As an parent, educator, kinesiologist, coach and training, I have been working with children of all ages for the past 20 years I have researched and learned much about children and sport. For 15 years we have worked hard to develop a program at Prairie Fire Cheerleading that serves children, parents. We are very fortunate that organized sports in Canada are lead by talented, committed coaches and volunteers and Sport Canada has developed many resources to support athletes, parents and coaches. With the need to inform sport from a broader capacity the Sport for Life Society evolved in 2014 from 10 years of work supporting the expansive Canadian Sport for Life “movement.” The purpose of Canadian Sport for Life was to create cross-sectoral partnerships between sport, education, recreation, and health, while aligning community, provincial, and national sport and physical activity programming. Sport for Life has many resources that can be used by parents when making decisions about activities for children.
Fun vs Winning
Sport should be fun. Sport should be a place where children develop physical literacies and develop social skills like teamwork and self-dependence. Too many coaches and parents focus on the result, rather than performance: Winning should be the last priority. A winning only attitude/organization leads to long-term failure as coaches forgo the development of skills to focus on specific game tactics that serve the game, not the athlete.
Fundamentals vs Specializing
Training fundamental movements that will serve today and in the future, will lead to the most success and excitement for sport. Too often, adult training programs are imposed on children and boys’ programs used for girls. Children are not small adults and girls develop differently than boys. As an example, younger athletes (6 to 8/9 years) need to spend more time developing basic movement skills and then (8/9 to 11/12 years) sport specific skills. As athletes get older, the focus should gradually shift towards fitness and tactics.
Many sports vs One sport
Athletes should not specialize in one sport too soon. After years of sport, teenagers will enjoy specialized competition but they will also crave the ability to be proficient in many movements, activities and sports. Parents need to support the efforts of athletes and encourage fair play, effort, skill development and individual improvements.
Failure vs Success
On the other side, overly protective parents, caregivers, rehabilitation facility staff, teachers, and coaches shield them from the bumps and bruises of childhood play. Sport is a safe place to make mistakes, take risks and learn from the wealth of experiences that come with sport. An ideal activity will balance enough challenge to encourage growth but enough success to motivate children to try again. Remember that most of a child’s learning comes within the struggle. It is a parent’s job to, without critique or judgement, be your child’s biggest fan, supporting them through the good and the bad.
Todd Knihnitski – Prairie Fire Cheerleading