|Kids develop skills such as balance and agility simply from|
exploring their surroundings.
As a coach and a fitness trainer who has worked with kids of all ages, I find the focus on early sports specialization and the effect it has on children a little unnerving. I see burnout and higher injury rates in the participants and I also see kids who try very hard to perform well being cut from teams because they aren't "good enough". If the purpose of youth sports is to give kids a way to stay active and healthy, why has it it resulted instead in high injury rates and a focus on outcomes and not performance? Winning is great and all, but its not everything.
According to the experts at Stop Sports Injuries, over 3.5 million children under the age of 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries every year. More than half of these are preventable. More disturbing is that 70% of children drop out of youth sports by age 13 with the top three reasons being adults, coaches, and parents. In high school athletes, 62% of injuries are from overuse. The statistics are rather disturbing.
I read Dan John's new book Easy Strength this morning and in it, he talks about a concept of training quadrants in which athletes are characterized by the kind of training they need. According to his model, children should be doing general strength and conditioning and learning a broad variety of sports and skills. Calisthenics, bodyweight exercises and simply running are more than adequate for this accumulation phase.
In Verkoshanksy and Siff's book, Supertraining, they talk about the time it takes to begin playing a sport and to develop into a high level athlete. This happens over decades, not years. Furthermore, early specialization in the young athlete rarely results in a long athletic career in that sport. It is recommended that children spend up to 3 years developing a base of strength and endurance with simple bodyweight exercises and calisthenics.
|Jumping rope is an easy exercise|
with a lot of carry over to other skills.
Based on my own observations, I believe that the training base we establish as kids stays with us our whole lives. One of the questions I ask my adult clients is what kind of sports did they play when they were younger. I find that those are the energy systems and movement patterns that I can tap into first to get them started. It might take a little waking up, but its there. What if our youth today never get the opportunity to develop those qualities when they are young and easy to develop? What is going to happen when they are adults? What is going to happen to all these young people who have had one or more joint surgeries in their teens?
|I'm still pretty good at climbing trees.|
I was never a terribly good athlete, but with all the work and play at home and school I had the opportunity to develop a solid base of strength conditioning. Although I'm still not a good athlete, it has helped me a lot in my athletic pursuits as an adult and I'm in pretty good shape for a woman about to turn forty. With my own children, I've made an effort to get them moving whether it be with me in the weight room (age appropriate of course), helping out with yard work, going for long walks around the neighborhood, or playing games in the back yard. Unfortunately we don't have any good climbing trees, but we're about to remedy that with an outdoor structure for rope climbs.
I'm not going to single-handedly solve the issue with sports injuries, but I'm going to try and do my share with the kids and parents I coach. I encourage all of you to think about how often you go outside and get moving. Going outside to play and work is about the best form of exercise we can have. Its not just good for our kids, its good for us. Its free, its fun, and its a great way to spend time with your children. You're not just spending quality time together, you're giving their bodies an invaluable advantage for staying whole and healthy as long as possible. To me, this is far more important than winning a few games.