By James Eakin
2022 looks to be a landmark year for the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation, and at the forefront of their mission, this year is a renewed focus on youth development. One of the most vital aspects of youth competition, particularly in combat sports, is to ensure that officials and coaches have the appropriate training suitable to the modern-day. The launching of the new Youth Development program will set about establishing a curriculum focusing on the safe practice of MMA for those who participate competitively but also for those involved for recreational purposes.
The program will be accessible via the IMMAF app, which will allow students to access training plans outside of a gym setting. That way they can practice from home and their parents can see their progression, giving a feeling of openness to the programme. Within the app are a series of drop-down menus and sliders from 0-100% to indicate the completion of each module before students can advance.
IMMAF Director of Development Andrew Moshanov was present in Gloucester this past weekend, overseeing the creation of video content to aid the in-app experience for athletes. Trojan Free Fighters coach Paul Sutherland was present with some of his students and their parents. Dedicating many hours to the creation of this content throughout the weekend. Speaking on the content, Moshanov said:
“It was cool, very cool. We have a lot of video resources, we have brilliant app grading. There are about 300 moves on this app available to access. Also in this app, there is a visible scale that the parents and students can see. It means the parents are involved. They can discuss, they can help their kids. It gives it a sense of openness and involvement.”
Having this open dialogue between each party involved is a vital part of the developmental process for these young athletes. It also gives parents the peace of mind that the sport is being practised safely and responsibly by those involved.
One of the primary functions of the youth development program is to allow its users who are not looking to participate competitively to have a sense of achievement for their work. The inclusion of a grading system designed to educate pupils before they can advance to the next stage is a key aspect of the program. Accredited coaches will have the ability to advance students to the next grading once they have completed a specific section, ensuring that development is not rushed.
As part of the global rollout of the program, IMMAF has enlisted the help and expertise of Brandon Bender to the Youth Development Commission. Bender is currently the Director of the UFC Gym Youth Programme, which encompasses youth boxing, MMA, wrestling, and Jiu-Jitsu for kids aged 6-15 in the US and Canada. As the UFC is a principal partner of IMMAF, Bender’s acquisition is a fantastic addition to the IMMAF commission and will put the sport’s recreational aspects first.
The curating of this programme has been aided by sporting figures such as Northern Ireland’s Danny Corr, founder of the Fight to Unite scheme and Australia’s Richie Cranny. Both men have been incredibly influential in the developmental stages having run their programs designed to educate young people on the safest way to practice MMA at an amateur level. Influence has been taken from coaches around the world to give the highest quality all-round MMA training in the IMMAF program.
Discussing the necessity of adapting coaching styles to fit the course content, Moshanov said:
“So in our coach education program, we designed a special qualification called The Youth MMA Coach. The Youth MMA Coach course is critical because we have to be very careful. The coaches need to analyse gaps immediately and tailor these programs around general development. All coaches are elevating their general level to the certain standards and to the certain level after which the kids will be able to execute. We are looking at how different coaches and different nations are working and trying to collect the best experience to design our own course.”
Another huge milestone in the youth development mission for IMMAF has been the gaining of the UAE as a host nation for the youth world championships for the next three years. CEO of UAE MMA, Mohamed Al Hasani said:
“The UAE Jiu-Jitsu and MMA Federation look forward to hosting the IMMAF Youth World Championships this summer, with the expectation of holding the biggest version of the event so far. The Youths are a priority for the UAE, and one of the biggest projects the National Federation will undertake for the next 3 years and beyond. We also look forward to training UAE Youth Coaches by collaborating with IMMAF in order to make sure the future generations have the best environment to reach the highest levels of the sport.”
Youth development is a vital part of amateur MMA. The program will put the foundations in place to allow young athletes to be involved competitively or recreationally. Whilst ensuring the highest level of safety and quality of coaching necessary to let these athletes thrive.