Can Kids Become Better Athletes Without Practices and Games?

April 28, 2020, 3:55 p.m. (ET)

Content Courtesy of Brett Klika CSCS, Founder of SPIDERfit Kids

As we are all facing unique challenges posed by the coronavirus (COVID 19), young athletes, coaches and parents are starting to share their concerns about the inability to participate in sports practices or games.

"Our athletes are going to take major steps back in skill development."

"They've worked for so long and now they're just losing everything."

"When we can get back together, it's going to be like starting over."

While all of the above and more are valid concerns, SPIDERfit Kids has been offering an alternate perspective that has actually been providing hope and direction for everyone involved.

First, lets be clear...

Young athletes' participation in sports practices and games IS a HUGELY positive thing. Lack of access to these positive outlets is NOT an optimal situation.

BUT....

Two of the most significant barriers to young athletes' interest and ability to be successful in sports have been identified as injury and burnout. Research has identified these factors as some of the key reasons nearly 70% of kids drop out of sports by the time they're 14 years old.

Growing injury rates in young athletes have been attributed largely to overuse and lack of appropriate physical development. In short, kids are competing in a single sport too much at a young age and aren't physically preparing their bodies for these efforts.

Burnout has been attributed to the increased stress and decreased overall enjoyment caused by an early emphasis on high-level competition within a sport. Many young athletes are not experiencing a true "off-season" away from the pressures of competition. To compound the issue of burnout, many kids are being pressured to specialize in a single sport at a young age.

Understanding these significant barriers to long term performance, the situation that many are found in right now may actually offer some opportunities.

 

  1. While kids aren't able to compete, they are able to work on basic skill development and overall athletic preparation. These are some of the "weak links" that contribute to injury and decreased performance.

    Encouraging kids to spend time shooting hoops, juggling a soccer ball or merely "playing" with the skills in their sport accumulates a serious volume of skill development over time.

    This time without competition allows a space for kids to develop and experiment with new skills with a decreased fear of "failing" in a game situation. This creativity and confidence will pay dividends.

    A few days per week of 8-10 bodyweight exercises and some running can help kids increase their overall athletic preparation, another weak link that contributes to injury and limits kids' long term success.


  2. Considering that overuse is a major contributor to injury, right now offers a true off-season for many overworked young athletes. The bike riding, family walks, skateboarding and other activities kids are occupying their time with can actually broaden their toolbox of athletic skills and give overused joints and muscles a rest.

  3. The concept of "absence makes the heart grow fonder" will re-energize many young athletes who have been run ragged with year-round tournaments and competition. This time away will undoubtedly renew their excitement and passion for playing.

All of the above are just a few of the possible opportunities that may arise from this temporary departure from youth sports. All things considered, this time away from sports may actually be what's necessary to preserve and continually progress our young athletes.

However, it's important to realize that our young athletes are kids before they're athletes. Right now may be an opportunity for kids to be more like kids so when it's time, our athletes can be true athletes.