The Backyard.

The Backyard is an educational programme and community of practice designed by Athlete Development for coaches, teachers and managers who want to step up and lead in the area of youth athlete development.



(Dates yet to be announced)

Why Does the Programme Exist?

The popularity of organised sport continues to rise for youth and their families. Not only is there more variety in available options, but athletes are training and competing more than ever before, and at younger and younger ages.

Increased youth participation in sports has given rise to an increase in sport-related injuries. All children go through an accelerated period of growth during their development. It takes place during puberty and generally happens a year or so earlier for girls compared to boys.

Mismatched growth in the long bones relative to muscular lengthening disrupt structure, neuromuscular function and physical performance, and it’s a very challenging time for youth athletes – both physically and mentally.

That’s why professionals working with youth athletes must understand the degree and stages of biological development that affect motor performance in their athletes.

What’s more, regular monitoring of biological maturity is critical to prescribe appropriate training regimes that reduce the risk of activity-related injury and help athletes learn faster and achieve more in the sports that they love. Youth athlete development is a specialised area to work in.

To be successful, you need a specific set of skills.  This programme will give you those skills.

Margaret Goldsmith

“I found this 2 day programme an amazing opportunity to work along my old EIT peers as well as my lecturer Marcus Agnew. Dr Craig Harrison and Dr Paul Gamble did a great job with delivering the content and made sure we felt confident in knowing the different fundamental movements. I got to discuss and put into practice the movements necessary for athletes to develop and improve their overall physical ability.”

Margaret Goldsmith PE/ Health Secondary School Teacher
Shal Addis

“Overall I enjoyed the weekend workshop that was provided by Dr Harrison and Dr Gamble. Going into the 2-day workshop, there were a few areas that I was keen to get a better understanding of. One of these was peak height velocity and HOW ADP Coaches incorporated this into everyday training, especially with every case being different. In the perfect world, you might get a young athlete pre-puberty and have the ability to track a number of key variables. Training would be structured to suit their current ability and requirements. In situations where you have completely new athletes at ages where it’s quite difficult to judge where they sit on the growth curve, AND with minimal growth data, I was always interested to see how the approach may change. They were able to provide quality answers and refer me to relevant research that indeed helped a lot. The sessions were broken up nicely with some practical activities which got us moving and learning at the same time. I particularly liked how they used drills that built in fundamental movement patterns; without the athlete realising it they were lunging and squatting. It reminded me of a parent disguising veggies in various dishes! In summary I found it highly useful, not just from a physiological and physical perspective, but it was also great to hear how they interacted with their athletes. Top work team.”

Shal AddisAcademy Trainer: Hawke’s Bay Rugby Union

What will I learn from the programme?

Backyard will teach you the science behind developing the youth athlete, including the physiology of growth and development, and how to assess, programme and progress key physical skills and abilities.

You’ll also learn the psychological and behavioural factors that recognise and address varying motivations, beliefs and abilities critical to keeping a youth athlete engaged in sport and optimising their potential.

Backyard will develop your understanding of youth athlete development via evidence based learning under the following common themes:

  • Growth and development.
  • Assessment, progression and monitoring of foundation physical competencies.
  • Commitment (ability to continue working to agreed goals), confidence (to believe in one’s abilities), control (ability to maintain emotional control regardless of distraction).

The programme is based on five key principles:

  • Developing self-mastery
  • Keeping it fun
  • Continuous learning
  • Making it personal
  • Long-term development

How does the programme work?

Backyard is an annual membership. Admission is by application only.

Year 1

First, you’ll need to commit to a two day in-person workshop led by our Director Dr. Craig Harrison and Head Coach Dr. Paul Gamble. During this workshop Craig and Paul will work with you to grow your understanding of youth athlete development. They’ll also help you identify the most important focus areas to improve your skills and abilities as an AD specialist.

Then, you’ll need to complete a 10-week case study, at a time that suits your schedule, via our online communication portal. During this time, you’ll apply your new found knowledge with athletes you work with, while having the direct support of Craig, Paul, and the rest of the Backyard community, who will engage with you on individual and group work.

“We believe the best way to learn and improve is by ‘doing’ with regular and frequent feedback within a community of people all working towards the same wildly important goals”.  -Dr. Craig Harrison

Years 2+

To remain a member of Backyard you’ll need to earn 100 learning credits per year by choosing from our suite of in-person and online classes and practical workshops.

As a member of Backyard you’ll also have exclusive access to:

  • The Backyard community, including extended national and international networks.
  • New thought leadership content and curated readings.
  • ‘Community’ discussions for feedback and collaboration.
  • New and noteworthy youth athlete development research and practical applications.
  • Full athletic development exercise library and playbook.

What does the programme cost?

Honestly, a lot less than it should.

Ask any professional in our niche to name the one thing they fear the most? It’s a lack of quality development. Well, this programme WILL result in increasing your understanding of youth athlete development. We have the evidence to prove it.

But most importantly, this programme WILL give you the tools and confidence to improve your practice and help the athletes you work with learn faster and perform better in the sport that they love.

Now, with Backyard, you can join a community of like-minded individuals, and have year-round access to the best practice and the latest science in youth athlete development, for only $1,500.

Apply for The Backyard


25th and 26th November


(Dates yet to be announced)

Get in touch