FUNdamentals For Physical Development

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 mpeale@ltmacademy.com for any questions or comments.

 

 

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Too Specialized too Soon

Spending thousands of dollars on a single sport for a child only to see that child get burned out in 3 years, is that a quality time and financial investment?  Unfortunately a large percentage of parents all around the United States have bought in hook, line, and sinker into this horrendous brainwashing.  The Tulane Institute of Sports Medicine has seen the surgical curve for overuse injuries drop from 18-20 year olds, to 12-14 year olds.  Why is this happening?  Because kids are being wrongfully told they have to compete in one sport only from the age of 6-8 and up.

When we are talking about long term athletic development, sports specialization does not occur until after puberty.  Children are still learning fundamental movement skills to achieve basic strength, balance, and stability.  Not to mention their mental capacity to focus on more intense competition is also still being developed.  Youth sports has become a big business and has lost its focus on creating a well rounded, athletic child.  The importance to win now and forfeit learning has become ingrained way to early in a child’s life.

What can parents do to reduce this one sport win now pressure?  Sign your child up for multiple sports while they are young and let them decide what they enjoy.  All of the top professional athletes played a variety of sports growing up.  It was not until they reached junior high or high school they began to specialize more, and even then they starred in multiple sports.  Do not let the pressure of coaches who want to line their pockets be the deciding influence on your 9 year old.  Registering them for exercise classes at your gym/health club is another great way to show them alternative healthy activities for those not interested in specific sports.  Learn To Move Academy is developing a system for individuals to purchase so children learn these fundamental movements at home.  Finally make sure they have fun.  Learning winning and losing is important and not everyone is a champion for the season, but having fun in the process is vital to returning for more seasons.

 

Matt Peale is an NASM certified personal trainer since 2008 and works with youth both as a trainer and partner in Learn To Move Academy.  Email Matt at mpeale@ltmacademy.com with any questions and comments.