Play sports and games often, lots of them

Posted on May 26, 2010 in Competitions, Practices, Wrestlers

In today’s  competitive world of youth sports many athletes and their parents are looking to get an edge, and maybe a college scholarship, by specializing early. Kids are becoming one-sport athletes at earlier ages , passing on pick-up games at the park and new organized sports in favor of extra skills work and travel teams. Unfortunately, this approach to youth sports can mean many young athletes don’t reach their full potential.

Here’s my prescription for kids to develop character, become a well rounded athlete and shine on the wrestling mat: play sports and games often, lots of them. It sounds simple and may be counterintuitive to the specialization crowd but sports and games offer so many benefits to kids, limiting variety cannot be a good thing. Here are some of the areas I think a diverse approach can benefit youth athletes.

Socialization: Kids that follow this prescription work with a lot of different friends and teammates. They also work with a different coaches and learn to adjust to different coaching styles.  They have an opportunity to play team and individual sports and learn lessons about winning and losing in each.

Athletic foundation: Look at the best players in any sport and they are all amazing “athletes.” That’s to say they have an incredible baseline of athletic ability and they have layered sport-specific skills and techniques over that. Kids can best develop the body awareness, coordination, strength, speed and flexibility associated with great athleticism by playing a wide variety of sports and games.

Joy of competition: How many kids excel early at a sport only get get burnt out and lose their desire? Keeping sports fun is essential if young athletes are going to keep competing. By playing many different games and sports, kids can keep their joy of competition alive. These athletes always have another chance to compete, different teammates and opponents to play with or against, and a fresh challenge if they get bored.