With the Norwich School Sport Science Support Programme having recently been launched, we chatted to Alex Daalhuizen to find out more about it:
Hi Alex, for those that don't know you, can you explain a little bit about yourself and your role at the school...
Hi I'm Alex and I'm the Head of Strength and Conditioning at Norwich School. I've been working in S&C for 8 years now, beginning in tennis and swimming having graduated from university with a MSc Strength and Conditioning. Since then I've worked in football, with Queens Park Rangers, and in rugby, with Bedford Blues in the Championship, before moving to my first school role at Bedford Modern. Alongside my work at Norwich School I am co-head of Strength and Conditioning at Snow Sport England Alpine Squad and an S&C coach for Leicester Tigers DPP Norfolk.
My role at Norwich School has two parts. In the Lower School I oversee Athletic Development modules in the Lower School PE programme. In the Senior School, I oversee the Sport Science Support Programme, in which I deliver the Athletic Development sessions for individuals, small groups and teams.
What is the Norwich School Sport Science Support Programme?
The Sport Science Support Programme is designed to help individuals in their overall sport, health and wellbeing. The programme's main areas of focus are Sports Nutrition, Sports Psychology and Athletic Development. The nutrition and psychology parts are delivered primarily as lectures, however we also have group sessions and one to one's. The nutrition is delivered by our School Sport's Nutritionist Andrea Carroll-Langan. The Sports Psychology will be launching later this academic year. Whatever level of sport people are playing, everyone need to be able to be effective and confident in their fundamental movement skills. The programme has been developed using the latest research by world-leading experts in youth development to achieve this for every pupil at the school in the long term, whatever their interests and athletic aspirations.
What is Athletic Development?
In Athletic Development we are looking to be able to develop pupils across a broad range of skills; mobility, agility, speed, strength and power. All these are key attributes for health and wellbeing, as well as being the building blocks for sporting performance. It is a long term process with something for everyone, whatever their sporting ambitions, with many transferrable skills. The programme is open to pupils from Lower 4 to Upper 6 and is formulated to take into account the training history, growth and maturation status as well as sporting commitments.
As a pupil how can the programme help me with sport?
The focus is centred around developing fundamental skills, which are highly correlated to many movement patterns you will see across many sports. For example; a squat, a jump and land and a press up, can all be beneficial for a rugby player, a netball player and a dancer. The same can be seen in a change of direction exercise. Our exercise programmes are designed to increase the athletic capabilities of our students, leading to enhanced performance and increased resilience.
Does it cover every sport or is this just for the major sports?
As mentioned, the programme is aimed at fundamental movement skills which are applicable across a range of activities. As pupil's move through the school, and start to think about focusing more on one or more sports (generally in 6th form), the programme can become more specific and specialised as appropriate, to be tailored to the individual's needs.
Can you give us an insight into a session and what we might expect?
As part of the programme we've developed a movement syllabus which covers seven basic movement patterns: squat, push, lunge, pull, lift, hinge and brace. The programme is a tiered one so those beginning will start at level 1, which will be an introduction to all these movements. Once students have mastered one level, they move to the next and so on. As students move through the levels the technical and physical aspects of the exercises increase. These are all specifically designed, taking into account, age, sex and maturation, and allow students to move at their own pace. We'll look for three key things through an individual's movements before allowing them to take the next step on the tier; Range of Movement, Control and Shape.
If I'm aspiring to be a high level sportsperson, how can you help me?
We already work with several pupils who are excelling at one or more sports. I work carefully with their specific coaches to develop a specialised training programme, as well as using testing batteries to assess and monitor their performance and progression. In these instances we have more detailed cross over with the nutrition and psychology aspects of the programme. They also have the opportunity to be part of the school established Young Norfolk Sports Academy.
What makes sport at Norwich School special in your eyes?
First of all the school has a broad range of technically great coaches, who I have the pleasure of working with, across the huge variety of sports that the school offers. The depth and breadth of Norwich School's sports programme really stands out. We also have hugely ambitious pupils who love to get involved, which is so rewarding.
The Athletic Development programme itself gives a unique opportunity for young sportspeople to get an insight into a high level of coaching, the level and detail of which they're unlikely to be able to experience again.
And finally, when you aren't coaching strength and conditioning at school, what do you do for fun?
When I'm not working I play hockey at Norwich City Hockey Club and love cycling and surfing. Outside of that I've done quite of bit of travelling.