THE GREAT SKILLS DEBATE
Most of us have heard of the concept of Long term athlete (player) development. As part of this there has been a big discussion around the ideas of early specialisation. Should a player choose one sport and stick with it or play multiple sports to develop an multi-dimensional skill base. Most experts agree that from a physiological approach playing different sports and building the allround athlete is preferable. Ok post over… ?
Not quite, because there are some huge challenges with taking this physiological approach. We have to instead take a biopsychosocial view and understand the influence of psychological and social factors. LTAD only works if the players are engaged long term. So here are a few of the bumps in the road that make this model so challenging:
• Many parents confuse early achievement with long term success and as tennis is a skill mastery-based sport at a young age more means better = results.
• The internet bombards us with skilled videos of kids at a young age like there are the mysterious treasure at the end of an Indiana Jones style quest! Even as coaches we are drawn to comment more on these than the posts of kids with an average skill level that may be more akin to the players we teach day in and out.
• Kids are under huge pressure to achieve at younger and younger ages. It’s not just tennis it’s life that sends a message that you need to win, be a star etc.
• Kids want to belong. Few children will make changes in their sports and active preferences after the start of high school. Being good at something brings a level of social credibility and acceptance that Gen Alpha craves.
Is there an answer? Well not one we can reach on a facebook post but there are some commonsense statements.
• Specialization at a young age does not have to be an all or nothing thing. You can play multiple sports but still make tennis number one. Equally sports don’t have to be formal and players can get active and play a range of sports informal settings.
• Expecting kids to develop a range of skills and get to tennis later is based on the chocolate covered brocolli model (dressing up something that is physically good for you but you need to make it more attractive) . Studies now suggest that kids are too aware to fall for this ..
• As Choc Broc doesn’t fly get to the game first and we can add other sports when we can explain the value to an already motivated child.
Interested in your thoughts including the successes and challenges!
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