NGO and charity committed to reducing injury in sport

Adaptation and Workload Management

Providing the building blocks of adaptation by increasing care, competence and confidence in youth sport and reducing the risk of injury.

  • Translating the principles of workload management and performance adaptation into a practical tool for the school and club environment, which enables delivery of a well-sequenced curriculum for PE, sport and physical activity.


    What is the context?

    Healthy adaptation is a core pillar of growth and development for young people and plays an important role in youth sport, for both enjoyable participation and reducing the risk of preventable injury. As defined by the ‘SAID’ (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) principle, the body will adapt specifically in response to the demands and stress placed upon it, and progressively adjust to increasing or decreasing demands.

    Adaptation requires a load (often referred to as workload, demand or stimulus) to stimulate a specific change. Some of these might be physical or sport-related, but adaptation can also be affected by a person's everyday life and experiences.


    What are the study objectives?

    Managing workload is an important component of youth sport development.

    Initially, the foci of this study were to explore workload in the context of sport, and injury due to poor workload management or too much workload when the young person is not physically or psychologically prepared for the activity they are undertaking.

    However, our early discussions with Heads of Sport, PE teachers and grassroots sport coaches highlighted that to truly create impactful change in the school and grassroots environment for young people, we needed to consider the wider journey of healthy adaptation, with a holistic and inclusive approach, in addition to our focus on workload management.

    To respond to this, our revised aim for this project is to support our stakeholders’ ambitions to create a well-sequenced curriculum for young people, considering the basic principles of adaptation in sport and increase care, competence and confidence in these environments.

    This project forms part of Podium’s overall strategy to increase the understanding around exposure and injury, providing tools to increase the confidence and competence of teachers and coaches in managing youth sport injury.


    What was our approach?

    Over the course of the 2022/2023 academic year, we engaged with over 30 Directors of Sport, Heads of PE, teachers, coaches and experts in sports medicine to discuss training load, workload management and adaptation in the context of sport, to contribute to a framework of thinking and decision making for youth sport environments.

    All of these individuals play a significant role in a young person’s relationship with sport and activity, and influencing their adaptation and development in physical skill, sport, and activity.

    Through iterative consultation, we have developed a model that can be used to support youth and grassroots sport stakeholders in planning the development journey they want to take with their players physically or psychologically; for example, progressive adaptation with sport specific principles or increasing engagement and participation using an adaptive approach.

    The model we have created helps users map out the key stages of adaptation into an achievable action plan to achieve effective adaptions. The model includes:

    • Where they currently are and where they want to get to.
    • The modifiable risks faced, and how they can be managed.
    • The specific tools that will be needed for effective adaptation (workload).

    Crucially, alongside this, the model focuses on participants’ development of meaningful connection and experiences through the care, competence and confidence of individuals.


    What’s the output?

    In September 2023, the Adaptation model was rolled out to a small cohort of schools and grassroots clubs to gather further evidence of individual, team and department usage and assessment criteria.

    Through ongoing consultation, we will assess the engagement and effectiveness of the materials supporting the adaptation tool, and confidence in stakeholders planning and managing modifiable risks in the youth sport journey.

    The findings will help us start to collate effective management strategies of teachers and coaches for young people aged 11–18 who play sport. 


    What’s next?

    A progress report will be published in September 2024.

    If you would like to hear more or take part in this research project, please contact


    Project team
    • Kat Jones, Schools and Clubs Lead
    • Glenn Hunter, Director of Research and Innovation