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Sports and Child Development

Your child is growing and building new skills every day. Even though sports seem mostly physical, they also include other areas of development. More specifically, all of the areas of development – cognitive, social, and emotional. Understanding the connection between what your child is doing right now, can do, will do, and might not do for a while, and athletic types of activities can help to make the most of your child’s sporting experience. Learning about the sequence of child development, major milestones, and what to expect (and when) in terms of team play gives you the power to pick a sport that suits your child’s needs and abilities. So, what’s going on with your awesome athlete’s development? Check out the milestone markers that may directly affect what and how your child plays!

Preschoolers

It seems like your cute little baby just learned how to walk. And now you want to put them onto the soccer field? What? That’s right, kids as young as the preschool years are ready to start a sport. This doesn’t mean that your 3-year-old is passing the ball and scoring goals ala David Beckham. But, your sporty toddler can begin with basic activities that teach teamwork, listening/paying attention, balance and coordination. Look for these sports-related developmental milestones during the 3- to 5-year period:

Motor development. Your child is developing the abilities to:

  • Run
  • Kick a ball
  • Hop
  • Stand on one foot (for a few seconds)
  • Throw a ball (overhand, at this point)
  • Swing a bat (hitting a ball off of a tee)

Cognitive development. Your preschooler is building skills to:

  • Understand the concept of time (before the game, during the game, after the game)
  • Count up to 10
  • Follow up to a three-part command
  • Recall stories or some information that the child is told verbally
  • Participate in pretend play
  • Understand and follow rules (this is still emerging)

Social/emotional development. The milestones during the preschool years include:

  • Cooperating with others
  • Sharing
  • Taking turns
  • Resolving conflicts (this skill is only starting to emerge – the child may need adult help with this one)
  • Act independently
  • Show empathy

Kindergarteners and Young Elementary School-Aged Children

During the next few years your child is refining those preschool-period milestones. While you shouldn’t expect your young athlete to have a full grasp of sharing and turn-taking during the preschool years, as an older grade schooler you can. These budding abilities, along with developing empathy and resolving conflicts, help your child to better understand teamwork and good sportsmanship concepts.

Your child is also now able to follow a longer list of directions (in other words, more than three steps) and understands that rules are rules. During this period, kids are able to start learning about the more sophisticated rules of game play and follow a coach’s instruction.

As your sporting child is learning more about how the game is played, they’re also developing complex physical skills. Instead of stumbling often or missing the ball most of the time, your child is better able to aim and coordinate movements. This may show up as your child goes from hitting a ball off of a tee to hitting one with a bat, finally getting the ball into the basket or when they are able to move up to a new level/league.

Older Children

By the time your child is nearing the end of elementary school or starting middle school, they’re completely able to follow the sport’s rules. Young athletes, at this age, also have the ability to listen attentively to a coach, follow directions and demonstrate good sportsmanship.

When it comes to physical development, older kids are tackling complex motor tasks, building strength and improving flexibility. At this point your child may be developmentally ready for a travel team or league that provides a more competitive environment. Keep in mind, your player is still a child. They may understand that no one wins all of the time, but they won’t like losing. Your child may still stomp off the field or break out in tears when they don’t get a win.

Teens

Physically your teen may be on par with an adult when it comes to game play. Teenage athletes often specialize in one specific sport and have an amazing ability to focus on training. But, that doesn’t mean all teens have chosen one standout athletic activity. The teen years are a time of experimentation and trying to sort identity out. This may mean that your child who once loved tennis now wants to try soccer or volleyball. It’s not that your teen is indecisive, lazy or being difficult. Instead, it’s more likely that they are trying out all of their options.

Keep in mind, developmental milestones aren’t set in stone. While the sequence is fairly predictable, some children meet milestones right on time and others may be early or late.

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5 Reasons To Keep Playing Sports

It’s quite common for lifelong sports fanatics to suddenly question whether there’s any point in playing team sports anymore. Here are five reasons why you absolutely should keep at it.

As life gets busier, academic demands increase and you gain more freedom to spend time with your friends, it’s only natural that you reassess how you manage your time. There are only so many hours in the day and you need to make sure you’re using yours effectively to get the most out of life. Many teenagers find themselves under a lot of pressure from school, friends, family and even work commitments. How can you do all of the things you need to do, without missing out on any of the things you want to do?

Sadly, many teenagers choose to give up the sports they have been involved with for years as a way of freeing up some extra time. Of those, many later regret the decision. So, if you’re currently wondering how you can free up more time, here are five reasons why quitting your sports team isn’t the answer:

1. It’s Good for Your Health

Your involvement with team sports is one of the things keeping you healthy. The time spent training each week, not to mention the hours spent running around on the field, are what help your body to stay in shape. You’re exercising whilst doing something you love, you’d have to be crazy to give that up. Even if you drop out of the team, you’ll need to replace the activity with other exercise to make sure you stay healthy, so it may not even buy you much in the way of free time. Your health is important and team sports are a great way to stay in shape.

2. It’s Not All About Your Future Employment

Many young people decide to give up playing sports when they realize they’re not going to make a career out of it. If it’s not going to be how you make a living, it can suddenly seem like a waste of time. But playing sports isn’t just a career opportunity, it can also be a lifelong hobby that you can enjoy with friends and family. You don’t need to quit the team just because you’re not planning on playing soccer full-time. It’s perfectly ok to play for fun – in fact, what better reason could there be to play a game other than that you love it?

3. It’ll Be Good for Your Resume

You might not be planning to take up basketball as a profession, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to help you out in your professional life. Playing team sports teaches players a lot of valuable skills and employers know that. When they see that you play regularly in a league, potential employers assume you’re a team player, a fast thinker and somebody who isn’t afraid to work hard. Having that on your resume could make all the difference between getting an interview and never hearing back. Isn’t it worth it for that alone?

4. It’s Fun

You know how much you’ve always loved sports? The adrenaline, the team spirit and the celebration when you score – it’s undeniable, sports are fun. Playing on a team allows you to enjoy all of these positives whilst having fun. Okay, not every game is fun. Some games you’ll twist your ankle, miss the goal or go home empty-handed. But even on those days, you’ll have had fun, let off steam and work as part of a team. You don’t need to give up this slice of fun to juggle your school work and social life.

5. Your Teammates Are Your People

The great thing about playing sports is that you have a ready-made group of friends for life. Your teammates are your people. They know you and support you. Of course, you can stay friends with these people when you leave the team, but it will never be quite the same.

 

 

Team Sports and Child Development

Synopsis: Socialteam-sports-and-child-dev and emotional development is an important benefit of playing on a team. Parents and coaches can instill positive social behaviors and help players work together towards a common goal.

You’ve already seen the physical gains that your child is making while playing sports, but what about other areas of development? Although athletics can certainly help boost motor abilities such as strength and coordination, playing a sport is also a great way to build social and emotional skills, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

We’ve all seen it—the “You let that goal get by and lost the game for us!” kid. The child may be the most skilled athlete on the field, but he still needs some work when it comes to controlling his emotions and social behaviors. Although kids love to be number one, it’s team spirit that can help them become true winners. Being part of a team helps children learn to communicate with each other, share, and cooperate. They also build coping skills and learn how to overcome adversity. “Working well with others” is a critical skill to success in life. The truly successful people and athletes are the ones that make everyone around them better.

Does having a less-than-stellar attitude mean that a child is ‘bad’ or beyond help? Not at all. Extra guidance and practice is important not only for the kids who need to work on their sport skills, but for those kids who are also poor sports. Whether you’re helping your own child or the kids you coach, supporting sportsmanship means building social and emotional development too.

To develop the team spirit:

  • Act as a role model. If you’re only playing the “star” athlete or are constantly criticizing the children, you’re teaching the wrong lesson. Make the game fair and fun. If you’re a parent, cheer everyone on (not just your own child). If you’re a coach, congratulate everyone on their effort. This also includes the opposing team.
  • Focus on the effort and not the effect. Ask the children to do the same. Also look for improvement in the children as a team as well as individuals.
  • Be sure to make everyone understands the importance of their respective roles on the team. Equally important is that the kids are supporting their teammates on AND off the field. When professional and elite athletes are asked what they miss most after they retire, they often refer to the bonding and relationships with their teammates. They miss the camaraderie – help the kids establish this.
  • Understand where the kids are developmentally and teach/coach accordingly. Kids develop at different rates as well as grow different physically. When parenting or coaching, be sure the development has a long-term approach. It is not simply about the game this weekend but the player that he/she will become. For example, be sure to give the kids opportunities at different positions while they are young so they can learn and build their skill set. The tallest child in 3rd grade may be average height and quicker in 7th grade – did they develop the skill set to play a variety of positions?
  • Celebrate everyone’s victories, no matter how small they are. Did the players incorporate something that was worked on in practice? While it may not have worked perfectly, it shows progress; teach the rest of the kids to praise these seemingly simple milestones.

Although physical training is a must when it comes to youth sports, social and emotional practice is just as critical. Instead of dismissing a poor sport, turn the team’s behavior around with a few life lessons in working together and being supportive.