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As you can see, the main components that need to
be considered when coaching a junior athlete are
frequency, duration, intensity and percentage of
skills verses fitness training.
While physical conditioning and specificity of
training isn’t recommended until age 15-years-
old upwards, this is not to say that younger
athletes shouldn’t be out riding and in particular
working on their skills!
I asked Donna Dall, coach of Junior World
Champion Cameron Wright, to give some insight
on her coaching approach with Cam over the last
“Coaches and parents should recognise that
junior athletes are significantly different in their
physical, psychological and emotional make up
and these individual differences should be well
catered for,” she explained. “Younger athletes are
not miniature versions of adults; they are in fact
a growing body metamorphosing both physically
and psychologically with growth spurts, puberty
and hormonal changes. When coaching junior
athletes, my emphasis is on skill development,
routines and positive cycling habits. The emphasis
on training volumes and intensities has been
gradually increased with Cameron’s age and
years in the sport.
“I have been very conscious of the changes in
race demands from age category to age category
with Cameron and have prepared him for each
transition into the next age group accordingly,”
Dall added. “Cameron enjoys taking part in
mountain biking for many different reasons and
we have tailored his training to ensure it is always
a positive and enjoyable experience.“
You can certainly teach a dog new tricks, although
learning new skills definitely becomes harder
with age. I definitely wish I had got into this sport
a lot younger than when I did at the age of 21.
There are a whole range of opportunities for kids
to take part in fun, skills-based sessions these
days. Many of the local clubs and coaches offer
skills clinics, kid’s races, and unstructured group
rides where youngsters can have a lot of fun in a
non-competitive environment and learn invaluable
skills and techniques.
A couple of years back I met a young mountain
biker at a local 24hr race. I remember his father
trying to encourage him to get out and complete a
lap for the team. The young rider, however, wasn’t
interested in slogging his way around the course.
Instead he simply wanted to practice his wheelies
and muck around at the nearby jumps park.
Two years on and I have started coaching this
young athlete. He is now almost 15 and has the
physical and mental maturity to start following a
structured training program. He also has much
more desire to push his limits up the climbs as
well as practicing a few wheelies, jumps and
SKILLS BASED TRAINING
IS WHERE IT’S AT!