Athlete 1st then Player 2nd
When children are starting out in sports a strong focus should be placed on Fundamental Movement Skills. These skills can be thought of as the foundation upon which sports coaching for kids can be laid and should be the main area of focus for children between the ages of 3-6 and should remain a key part of coaching programs as children complete the second half of primary school.
Fundamental movement skills are a specific set of skills that involve different body parts such as feet, legs, trunk, head, arms and hands. These skills are the “building blocks” for more complex and specialized skills that kids will need throughout their lives to competently participate in different games, sports and recreational activities.
Here are some of the key fundamental movement skills that children should develop:
The more that you can build these types of activities in to your daily routines the better, here is a few examples:
- Balance- stand on one leg while tying your shoelaces
- Coordination & Throwing- take a tennis ball on a walk in the park and throw it back and forth as you walk, combining throwing/catching with walking to develop coordination
- Agility- do two very light very fast steps on each step of the staircase before moving up to the next step.
With knowledge of fundamental movement skills you can create your own routines as you go along!
A great activity for children of all ages to develop strong fundamental movement skills is Crossfit, which has a specifically designed kids program to help children to learn how to improve as functional athletes. Crossfit combines stamina, explosive power, gymnastics and bodyweight exercises to help children develop skills that are applicable for all sports. The competitive nature and kids focussed activities also give children the chance to keep fit in a fun environment that allows them to push themselves by competing against their peers.
Yoga has both physiological and psychological benefits for young athletes. The focus on breathing helps to develop skills of awareness and concentration. From a physiological standpoint yoga pays huge dividends in terms of flexibility, balance, stability and awareness of the body in space the benefits from which can be seen across a variety of different sports.
Here are some a few great yoga exercises for children that can do at home to harness the power of yoga to develop into well rounded athletes. If you would like more information about the names and benefits of each of these poses head to Do You Yoga:
Long Term Athletic Development
Long Term Athlete Development experts across the world believe in the theory of Late Specialization. I’ll spare you the details but long story short is that children between the ages of 3-11 should be involved in 4 or 5 sports before later specializing in just one in order to maximize their potential later on.
See this chart below done in 2013 which showed the average number of sports played by Olympians:
For a real world example see Jordan Speith former World #1 Golfer and PGA Tour superstar who played a wide variety of sports when he was younger.
Jordan’s mother, explains “We did not raise our kids to be one-sport athletes. You have to let them explore options… You have to make sure they know that life is more than one sport, or one goal.”
Now of course not every child is going to become a professional athlete but that being said it still makes sense to take a late specialization approach so that your children can maximize their sporting potential through sports coaching. Whether this result in your child becoming a social tennis player, club squash player or 5 a side football player you will be setting your child on a path towards a healthy lifestyle.
Sports coaching in Dubai can be very expensive with the majority of academies charging 80-100 dirhams per hour for sports coaching for kids. But don’t worry, if you want to to give your child experience in multiple sports you can sign up for a 30 Day Free Trial Of Kidster which provides unlimited kids activities in 8 different sports for children between the ages of 8-11. You can also find more information about this unique sports coaching program on our Kidster Information Page.
Kids Activities- Let Them Choose!
Kids sports coaching should be all about fun for young children so when deciding on which sports that your children are going to try out its always a good idea to involve them in the decision making process. If you find that your children are reluctant to try a sport that you think could be a good fit for them a great way to do this is to pitch it as a one session trial to see if they like it rather than scaring them off with the daunting prospect of something that will be a fixture in the calendar every week indefinitely.
Quality Sports Coaching
As sports professionals we can’t stress the importance of ensuring that your child benefits from the guidance of an experienced sports coach. Ensuring that fundamental sports specific techniques are mastered from a young age is paramount in order for children to develop more advanced skills later. In a group setting a good sports coach should provide a blend of the following components that are the pillars of our extensive coach training program, look out for these to ensure that your coach is helping to maximize your child’s ability:
1) Carefully Planned Sessions- a good sports coach should have a well planned session with all activities laid out and ready to go, well timed activities that last approximately 15 minutes each for a 1 hour session and something that progresses through the following carousel of activities:
- Warm up incorporating fundamental movement skills
- Skill acquisition activities teaching new skills
- Competitive scenarios where new skills can be implemented in either an individual or group settin
2) Group Explanation and Demos- look out for coaches that capture the attention of the whole group and clearly demonstrate skills to students and also give the opportunity for children to showcase their skills to the group.
3) Individual Interventions- at certain points throughout the session high quality coaches should take children to one side to develop skills, ideally the hamburger feedback approach should be used here giving something to improve between two elements of praise to ensure that children stay confident and at the same time take the feedback onboard.
4) Debriefs At The End Of Class- No quality sports coaching session is complete without a good debrief to summarize the class and key learning points as well as praising players who have performed well or improved. At Kidster we employ a star of the day system to recognize high performers and improved players at the end of every session.
Ability Levels & Role Models
As your child progresses in sport it is essential that they gain exposure both to players that are similar ability to them and also athletes who are both early and later in the development stages and skill levels, here’s some bullet points on the reasons why:
- Children should primarily learn with other children of a similar development age and ability to themselves. Tiered ability sessions mean that task achievability will be suitable for all players in the group and also means that competitive scenarios are safe and fun for children.
- Children should occasionally interact with children who are younger and lower ability levels. This allows them to appreciate the development that they have made up until now.
- Children should also have occasional interaction with athletes who are at later stages. If possible have your child watch segments of sessions with slightly higher ability children to set some short term goals of what is next and also elite or even professional athletes so that they can dream big for the future!
Task Achievability, Rewards & Positive Reinforcement
Within your child’s sporting development it is very important that tasks are handled in a way that is positive to your child’s long term development. Here’s a few tips on how to do this:
When your child is faced with a challenging task:
- Offering tasks that are just challenging enough but not too overwhelming
- Break tasks into small achievable goals
- Help your child keep their goal in mind, have them visualize the end result
- Encourage confidence, help them connect their mindset to their effort
- Praise your child’s effort at least as much as their accomplishment
- Share instances when you’ve needed perseverance and grit to accomplish a difficult task.
Teach your child proactive phrases to replace a negative mindset:
Help your child develop their unique inner voice for managing challenges by repeating any of the following:
- I can do it
- Don’t give up
- I’ll try again
- Practice makes better
- Just keep swimming
- I think I can I think I can
- Mind over matter
- I’ll do better
- Encourage your child to replace “I can’t” with “I am having a hard time.”
Children will look to parents for ways to handle challenges:
- Make mistakes and demonstrate your own perseverance
- Share your perseverance story that relates to your child’s circumstances
- Help them realize that everyone makes mistakes, but what is important is to keep trying.
With all of the technology around these days it is easy for children to develop very short attention spans and an inability to focus, which can hinder your child’s progress both in learning and performing in a variety of sports.
A great antidote for this common problem is mindfulness practice. We know that getting your child to sit still even for a moment is a tough task, but don’t worry there are ways in which you can frame these breathing based exercises in engaging ways that your child will find interesting- here’s an example…
Start by asking them to pretend they’re smelling something yummy, like a freshly baked cake, as they take a deep breath in, then to pretend they’re blowing out candles as they exhale. Keep the exercise short to begin with—say, try it 10 times—then work your way up to several minutes, having your kid focus on their belly rising and falling.
Kids DXB is also a big fan of the meditation app Headspace, great for kids and adults with guided meditations as well as animations that are great for the little ones!
Food is fuel for your kids and makes a big difference in their performance both on the sports pitch and in the classroom.
Here’s a quick guide on some food choices that we encourage at Kids DXB:
Things They Need
- Protein- protein is the key food group for muscle growth and is key to help your children to develop into strong athletes with attributes like speed, power and strength. Aim to choose white meets, fish, eggs, poultry as well as vegetarian options such as nuts, seeds and beans.
- Fruits- Fresh fruit is a must for children and a great substitute for sugary drinks and sweets , canned, frozen or dried fruits — rather than fruit juice. If your child drinks juice, make sure it’s 100 percent juice without added sugars and limit his or her servings. Look for canned fruit that says it’s light or packed in its own juice, meaning it’s low in added sugar. Keep in mind that one-quarter cup of dried fruit counts as one cup-equivalent of fruit. When consumed in excess, dried fruits can contribute extra calories.
- Vegetables- Serve a variety of fresh, canned, frozen or dried vegetables. Aim to provide a variety of vegetables, including dark green, red and orange, beans and peas, starchy and others, each week. When selecting canned or frozen vegetables, look for options lower in sodium.
- Grains- Choose whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, or brown or wild rice. Limit refined grains such as white bread, pasta and rice.
- Dairy- Encourage your child to eat and drink fat-free or low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese or fortified soy beverages.
Things To Avoid
- Added Sugar: Avoid any artificially generated and none natural occurring sugars. Due to the addictive nature of sugar by replacing fizzy drinks, sweets and candy with naturally occurring sugars coming from fruit children’s cravings for sugars will reduce.
- Saturated Fats: Look to reduce sources of saturated fat by avoiding high fat red meats and replace them with seafood and white meat. Replacing high fat lipids with nut and seed based oils.
Also check out this helpful link from Mayo Clinic who give some great daily guidelines on the quantities of the different food groups that boys and girls of different ages should ideally be getting.
Integrate Sports Into Family Life
Set An Example
Being an active family starts with you as a parent being active and setting a good example. As sports professionals here in Dubai one thing that we see that limits children’s ability here in the UAE is the lack of time that they spend playing sports outside of formal coaching sessions.
A great way to combat this is to have family days out at outdoor spaces and take some sports equipment along with you to play as a family, some great places to meet Mushrif Park, Safa Park and Kitebeach. Inviting friends to join you can even turn into or small sided game or if you are stuck for someone to ask consider sites like Meet Up which are great places to meet other families wanting to stay active.
Attend Major Sports Events
Here in the UAE we are lucky to be blessed with a wide variety of sports events with some of the best athletes in the world heading the emirates:
- Football throughout the year- UAE Football League
- Golf in November- DP World Tour Championship (free entry for kids)
- Golf in February- Dubai Desert Classic
- Tennis in February- Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship
Take advantage of these major events by giving your children the chance to get inspired by top performers!
Sports On TV
Children learn a huge amount of mirroring behaviour. There is no better way to encourage your children to develop the best technical ability than by giving them the opportunity to watch professional athletes on TV. Better, still if space allows allow your children to have there sports equipment on hand so that they can mirror the movement of the stars in the living room! On the way to practice ask your child which sports stars they are going to be today and what moves they are going to put into practice and they will then be able to use powers of imagery and visualization to bring the skills of top performing athletes into their own games subconsciously.
Limit Screen Time
Aside from watching sports on TV a large amount of time spent on ipads and video games will be detrimental to your child’s development. Two recommendations that we have to reduce the negative effects here:
1) Use apps like Freedom to limit screen time to certain periods of the day or allocate a predetermined amount of time.
2) Encourage children to play sports games rather than .cartoons or war games, just like watching sports on TV the graphics of games such as FIFA are now so high quality that children will learn a lot through the mirroring process discussed earlier on.
Helping your child to develop into a well rounded athlete is a one of the best things that you can do for your child to help them live a healthy and happy life. Whether this results in your child becoming a professional athlete, club player or social sport person the main key here is that your child fulfills their potential and develops enjoyable avenues to stay fit, be healthy and meet new people.