How Can I Foster My Child’s Athletic Potential?

Question: Every kid has athletic potential. How do I nurture and develop the athlete in my child?

Discussion: Most children have been served up an unhealthy diet of too much screen time (television, computers, smartphones, video games) and too little “free play.” One result: potentially delayed development of motor skills. That’s why it’s so important to get your child moving. Whether it’s in the basement, the backyard, or the park, your child needs to be running, jumping, bumping, throwing, and catching as much as possible.

Solution: Awakening your child’s inner athlete is actually easy to do and can be really fun for both of you. But before you begin, there is one ironclad rule you must keep in mind: Do not overburden your child with instruction. Kids tune out their parents (and coaches) if they are bombarded with ideas, suggestions, and corrections. If you are teaching your child a game or technique, correct her only once or twice each outing. There’s plenty of time for adjustments. If you overcorrect, you become a killjoy. To be honest, we all get excited and can be overbearing at times.

Create an area of your home (inside or out) that encourages experiential play and self-discovery. Set up fun zones that encourage jumping, running, throwing, and catching. Sometimes leaving a ball out near a colorful target is all it takes for a child to begin experimenting on his own.

Set up an obstacle course that requires different movement skills: crawling under; jumping over; kicking; running through and around obstacles. Once your child has mastered the course, you can add a self-measuring element, such as timing how fast she gets through the course.

Be sure to include balance as a play option. It’s one of the most important, often forgotten, elements of athletic development today. (Balance games and equipment are outlined later in the chapter.) ♦

From Kim John Payne, Luis Fernando Llosa, & Scott Lancaster. Beyond Winnning: Smart Parenting in a Toxic Sports Environment (Lyons Press, Connecticut).

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