Introducing a child to competitive sports
By the time the average child is two years old, his gross motor skills are close to being developed. He can climb steps alone, holding on to the stair rail, jump and land on both feet and kick a ball. By the age of five he can ride a bike, throw a ball and dress himself. His social skills are also pretty well developed and he enjoys playing with and competing against others. He has lots of energy and can understand games with rules.
At this age, the child may begin to show interest in some type of sport and his parents may take this as a signal to take him off to the local soccer or tennis club. Young children need to acquire an awareness of and desire for physical fitness, team play and discipline, all of which come with involvement in sports. The emphasis should be on skill aquisition and fun, with the idea of competiton and winning being secondary. There is nothing wrong with encouraging success in sport, as long as the parent does not push too hard. Early on, participation, is more important than winning or loosing but some parents whose dreams of becoming an Olympian were never realised, try to live out these dreams through their children. Try not to be one of them!
Some children have a strong competitive drive where others just want to enjoy the game; some children develop game skills quickly whereas others devlop slowly over time - if the pressure to win is too high, children may be excluded or become frustrated and give up on sport altogether. Coaches and parents need to understand the importance of competitve sport in the context of a child`s physical, social and emotional development and think about more about giving everyone opportunites, even if it means loosing some games. The winning `at all costs` mentality is something that should not be encouraged at junior levels of competive sports.
At SportsPhysioSA we have vast experience managing `overuse` and `growth-related` injuries in young children and adolescents playing competitive sports. If you need help or advice, call us or book an appointment on-line.
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