For kids, it's more than just a game

July 20, 2011, Queen's University

A cohesive team environment, assessing one's own performance rather than comparing with others, and involvement in enjoyably challenging practices are the main conditions needed for children to have a positive developmental experience playing team sports.

"There's a lot more to sport than the idea of winning and losing and developing physical skills," explains Jean Côté, head of the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies and a youth sport and coaching expert. "Under the right conditions, youth sport can help children develop transferrable personal and social skills—citizenship qualities that they'll retain throughout their lives."

Dr. Côté found that for children between the ages of nine and 19, positive experiences were associated with coaches who created an inclusive, cohesive team environment where the team engaged in social activities outside of sport and all participants were equally valued on the field.

Coaches who were able to help children improve against their own benchmarks rather than focusing on comparison with others, and who provided challenging, innovative practices also helped foster an environment in which young players displayed initiative and motivation.

Athletes who compete in sports where they peak at a young age, such as diving and gymnastics, tend to have a more demanding, structured form of coaching, a higher rate of injury, and a higher rate of drop-out. These also tend to be sports that people rarely continue to enjoy recreationally into adulthood.

Other sports, such as soccer, baseball and hockey, don't require athletes to specialize early on since they continue to develop and reach their peak in adulthood.

"Other research we've conducted suggests that kids don't necessarily need lots of pressure early on to become elite," explains Dr. Côté. "If you create a coaching environment where the kids are happy and passionate they'll continue to be involved and develop their skills. If you burn kids out at a very early age, you might be left with a small group of technically gifted , but you may also waste talent in the process."

Explore further: Kids who specialize in one sport may have higher injury risk

Related Stories

Kids who specialize in one sport may have higher injury risk

May 2, 2011
Competitive young athletes are under increasing pressure to play only one sport year round, but such specialization could increase the risk of injuries, a Loyola University Health System study has found.

Reducing lifelong disability from sports injuries in children

June 20, 2011
To protect children from lifelong injuries in sports, we need a public health approach similar to that mounted against smoking and drunk driving, states an editorial in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Recommended for you

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

Wine is good for you—to a point

January 18, 2018
The Mediterranean diet has become synonymous with healthy eating, but there's one thing in it that stands out: It's cool to drink wine.

Sleep better, lose weight?

January 17, 2018
(HealthDay)—Sleeplessness could cost you when it's time to stand on your bathroom scale, a new British study suggests.

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.