Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Art of Play

This post was inspired by a few great articles from Brian Grasso and the IYCA (Interanational Youth and Conditioning Association) on their blog.

When it comes to kids we as adults have a tendency to over coach or be over protective of our children.  We as humans learn through our experiences physically and emotionally.

Kids learn how to develop their neuromuscular system through trial and error.  Just watch a baby try to learn how to walk!  They will experiment with different ways of trying to walk until they find the right amount of stability and balance to create movement.  Babies have built in programming to tell them what they need to do at certain stages of their growing period.  If one of these stages is skipped then it could have effects later on down the line.  We must crawl before we can walk.  The same applies on through adolescence.

From a young age children need to be encouraged to play by pushing, pulling, kicking, not other people :), and throwing.  The playground is an ideal place for this development to occur.  I was at a playground the other day and had a great time watching a young girl discover the strength and balance of her body by pulling herself up the top of a playground apparatus.  One other child attempted to do the same but was quickly stopped by an intervening parent.  I understand the dangers of some of these places but an overprotective parent could prevent their child from receiving the right physical stimulus to develop into happy, well functioning adults.

Youth fitness and conditioning needs to be a long term process.  You can't just skip certain developmental processes.  You must build a great foundation and then add onto that solid foundation.  Talking in architectural language, you can't build a second floor without first building the ground level and first floor.  The same reference can be applied to academics.  It isn't possible to all of the sudden take Calculus without first learning the fundamentals of general math and all the subsequent levels preceding Calculus.  Going from 3rd grade to 12th grade doesn't work because the child is unprepared for the academic work load at that level.

In Youth Fitness, having a 6 week "make you faster and stronger" programme shouldn't be the "be all end all" in their training programme.  Children need to build their base fitness levels and then layer skills on top of that to make them successful in any activity they wish to pursue, sports related or not.  Some of these skills include, balance, agility, coordination, spatial awareness and strength.  A weak foundation in architecture and in youth fitness development, will eventually lead to a crumbling building/body later down the road.

So the take away point is that we should place an emphasis on nurturing the stages of youth development and not to rush them or delay them in any shape or form.  By building a strong foundation of fitness skills in the lives of our children we are helping them to create a successful future as active, happy, injury resistant adults.

FITfully Yours,

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