Australia has a proud sporting culture. We have always lauded our sporting heroes and held them as role models for our young athletes to aspire to. While sport and physical development are critical for kids and adolescents, it can come with risks if we don’t approach it properly.
Youth athletic development has many benefits. It teaches young people how to be team players, improve social skills, connection with others as well as the many physical skills that assist in a lifelong love of physical health and wellbeing.
As an athletics coach and having competed at an elite level I have seen the whole spectrum of youth development in sport. One of the main issues which causes our young Aussies to walk away from their sport is a focus on one sport or activity alone. Your child/teenager does not need to be an aspiring Olympian in a particular sport from day one, in fact it is recommended that children do not specialise in one particular sport until their late teens to avoid overuse injuries from continued repetition. This is why youth development is so important, to teach and coach different motor skills, body awareness and to keep the athlete engaged in physical activity long term with high motivation.
A good example of this would be, a 12 year old who is a very good long jumper. They will benefit from 3 specific long jump sessions per week and include some sprints, stretching, agility training and strength work on the other days. This should avoid overload injuries and build a stronger athlete in the long term. They may even enjoy a different sport on another day such as basketball which has a high level of transferable skills to long jump but also has a large social component important to adolescence. The other factor is if they are doing the same thing for hours repetitively each day, in my experience, it is highly likely they lose the enjoyment of that activity. This results in a lot of young adults who stop their activity entirely and become sedentary. Our goals for youth development need to be holistic.
Benefits of Sport in youth:
1. Physical fitness: Participation in sports and physical activity can help youth develop strong, healthy bodies and improve overall fitness levels.
2. Mental health: Athletic participation can boost self-esteem and self-confidence, as well as provide a positive outlet for stress and emotions.
3. Teamwork and social skills: Athletics often involve teamwork and communication, which can help youth develop social skills and learn how to work effectively with others.
4. Discipline and work ethic: Athletic participation can teach youth the importance of discipline and hard work, which can carry over into other areas of their lives.
5. Injury prevention: Athletic participation can help youth learn proper techniques and safety measures to prevent injuries.
6. Goal setting and achievement: Athletics can help youth set and work towards goals, both individually and as part of a team, and can provide a sense of accomplishment and pride when those goals are met.
In Summary, lets Coach children to enjoy physical activity, moving their bodies and developing a healthy attitude towards fitness for life!
Shiloh is a trainer at Studio 99 as well as the founder of Watts Athletics. She still competes at elite level distance running as well as coaching many international track and field athletes. If you would like to book a training session with Shiloh or find out more about her youth training programs, click the button below.