Let kids be kids:

16 November 2015 Ben Cartwright youth, training, child, soccer, football, performance, coaching, play, fitness

Currently there is much talk and debate regarding early specialisation of youngsters in sport. We in football are advocates of this specialisation as much as any other sport, in fact our whole youth system is built on it. But can you have too much of a good thing? Could we be doing more harm than good? The answer some suggest is yes, potentially we could be hindering development rather than supporting it.

Where does this leave us? We may not like it, but in order to protect youngsters and help them reach their full athletic potential it’s something we must consider. With this in mind should we not just… LET KIDS BE KIDS?

There seem to be many rules and regulations in place these days that stop kids from being kids. My presumption is that they are put in place to ‘protect’ them from getting hurt or keep them safe in diverse environments.

These restrictions may seem the correct choice at the time, however, can be damaging in later life, especially in sport or physical performance. It has been found that some children are sedentary for 80-90% of the time that they are awake during the day. This can obviously be detrimental to health and wellbeing but also physical ability and movement patterns. Particularly as I would suggest that the majority of this time would be spent slumped over a workbook in school or in front of a playstation at home.

The element of play seems to have been lost amongst kids of our generation. Can you remember the last time you saw children playing sport on the street or climbing up trees? In fact there are often signs or rules in place stopping this occurring. Even in youth sport now children are advised to stick to one sport rather than exposing themselves to different sports or activities that challenge their bodies on different levels.

I remember my answer of ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ when I was young was:

A footballer and if not a footballer a golfer, if not a golfer a tennis player, if not a tennis player a swimmer, if not a swimmer a rugby player…..and so on!

Early specialisation like this can lead children in to sports that they don’t enjoy, create training intensities that takes away the fun, compromise their athletic development, increase their injury potential and ultimately lead to both physical and psychological burnout. All of this, combined with poor dietary choices and far from optimal recovery, sleep and lifestyle strategies reduce the chances of our children having successful sporting careers let alone healthy lives.

The Solution!

Let Kids PLAY
Create environments where challenges and rules can be built
Remove rules but set challenges
Participate in different sports
Stick to an appropriate bed time
Make your room dark, cool and quiet
Fill your body with nutritious natural foods