Involvement in sport undoubtedly brings a large amount of positives for kids, however parents can certainly play a major role when it comes to ensuring that they are participating for the right reasons.
At youth level, sport should certainly not be all about winning, with socialising, exercise and fun being more important. Those registering their child with a new team or after school club may be doing so under false assumptions, meaning that they are at risk of seeing their enjoyment undermined. As a result, be sure to take into consideration the following points.
A point that many involved in sport often forget is that the emphasis should be on enjoyment, rather than winning. The overall aim for coaches should be to develop as many athletes as possible, rather than a small number of potential world beaters. Meanwhile, praise is regularly distributed to coaches who consistently win competitions, and while this is sometimes justified, those who help to produce long-term participants are often overlooked. Promoting participation increases the pool in which clubs can recruit and develop from, as well as ensuring that youngsters have a lifelong affinity with sport.
Sports academies are now identifying talent as young as five years old, however with a recent study finding that 75% of child athletes recruited into such programs lasted two years or less, while those who made it to the highest level were inducted at a much greater age. As a result, young children should initially focus upon enjoyment, with development being much more complex than simply putting in more hours than others.
Whilst practice is required in order to improve performance, this can come in a variety of forms. Some parents and coaches may focus upon the well-known 10,000-hour rule, which focuses upon structured and deliberate training, however accumulating more informal practice can be just as effective for youngsters. So, be sure to recommend that your child samples a range of sports, with research showing that this can aid development in a single discipline later in life.
It is virtually impossible to predict success in sport, with even some of the most talented of youngsters having not progressed to the highest level. As a result, coaches and parents should aim to promote the development of individuals, rather than traits such as fitness and skill, as this will undoubtedly come in time. Motivation is often a factor that is overlooked in sport too, with pushing kids to do something in which they are not keen to do once again potentially undermining them.
When it comes to sports such as rugby, netball and basketball, more physically developed youngsters are likely to stand out from the crowd early on, meaning that they are more likely to be recruited by clubs. However, with children growing at different rates, such advantages are unlikely to last for an extended period, with slower maturing individuals often catching up during their adolescence. As a result, more and more sports are grouping kids based on their physical attributes, rather than age, which helps both development and enjoyment.
For coaches, measuring success can often be a difficult, with the standard process generally involving performances and results. However, when it comes to youth sports, there are a number of additional factors to take into consideration, with results being of secondary importance.