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Specific Skill Set vs General Preparation

As we enjoy the "March Madness" fever of college basketball, watching some incredible athletes run, shoot, and make amazing shots, keeping us on the edge of our sofas we can't help but wonder, were they born with that natural ability or did they spend hour after fatiguing hour to develop it? 

Numerous youth & parents watch as agile, talented athletes of both genders, and multiple ethnic backgrounds compete in sports ranging from track and field to football, lacrosse to baseball, tennis to basketball and think, "I want to be able to play like that!" "I want my child to play like that."  Alas, the magic questions:

  • At what age is training appropriate?
  • Proper Training Technique & Where To Find It

The first area of concern to address is proper age.  Because of muscle innervation (the brain/neuron connection to the muscle) and reflexive motor patterns happen between ages 6-12 this is the best time to establish motor patterns of the muscles in children.  However, according to studies done, those are the earliest and latest ages.  Most children will be more in the age range of 7-10 years of age.  Even though the muscles, and function of the body can benefit significantly in developing muscles coordination at these early ages, an important factor to keep in mind is the mental maturity of the child. Regardless of age, the child must be able to focus, follow directions, understand coaching cues and be physically proficient enough to accomplish movements in response to cues. So as a parent you need to keep in mind that the criteria for beginning a program, has more to do with these characteristics than with exact chronological age. The second area to address, what type of training is also critical.  Often a child or a parent wants to go directly into sport specific training.  The physically developed and mentally capable youngster benefits from a well-designed program that encorporates motor coordination, strength, endurance capacity, flexibility, and bone health. Every sport has a specific set of tactical skills an athlete must become proficient in. Take soccer, you must be able to dribble, pass, trap the ball and shoot. These skills, however, are made up of more general physical capabilities, such as strength, coordination, mobility, and balance that help the child to create overall athleticism.  These characteristics are far more important at the key ages of 6-12 than the sport specific skills.  When the child becomes proficient in these basic areas, you can introduce more specific skill sets.  But not until they have the strength and coordination etc.  This is critically important in preventing injuries and achieving success in a specific sport.  It is a step that cannot be rushed or overlooked.  One form of training that will help your child master these "general preparation" skills is Parkour For Kids.  This type of training offers a structured setting helping children master common skills of rolling, learning to land, jump up, run, leap.  In fact, if your child has ever dreamed of being Spiderman, Wonder Woman or any other super hero, this will be there training ground.  There are two Parkour facilities locally and both offer training for children.  Check out www.americanparkour.com or http://urbanevo.com/kidsparkour/.  As stated on Urban Evolution's website,  "Parkour will help improve your kids' self-esteem and fitness by learning to run, jump, climb, crawl, and vault over obstacles in a safe and controlled environment, with a strong emphasis on safety. We'll help your kids learn more than just how to jump around--they'll also learn about overcoming mental challenges, too!"  These are the skills needed for any great athlete.  If you feel you need more information on Parkour go to www.youtube.com and type in Parkour for kids.  You and your children will see why we recommend this integrated form of training.  Once your child has mastered these basic preparation skills and has the mental acutity then find someone who specifically works with children to begin the sport specific skill training.  By paying particular attention to your child's physical development as well as his/her emotional and mental development, then starting at the core of basic development the two of you can create a healthy, happy, coordinated, agile child who will succeed in life as well as sports.  Plus your child will learn something far more valuable than the skills required for a specific sport.  They will learn positive exercise habits that last a lifetime.

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