Developing our Children
In recent years there has been a growing interest in identifying what is best for one’s child in regards to training for sport or general fitness. Questions are asked all the time from parents wanting to know if their child is too young to start, are they playing one sport too much, will strength training effect their growth, and so on. The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), an organization I am proud to be a part of, set out to create a model that would help answer these questions and create guidelines that would maximize a child’s development from a physical and social aspect.
The main concept or idea that the NSCA came up with is the long-term athletic development (LTAD) model. LTAD is a youth-centered approach to physical activity and overall development. The focus is placed on meeting the needs of children at any developmental level and to promote both fun and positive sport or fitness experiences. The focus is not on athletic dominance, college scholarship, or a win-at-all costs mentality. Like the name indicates, this approach is built for the long haul!
The quest of developing ‘athleticism’, or becoming ‘athletic’ should not only be reserved for children involved in sports. In the classroom, we educate students on a variety of topics and encourage them to explore new things, even if they don’t want to learn about it! We do this with the hopes that we can develop their minds to reach their full potential. The teaching is done in a way where one lesson builds off the previous one and over the course of years, the student becomes adept in that subject. That being said, I always wondered, “why don’t we take this approach with physical literacy?” We should take notes from the education system and apply them to how we prepare our children for life in athletics and beyond.
This sampling approach for physical literacy can be broken down in the following stages:
Fundamental motor skills. This stage sets the foundation for future physical fitness skills. Things like balancing on one leg, crawling on the ground, running, skipping, jumping, are all a part of this. This stage is all about exploration and exposing kids to fun fitness activities. Ideally, this stage takes place in children around the ages of 4-7.
Foundational movement skills. During this stage, we advance the drills from stage one and start teaching more advanced movement techniques and principles. This stage is important for a few reasons but the one area I want to emphasize is injury prevention. Health and well-being is always the focus and the best way to stay healthy is being able to move your body in a safe and efficient manner. Generally speaking, this stage is for children between the ages of 8-12 years old.
Integrated neuromuscular training. This stage is performing the tasks learned previously learned and performing them in in a more dynamic manner and in an unpredictable setting. We are talking about plyometrics, speed & agility training, coordination drills, competitive games, etc. In order for this stage to be maximized, it is important to not skip stage one and stage two. Those stages set the foundation for all future success. These type of drills are usually done when the child is around 12 years of age and up!
As the summer approaches, camps and other activities for your children are endless. Keep some of these principles if you want to see them develop mentally, socially, and physically!