You see a 7 year old child in his or her’s second year of playing soccer and that child is one of the best players on the field for either team. Parents, coaches, and even referees comment about that child is scholarship material and SHOULD now play only soccer. The academy/select level coach hears about this child and tells the parents to get a private coach and sign up for their team, giving up the other sports & activities. Does this sound familiar?
In teaching physical literacy, children 6-9 years old are still learning how to move their bodies in space. Developing overall agility, balance, coordination, and speed is the main idea for an overall better moving child. Playing structured and unstructured games using their entire body in different environments (water, ground, and air) gives them the skills necessary to be healthier and active, not just the glimmer of the 2% club getting a D1 scholarship. Learning how to make decisions with and without a ball, in space with other kids around, and what is proper behavior in a variety of games are all vital skills needed at this age to be a better athlete if the child chooses as a teenager and beyond.
Early sports specialization does not promote a superstar athlete. Many factors come into play that changes a child’s desire, skill, and motivation to continue playing a specific sport. Tell that advanced level coach NO! It is way too early for your child to choose one and only one sport spending thousands of dollars to play. No evidence says entering a select level team at the age of seven means a professional contract is waiting for them in high school. Enroll them in a variety of sports/activities so they can find an interest to pursue as they approach adolescents and then develop sports specific skills. The fact of playing multiple sports reduces fatigue, dropout, and overuse injuries seen way to often at the prepubescent stage.
It’s called FUNdamentals because FUN is a huge part of physical activity. When a child is not having fun, they have poor attitudes, performance, and behavior issues. Yes, they will naturally gravitate to an activity or sport they like more, but until they try a variety, they may find something else they like better. Don’t beat up your kid, physically and mentally, at this age for competition. They know the score and will typically forget it a few hours or days after the game anyway. Encourage, smile, and laugh with them to help foster a love for physical activity that can lead them to a healthier, active life when YOU, and they realize being a professional athlete is not in their future.
For more info on physical literacy, check out ShapeAmerica and their guidelines for PE and overall active habits. For a great long term athletic development and physical literacy program, Movement Academy is a web based program for your school and sports organization. Contact Matt Peale at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions or comments.