More ‘Play’ in Practice Can
You Win Games
A common misconception within the
North American youth
sporting world is the concept of ‘play’ for conditioning purposes. All
too often, well-intentioned youth sport coaches or trainers follow the
leads established by the elite members of their respective sports to
configure training programs and sessions into hard-driving sessions or
‘endless repetitions of one exercise’ type affairs.
It cannot be
overstated enough how much this practice is counterproductive and
impedes the optimal development of young athletes. Let’s examine that
from a variety of perspectives.
athletes are young CHILDREN. They do not possess the attention span to
concentrate on one athletic skill for a prolonged period of time.
Understanding this concept is paramount for coaches, trainers and
parents. Once a child becomes bored with a movement, they will
inherently become frustrated and careless. This will lead to poor
execution and incorrect form.
form can lead to acute or
chronic injury and repetitive movements involving poor execution will
inhibit potential development. Remember, it is all-encompassing
athletic skill that leads to proficiency in single sports – not
Young athletes require constant POSITIVE and CONSTRUCTIVE feedback from
there coaches. Pulling a ‘Lombardi’ and chastising young athletes for
poor performance, bad behavior or incorrect exercise execution is not
conducive to optimal development.
learn, develop and grow when
they are immersed in a positive and uplifting environment. I am not
suggesting for even an instant that you remove discipline or respect
from the equation, but never confuse discipline and respect with fear
and loathing. A child fearing the repercussions of a poor performance
is NOT useful within the concepts of optimal athletic development.
a child knowing that s/he will
be supported and nurtured after a poor performance and given every
chance to improve is perfect within the concepts of athletic
development. One thing worth stating is to never forget how loud
non-verbal communication can be in the ears of a young athlete.
forced to reproduce the same drill over and over again in order to
achieve ‘perfection’ will often feel like a punishment, even if that
wasn’t your intension.
great sports technicians were great athletes first. You simply cannot
become a world-class baseball player, for instance without acquiring
superior ATHLETIC skill. Having said that, it is the job of every youth
sporting coach, parent and trainer to ensure that young athletes are
involved in as much diversification as possible.
playing several sports throughout the year rather than just
concentrating on one or two. It could also mean that coaches diversify
their practice schedules by adding cross-training concepts into the
THE MISTAKE: Immersing a young athlete into one sport
will NOT produce world-class champions.
the concept of ‘play,’ practices
can be transformed into fun and enjoyable experiences for young
athletes and also serve to help optimally develop their athletic
skills. Never discredit the benefits of very basic ‘game-oriented’
game of tag as an example. A schoolyard game that
doesn’t offer any real athletic development or conditioning benefits to
a young athlete€¦ or does it. Tag involves starts and stops,
acceleration, top speed, agility (change of direction) and
Here is a short list of
some other games
that coaches and trainers should consider when developing a training
program for a youth sporting team:
1. Team Tag
5. Partner Jumping Race
Editor’s Note: A special thank you to Brian
Grasso for this interview.
Written by CaresEditor · Filed Under Youth