?

Be careful of the misinterpretation of this “10,000” hour golden rule. Anders Ericsson, the researcher who is credited with the so-called rule states his work was misinterpreted and popularised by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers; it ignores the other elements of high performance and only focuses on deliberate practice. Top youth sport researchers suggest an alternative. Whilst competitors whose sports peak after the age of 20 - which, barring female gymnastics and some tennis players - covers most sports – they need to accumulate 10,000 hours of general sports participation. This does not mean 10,000 hours of that one particular sport.

A popular model of youth development is the Long Term Athletic Development Model, and its evolutionary successor the Youth Physical Development Model. Whilst in depth analysis of these models are beyond the scope of this article, there are certain stages of sporting development; the sampling years (6-12), the specialising years (13-15) and the investment years (16+).

Research has shown that multiple sport participation in the sampling years leads to better overall motor and athletic development, longer playing careers and increased confidence, as well as a reduced injury risk. Whilst the LTAD is by far from a perfect model and bases recommendations on chronological rather than maturational age, it gives us guidelines (+/- 2 or so years) that are good starting points.  Specialisation in a single sport accounts for 50% of overuse injuries in youth athletes. Young athletes who specialised were 70-93% more likely to be injured than those playing multiple sports! Variety of movement patterns, variety of opponents and sporting actions allow the young athlete to move in a myriad of patterns, meaning when things do change they have the ability to adapt and overcome the movement problem in front of them without potentially injury inducing compensations.

Playing multiple sports for as long as possible lends itself to greater creativity when out on the field, even during those later investment years. If a rugby player for example has spent his early years playing basketball and tennis, chances are his or her lateral movement and hand-eye coordination will be significantly developed, allowing a more creative movement to beat an opponent or find ways to get the try scoring pass away. In the US, a 2013 American Medical Society for Sports Medicine survey indicated that 88% of college athletes participated in more than one sport as a child.

Psychologically speaking, a child that plays multiple sports is far more likely to play sports into adulthood, either at the elite or non-elite level; and those who specialise early are more likely to suffer stress, burnout, decreased motivation and lack of enjoyment. The focus on only one sport means that their athletic confidence hinges on one thing and potentially one event! If a young athlete performs less than expected or desired at a swim meet, and all they do is swim, it has a huge negative impact. If the athlete performs less than expected at a swim meet but has a great time playing volleyball the next weekend, chances are they’re going to be far less worried about their swim meet!

Remember, sports are not academics; if a child falls behind in school, it can be hard to catch up. In sports, the opposite is often true. Trying many different sports throughout the year will almost certainly enhance your child’s ability to play their chosen sport when they begin their investment years; the science also dictates they might have more fun and be healthier when they get there, as well. Which is almost certainly the real challenge.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joe is an Masters level UKSCA Accredited Strength and Conditioning Coach, with a wealth of experience working with athletes of all ages and standards from professional sportspeople to 6-9 year old youth athletes.

Joe’s training style focuses on the underpinning quality of strength and movement quality to assist performance of sporting goals, body composition, and general health and wellbeing. He focusses on evidence based programming, training smart and getting the basics right before all else. Joe believes in coaching with intelligence, training with intent and keeping things simple.


UFIT KIDS CAMPS

They’re back! UFIT Kids' Camps are on these Easter holidays!

Get your kids active and outdoors this Easter break at our popular Athlete Development and Rugby Development Camps. Running from 3 to 14 April for boys and girls aged 7 to 18 years, these camps will help your kids develop their physical and sporting abilities while they make new friends at the same time. Sign up now to secure their spot!

For more details see our website at www.ufit.com.sg/kids-camps


YOUTH ACADEMY

The academy is designed for 11-18 year olds to help improve their sports performance and overall fitness and health whilst having fun and being part of a motivating group setting.

The sessions enable participants to build a solid athletic foundation to excel in your future sporting or active life. Sessions run throughout the week, please see relevant times below. All levels and abilities are welcome.

Join us every weekday at UFIT one-north,  4pm to 5pm *except Wednesday. All levels and abilities are welcome.

For more details see our website at www.ufit.com.sg/youth-academy

Our UFIT October Kids Camps round up!

How the UFIT Holiday Camps helped kids learn new skills, improve technique and make new friends!

We kick-started our two weeks of fun with 53 kids ready to enhance their fitness, learn new skills, and improve their knowledge about the benefits of good nutrition.

Throughout the two weeks the kids started off with lunches that were not so much on the healthy side, but by the end they were actively heading home, using the notes from their nutrition talks and coming in with some deliciously healthy meals. Not only are our camps essential for kids to learn how to improve sporting abilities, but their diet is key. It’s great we have the opportunity to share our knowledge to get them up to speed at such an early age!

They had loads of fun flipping tyres, playing games and using ropes while making new friends. We noticed them developing their skills over that short period of time and really giving it 100% effort when they were with us.

Athlete Development Camp Coach Tom Clarke explains “The main aim of the week was to develop young athletes with a wide range of skills and abilities.  We could see this development happening as they listened to our tips and did their homework and came back each day with bundles of energy to learn more. We love these camps as we get to educate kids who love their sport and want to get better, it makes our job easy and rewarding.

We started each day with 30mins of warm-up co-ordination games, mobility and activation. We then moved to The Cage where we covered speed and agility, and did linear acceleration, top speed and change of direction. We used sleds, bands, wall balls and tyres and put the technique into game situations playing bib tag or relay races. 

We also hit the gym for a strength session. Our key focus was to improve their technique in fundamental movement patterns such as squats, hinges, presses, pulls, rotate and brace. This was done through a circuit of exercises such as push ups to deadlifts and much more”.


In the second week we saw an outstanding number of kids keen to develop their rugby skills at the Rugby Development Camp. Hear more from Frazer McArdell of what they got up to during the course of the week…

“We started our week with rugby handling skills to breaking down the catch and pass, strength and conditioning where we assessed their movement patterns to our nutrition talk where we covered basic nutrition for rugby performance which can be applied to a number of other sports." 

Over the next few days we covered rugby decision making under pressure, delved into strength and conditioning more by covering speed mechanics and repeated speed. Even more importantly we covered essential recovery techniques for professional rugby players. 

By the end of the week we re-capped all of the newfound knowledge on nutrition with some competitions on who had made the most changes to their lunches. We then went into what decisions can you make at the breakdown area and individual jobs within the team. We also played some contact based and situational games which is why everyone was here - to have some fun on the pitch”.

Hear it straight from our parents and kids:

“Josh did the rugby camp and had a fantastic week. He enjoyed everything, from the gym sessions to the skills training, and even the nutrition seminars! He came home suitably tired, muddy and happy every afternoon and slept like a baby. He said he would definitely like to do a similar camp next year. Thanks to all the coaches for a really good week of rugby,” Kerry, Cracknell, parent.

“The rugby camp was excellent. We learnt all about food to eat pre and post match, skills that will help us in matches, how to exercise so you don't hurt yourself, plus it was lots of fun,” James, age 11.

We’re dedicated as coaches and as a team to develop and educate your children early enough so that when they reach adolescence they will already be ahead of the game with the knowledge and education.

 

Let your child continue their growth at our next Kids Camps in April or get them signed up for a free trial at the UFIT Youth Academy that we run after school at 4pm to 5pm weekdays, except Wednesdays. Find out more information here.

 

April Kids Holiday Camps – save the date:

Athlete Development: 3-7 April 2017
Rugby Athlete Development: 10-14 April 2017

If you're interested in finding out more about the camps in April please don't hesitate to get in touch with our coaches right here.