Cuban Youth System
I had the privilege of speaking with a top School Age & Junior Cuban Coach Ramon Lopez the other day and was able to ask questions about how the Cubans are developing their young talent. Many people have written about the Cuban System at the Elite Level but not much is told of how they introduce their athletes into the sport of Weightlifting. Coach Lopez described how the Cubans first initiate an extensive talent identification search for their athletes. Once identified athletes were then sent to special sports schools dedicated to the improvement of sports skills and physical fitness. Students were selected as young as 12 years old and in some cases younger. 12 years old was an ideal age to start the athletic process because after four years of training the coaches would be able to determine by 16 whether or not the athlete would have the necessary skills to be an elite level athlete.
Technique & General Physical Preparation
Like most foreign countries that I have come to study, technique and general physical preparation must be established first. Coach Lopez suggests like many coaches, myself included, once the foundation of technique has been established good or bad it is hard to go back and change. He also believes that he rather work with an athlete that has good technique but is a little on the weak side then with someone whom is very strong and powerful but lacking in technical proficiency. Strength can be attained faster then correcting major technical flaws in his opinion.
Many American Coaches have come to understand that General Physical Preparation to simply mean high volume low intensity conditioning drills. The mind set is volume, volume, and more volume. Increase the athletes work capacity to handle the next phase of training. Coach Lopez says this is an important factor but what is missed is picking exercises to improve the athletes general and specific athleticism. Coordination and Balancing drills must also be addressed at the early developmental stage for 1) talent identify the better athletes and 2) to increase the kinesthetic awareness of the athlete through space and time. This is overlooked in many general prep phases of programing. Coaches assume these skills are either inherently learned or they will be picked up with more specific training skills. Coach Lopez feels they must be learned earlier on. This reminds me of a conversation that I had with US National Weightlifting Coach Zygmunt Smalcerz whom suggested the very similar thing. It is not surprising that both the Polish and Cuban system have established their foundation from the former Soviet System of Weightlifting Training.
I will keep writing thoughts on the Cuban System in a series of installments.