La European Triathlon Union ha lanciato e sostenuto un progetto di cooperazione internazionale per i giovani triatleti, la cosiddetta Next Generation, promosso e sviluppato dal nostro Direttore Tecnico Giovanile Alessandro Bottoni e dal Talent Head Coach britannico Rick Velati con la collaborazione di Genevieve Church, Youth & Junior Assistant coach della FITRI.
"L'attività di collaborazione è nata da un desiderio di sostenere i giovani in ambito internazionale in questo difficile periodo - spiega Alessandro Bottoni - Molte attenzioni sui programmi internazionali e di conseguenza sulle attività nazionali sono orientate alle esigenze degli atleti elite, soprattutto per il fatto che siamo nell’anno olimpico, ma è altrettanto importante mantenere adeguate attenzioni sui giovani. Sono le nostre future generazioni e hanno, soprattutto in questa fase così particolare, esigenze profondamente diverse che vanno considerate per non limitare i giovani nei loro diritti e nelle opportunità di sviluppo caratteristiche delle varie età. Su questo la nostra Federazione si è attivata fin dall’inizio ed era utile sensibilizzare e promuovere anche in ambito internazionale una cooperazione che tenesse in considerazione in modo specifico le esigenze dei giovani, in funzione delle possibili attività di programmazione e supporto da parte della federazione internazionale. L’ETU si è mostrata subito sensibile a questo aspetto - conclude il Direttore Tecnico Giovanile della FITRI - ed ha prontamente contribuito al coinvolgimento di tutti i paesi europei nelle figure dei vari responsabili tecnici giovanili”.
Intervista ad Alessandro Bottoni (dal sito della European Triathlon Union)
Alessandro, how did this all start?
The reason that brought about creating a questionnaire came from a strong desire to do something for our young. Conscious of the difficulties they are facing in this particular period and their needs not only as athletes but also as young people. Of course, in any country took place actions to help young athletes during this particular period, mostly of the time by means of their involvement in online activities as opportunities for athletes to meet and share stories, but we thought about doing something as a European community.
What are the main difficulties in this current period?
More than anything, initially young people were disoriented and confused, the world that surrounded them had changed and they were not used to seeing their parents and those who held a position of reference to them, face the unknown. For many the main difficulties were restrictions to freedom and the loss of personal relationships: with their teachers, their coaches, their friends and their school and sport companions. In addition, for young people any educational and development activities without relationship with coaches/teacher or other athletes/students can result in interventions of low effectiveness. The restrictions in physical activities could also lead to problems in a correct development and growth pattern for the young. Certainly, younger children have suffered for the loss of their main figures in sport, their coach and their teammates. Those children who are too young to be independent, have had to rely on their parents to bridge this gap. Parents that have not be able to, or who could not manage to do this, may give rise to the risk of children to leaving sport. Other difficulties are more specifically based on technical activities, such as different training regimes during the period of total lockdown, higher intensity on home bike and gym sessions, risk of injury caused by training overload or unusual workouts or lack of adequate fitness condition when normal activities are allowed to start again.
It all sounds pretty bleak but surely there has to be some light at the end of the tunnel. There must be new and different opportunities. What are the opportunities?
Certainly, for those athletes that are more developed such as Youth and Juniors, this period represents a precious opportunity to develop ownership on their training process, manage more autonomy, improve their capacity to organize and to review their process, recognise and focus personal goals. Many of them, above all with the help of online sessions with their coaches, have been able to improve more than before on how they deal with important factors in the process such as nutrition, injury prevention, practical solutions to better stress management and recovery.
This period has also given coaches other opportunities. Many have experimented and explored new and effective strategy to keep the athletes engaged in all activities. Coaches has been exposed to the needs including parents in the process, working as a team around the athlete’s daily needs, which is a fundamental aspect in the process of development.
So, what do young people need now?
First of all, they need to feel included by their coach and fellow teammates in a common activity where they can express themselves and build relationships. Which is, in fact, the main reason why they take part in sport. This perception of being part of a group is vital and is one of the reasons why so many online groups sessions have been created in order to responds to this need. Obviously, it is also crucial the possibility to create middle term and above all, short term goals. Middle term goals are related to the confidence that sooner or later, hopefully at the end of the summer, we will return to racing and so it is essential that there is a race calendar. Short term because of the importance in knowing that soon training activities will return to normal and that they will be able to enjoy groups sessions once again, albeit with some behavioural adaptations.
The questionnaire has been sent out to National Federations. Have you had any responses so far?
Yes, it has been interesting to see the various answers. So far, we have heard from Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands. We are hoping that every federation will engage, because every federation is facing the same, or similar problems as we speak. The physical and psychological problems are not unique to one federation and, together as one big ETU family, we can gain awareness of how each country is approaching this problem.
The questionnaire, distributed to each national federation and inviting them to share their ideas and experiences, will give us the best possible data for the Youth and Junior coaches to work with and we are expecting some wonderfully innovative ideas to come from this group of athletes.
So far, ETU has seen some really inspiring ideas, photos and videos that have been shared on Social Media and we are looking forwards to sharing these with you all.
ETU will deliver a series of updates, on a weekly basis that puts the spotlight on our Youth and Junior athletes in Europe, showing how different National Federations are organised in this period of “lockdown” and “semi-lockdown” and to share best practises.