The Value of Playing

Posted by robert hopkins on Jan 09 2006 at 04:00PM PST
THE VALUE OF PLAYING - Parents: Don't discount the value of simply playing; Common misconceptions within the youth sporting world involve play and how it influences everything from skill development to conditioning. Too often parents, without realizing it, allow their youngsters to participate in training programs and practice sessions that feature endless repetitions of one exercise. These types of practices are counterproductive and impede a young athlete's development. Let's take a look at playing from a few perspectives. Mental - Children do not posses the attention span to concentrate on one athletic skill for a prolonged period of time. Understanding this concept is paramount. Once a child becomes bored with a movement frustration and carelessness will set in, leading to poor execution and incorrect form. Performing a skill without the proper mechanics can lead to acute or chronic injury, and these repetitive movements can inhibit development. Emotional - Young athletes require constant positive and constructive feedback from their parents. Chastising young athletes for a poor performance or incorrect execution of a skill is not conducive to optimal development. Forcing children to perform the same drill over and over again in an effort to help them improve a specific skill will often feel like punishment to them, even though that wasn't your intention. Children learn, develop and grow when they are immersed in a positive and uplifting environment. Now, this doesn't mean that you remove discipline or respect from the equation, but never confuse discipline and respect with fear and loathing. A child that is fearful of the repercussions of a poor performance is going to be hampered in their development. Conversely, a child that knows that they will be supported and nurtured after a poor performance and given every chance to improve is going to reap the benefits of seeing steady progress in their skill development. Physical - A child simply cannot become proficient at a sport without developing a solid foundation of all of the skills that are required to participate. As a parent you have a responsibility to ensure that your young athlete is involved in as much diversification as possible. This could mean playing several different sports throughout the year rather than just concentrating on one or two. Don't make the mistake of immersing your youngster into one sport year-round if that's not what they are truly interested in doing. It will only hurt - not help - them. By incorporating the concept of play into activities and drills that you perform with your child at home, you can transform them into fun and enjoyable experiences that will help develop their athletic skills. Don't discount the benefits of basic game-oriented activities like tag, for example. This schoolyard favorite that can be played in the backyard offers several athletic development and conditioning benefits to youngsters. After all, the game requires starting and stopping, accelerating, changing speeds and direction, and developing strategies in order not to get caught. Other fun games that can enhance your child's athletic development include tug-of-war, single leg tug-of-war, wheel barrel races and partner jumping races. Remember, the act of simply playing is valuable in your child's athletic development. Use it creatively in your own backyard and it will enable your child to reap many wonderful benefits. Brian Grasso is the director of and the author of "Complete Functional Conditioning" that features more than 100 functional and athletic-based exercises. For more information visit This article was reprinted with permission by the National Alliance For Youth Sports. More information can be obtained through their educational on-line program, which is available at Your participation and membership helps support youth sport parent education nationwide, which further benefits our mission to keep youth sports safe and fun for children.


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