Youth Health Series: All children are athletes
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We have reached a point now where we categorize kids and we herd them like cattle down a path to a predetermined destination. Gone are the days of creativity and self expression. From the music on the radio to the playing field we have now cookie cut and decided the outcome long in advance. Music is scripted and written by hidden creators and modern day Milli Vanilli’s are brought in to be the face. A formula for “success” is in place. In sports, players are now picked because they can fit a system of play not for their fundamental ability to move and play the sport.
What has happened with our children is no different. We decide as adults what we want from our children instead of simply giving them the best tools to succeed and allowing them to make the final decision. As coaches, we have a tendency to show preference and elevate certain kids based on their raw ability while leaving others behind, feeling inadequate and un-athletic.
What if I told you that every child is an athlete? What if I told you that every adult has an athlete inside of them? Athleticism is simply a person’s ability to move their body and move it well. It is their ability to load weight in the appropriate places, transfer forces, balance and generate force and power. The fundamental problem facing most people is that they have never been taught how to move. It is simply assumed that we all know how to move appropriately.
In athletics just like academics a small percentage of people are naturally going to have raw talent and ability to excel without much guidance or instruction. The rest of us have to be taught the fundamentals, coached constantly and given the instructions on how to get from point A to B. People tend to simply associate athletics with a brainless process that requires no thought, but movement, just like academics should be cognitive. The process is a learning process at all times and should be treated as such by coaches and trainers.
We spend a lot of time drilling in equations, formulas and vocabulary words, focusing on the mind, all the while neglecting the mind-body connection. As children grow older they become more and more out of touch and out of sync with their body due to inactivity and the inability to connect mind with movement. Muscles and joints tighten and begin to resist movement as the brain no longer feels a need for activation of certain motor units. Use it or lose it. When we don’t use our body, our body begins to forget. It’s just like mathematics, foreign languages, etc.
When it comes to children, it’s a must that they spend time using their body. Get them involved in activity where they must use their body. Allow them to explore movement and unlock their body’s full potential. Allow them to find a love and passion for movement and activity and by all means don’t discourage, but encourage them. Teach them how to move their body more efficiently and safely. Help them to understand how their body works and in this way they can better conceptualize the things you ask of them athletically.
Kids all have the fundamental ability to grow stronger and move better. It is not predetermined unless we, as adults make that determination. We have to spend more time with the children who are having a hard time understanding their body and how to move correctly all while providing new challenges for those kids that are naturally gifted. This seemingly insignificant bit of extra work could make a major difference in a child’s life. What we impart on children will be carried with them forever and our small effort could be the one spark that changes a destiny of a sedentary life of obesity, stress, depression and health issues to one of a healthy, active adult.
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