Riding Technique

Bad Santa | Work Out with Darren Roberts

The fourteenth in our series of articles by Darren ‘Conehead’ Roberts… trainer to the stars.

There are almost weekly articles on what ‘training’ a youngster should or shouldn’t do – however, the purpose of this is not to say which form of training is right or wrong, but simply my views as a parent on what I think kids should be doing relevant to their sport…

From Dirt Issue 142 – December 2013

Words by Darren Roberts. Photo by Sterling Lorence.

If you think the world of senior athletes and their physical preparation is complicated and confusing, this is nothing when you delve into the world of youth performance. At a recent MX academy day I was rightly asked by the parents what sort of training their kid should be doing, my immediate response was to get their kid insured. Regardless of what the action sport is, the activity doesn’t care what someone’s age is – and relying on the NHS to get a young athlete back to competition is a wildly optimistic strategy as it’s not the NHS job to do that. Seems baffling to me for someone to insure the vehicle they travel to a track in, but the person hurtling down the track isn’t. An article for another time maybe.

They first thing any parent should think about when it comes to physically preparing their son or daughter for any sport is don’t ‘train’ them. People mistakenly think that in this country we don’t produce senior world class athletes down to lack of preparation at a young enough age, I think its the opposite – we ‘over coach’ them at a young age. It’s understandable that a kid wants to emulate their hero on track not just in the equipment they use, but in the preparation. However by subscribing to a bespoke training programme at a young age I believe limits them. Kids have natural agility, balance, control and speed of thought and by focussing them at an early age I believe you are ‘dulling’ those instincts not enhancing them.

I’m not saying they shouldn’t practice what they do, but the more sports and natural movement they are exposed to the better. We all used to run, jump, climb – using all the natural instincts needed for elite sport. I often use the Brazilian example of street kids playing football with little or no coaching, yet consistently have the best football team in the world. They haven’t been part of an organised structure since the 9 years old like their English counterparts, but they do OK! As a parent it’s about providing them with their performance playground, just like the senior athletes. It may be an environment for guided learning, but really you need to let them loose and use their own instincts as it’s those instincts they’re going to need in a race run. Getting coached sessions is not a bad idea, but there is a world of difference between a some kid being coached infrequently to a season long periodised training programme for a 14 year old.

Some simple rules I follow are:

Let them participate and practice their sport as much as realistically possible

Encourage them to play and do other sports

Eat a balanced normal whole diet – what your grandma would say to eat

Have a plan for when they hurt themselves. Kids + speed + gravity = inevitable


The needs of the senior elite and the needs of everyone else differ by degree not kind, simply apply common sense. If they want to ride DH for eight hours a day all weekend, so what? Why would you stop them? However riding DH eight hours a day four times a week, plus gym and following a diet – I’m not so sure I’d be keen on my own daughter doing that unless she’s a paid professional. As cheesy as it sounds, the most successful athletes are the ones having fun doing their sport. Don’t take that away from the kids or let them take it away from themselves.

Darren ‘Conehead’ Roberts is high performance manager at Peak Performance Fitness. Working with the UK’s household names in extreme sports such as Danny MacAskill, the Atherton’s and many more.

This article is part of the Work Out series. You can find the rest of Darren Roberts’ training tips through the links below:


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