Vern Gambetta

Youth Sports – A Position Statement

In developing young athletes it is one thing to say that children are not miniature adults and then to turn around and treat them as miniature adults by imposing adult competition and practice schedules on children. They are children and need to be treated as such. We need to get away from the emphasis on where they will be, their future potential, there is time for that later, put focus on where they are now and build upon that. Develop them so they have mastery of fundamental movements and fundamental sport skills acquired through play. Deemphasize the competition every weekend that starts an early trend toward peaking for Saturday, which then becomes a habit at latter stages of development that results in stifling long-term development and injuries. We must allow for play that is free and unsupervised by adults. Play that allows the kids to be kids where they learn to explore the all dimensions of movement. The benefits are many and proven over time but simply do not fit into the contemporary models that seek to identify the athlete young and get them to specialize as early as possible to accumulate the necessary ten thousand hours to be a superstar. Combine that with the youth sport “Industry” and we have a huge problem in developing athletes. The athlete becomes a client in a business model not a child to be nurtured and encouraged. This has happened because we have deviated form a strong philosophical foundation of athlete development based on physical education, free play and principles of growth and development as well as emotional maturation. The time for change is now before we lose a another generation!

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