Classes should be centered on the learning of physical and technical skills.
There remains misconceptions as to the training of our youth athletes. From the age of 5 on up, physical preparation can and should take place if planned properly in accordance to natural growth of the child.
Children are seemingly starting to play competitive sports at younger and younger ages these days, as well as specialize in just one sport. It is commonly believed that what was good for Tiger Woods at a young age, will be good for their child. With this belief however, there is a growing occurrence of sport related injuries and early “burn out” with young athletes that prohibits them from ever living up to there full athletic potential. The American of Orthopedic Surgeons reports and www.stopinjuries.org : children ages 5-14 account for nearly 40% of all sports-related injuries. That up to 50% of youth sports injuries are overuse injuries. 62% of organized sports-related injuries occur during practice.
There is also a misconception that the physical preparation of our youths must involve heavy weight lifting with a barbell, dumbbells and that they are too young to train, when in fact just teaching basic motor skills such as running, jumping, throwing, catching, kicking, swimming, balance, climbing, dexterity, the ability to orient oneself in time and space are all that is needed in order to build a wide base as the foundation for health benefits regardless of later profession and for athletes to later gain sports mastery. Educators, coaches and parents take it for granted when they say “everyone knows how to run”, or “everyone knows how to throw”, when in fact they may know how to do those things, but may not know how to do them well. Some athletes run with a limp, some run with poor hip positioning, some will run on there heals, some will run with unsynchronized arm movement. As the young child grows older and his or her foundation has been worked on, the training can now become much more broad in order to achieve better all-around development.
Many parents are leaving this teaching up to Physical Education teachers, which to their credit work very hard and with large classes of young students. Since “fitness” overall in this country is low, and since now that the government is trying to make it a priority, gym teachers are teaching less about proper techniques, and focusing more on getting the students “physically fit’, and create a fun / enjoyable environment which will meet at best 2-3 times a week for 40mins each class. The unfortunate part about this is that: A) there is not nearly enough time in PE class. B) Even though I do believe that the students need to be having fun, it should be behind the fact that it is an educational class first and foremost. Not vise versa, which is how most Physical Education courses are ran. In a math class, fun is not the main objective with learning coming in second. After the learning of general skill(s), introducing a large variety of sports and games using different motor abilities (coordination, endurance, speed, strength, flexibility, technique, tactics) is a great way too allow the young athletes to develop, and express these new abilities.
Fitness is a relative term, and it does not take a whole lot to get one physically “fit”. As the name implies, physical education, classes should be centered on the learning of the physical and technical skills, which in turn will make the playing of games more fun because the sports games will become easier for the students. Fun can come in many forms, but I strongly believe that fun comes more easily from the ability to accomplish a skill successfully. The general principle for training youth athletes from the ages of 5-10 is to work on and accentuate their positive abilities, while slowly working on bringing up the athletes qualities that need improvement. By accentuating the athlete’s positive abilities this will increase their motivation and happiness.
Exposure to a skill is not the same as learning a skill! It takes more than just one or two classes / practices to learn a technical or physical skill. It may take me a class or two to learn how to say hello, my name is Jeff in Spanish, but I know I couldn’t hold a conversation. Why should learning how to walk, run, jump, cut, balance, bend, be any less important than learning anything in a core class? (math, science, English, social studies) Working on the new skill(s) several times a day in short periods of 5-15mins, while they are mentally fresh will gather much better results rather than spending 30-60mins on a skill that they get stuck on, and having them work on busting through the mental wall. It is also important in having the athlete demonstrate muscular awareness in the techniques, skill demonstration as well as in verbalize of what he or she is and should be doing.