Something that every parent should do for their child is to encourage your child to get involved with team sports. They get to meet new friends, have fun, get lots of exercise! Furthermore, they learn other important skills like teamwork, discipline, communication and respect. These are traits that will help them through their teenage years, into adulthood and also when they eventually join the workforce. But with so many different sports, different competitions and different teams, how do you choose the right sport for your child? One important aspect to investigate when first registering your child to play a new sport is finding out if all coaches and team support staff are there for the right reasons. Yes, everyone likes that winning feeling but what must always come first in youth sport is the development and enjoyment of the child.
There are a growing number of kids who start playing a certain sport at a young age (from around 5-8 years old). However, by the time they reach their high school years (around 12-15 year old) they have lost interest and decide to quit. There are many factors that can contribute to this:
But the major reasons are often they are not enjoying themselves and they do not feel like a valued member of the team. In fact these two causes often overlap each other. One way to combat this growing trend of youths dropping out of organised sport is to ensure that when your child plays they get to have equal time and equal involvement in all the positions on the field or court. In the past many youth coaches (even when they have the best intentions) will favour the bigger, stronger and more skilled kids in the most popular positions. This can be a detriment to the development to the group as a whole, even when the team wins the game or even wins the entire season. Kids who may still be learning the skills or develop a little later can be relegated to the positions that do not get as much action, so they get bored, discouraged and eventually don’t want to play anymore. Ensuring every child gets an equal opportunity in sports offers many benefits to kids, in addition to keeping the kids interested and involved in sports.
By rotating kids through all the positions during training and games they get to develop a full range of skills. Take basketball for an example. If one child develops early they can be pigeon holed as a Centre (tall player who plays very close to the basket) and they may not develop the necessary dribbling and passing skills required for other positions of the game. So even though they may be the biggest, strongest kid in the team for their age, as the rest of the kids develop, they may lose their height advantage. So, it’s important they have developed the skills to play in other positions in the game i.e. Point Guard (the player who brings the ball up the court). If they have not had the chance to develop point guard skills this can become very frustrating and can cause that child to lose interest in the game. There are many examples of this in modern day professional sports such as USA Dream Team and Golden State Warriors small forward Kevin Durant. Kevin is a 6ft 9inch small forward who possess some of the best passing and ball handling skills in the game. When he was younger, even though he was always the tallest in his team, his godfather would often play him as point guard. Those skills he learnt playing as a guard in juniors are a big reason why he is now one of the best players in the NBA.
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the kids teaching and learning from each other. By rotating positions the kids who are more experienced and have spent more time in the central positions can be mentors for the developing players.
As the kids who are still developing and learning the skills get more game time in high traffic positions they will quickly develop their skills and confidence. This leads to a more consistent team performance and a greater team bond that will ensure future success.
It’s important that a child has the opportunity to play in all positions and develop a deeper awareness of the game as a whole. Otherwise, it’s impossible to know where they are best suited in a team sport. Giving kids the opportunity to learn from experience, make mistakes and grow, allows them to find the position they enjoy the most and that best suits their size, athleticism and decision making skills.
Every sport is evolving. Game plans, player positions and rules are constantly changing in all sports. Your child will evolve with the game if they develop skills across all areas of the game. This will ensure they feel comfortable no matter what position the coach asks them to play. As you can see it’s hugely important that your child gets to learn and develop their skills in all positions and have an equal opportunity to participate in every game. Because, after all, it’s about enjoyment and improving their own game, and becoming fit and healthy, not just winning or comparing themselves to other players in the team. A perfect solution to this is to try professionally run sports camps that run over the school holidays and allow kids to try a range of different sports and learn all the skills and positions without the pressure of real competition. Australian Sports Camps are a nationally respected company who’ve been delivering sports programs for over 33 years. During the programs kids are matched with other players of their same age, skill and ability so everyone gets a fair go, so they can gain the confidence and skills they need to get started and potentially move on to a competitive team if they decide they want to continue. You can find more information on upcoming Camps in Australia here.