AT WHAT AGE (IF ANY) SHOULD COMPETITON BE INTRODUCED IN CHILDREN'S SPORT AND WHY?
The extensive involvement of youngster in structured sport programs has generated considerable speculation and controversy regarding the psychological consequences of early sport participation. Thousands of young athletes engaged in sport at a different level of challenge, in the United States, it has been estimated that 20 million children between the ages of 6 and 18 years currently participate in some form of organized sport program in non-school setting (Martens, 1986).
Various educational, medical, and recreational leaders have discouraged sport involvement for children because of beliefs that competitive youth sport was too stressful and resulted in unfavourable short- and long-term emotional and psychological outcomes (Brower, 1978; Smilkstein, 1980).
IMPORTANT FACTS THAT INFLUENCE IN CHILDREN'S SPORT
SOCIETY: Sport is a major phenomenon in modern society and it has a repercussion in all society's aspects, which happened because of the importance of the mass media in the socialization of the sport. But that does not mean that sport is perfect, it has many questions and problems that have to be solved like doping, injuries, violence, etc…
In the children's sport there are some factors that may be detrimental if these are not well utilized, these factors are: competition, stress, participation, motivation, and adaptation of the sports to children.
The influence of adults in the youth sport is pervasive and easily recognized. Adults attend competition, organize events, and may coach as a consequence of their child's interest and participation; it is very normal that the Mass Media, Family and Schools confuse the important elements in the early ages and they can provoke psychological and physiological problems in the children, that happen for the following reasons:
1. Familyis the first socialization agent, as the parents are the model of the children and their influences are very important, they are primarily responsible for providing children with initial opportunities to play sport in order to help them maintain their sport involvement, and potentially, for affecting children's withdrawal from sport (Greendorfer, 1992); but sometimes the problem is when these parents may want him to do the things they always wanted to, but were unable to do. Now those opportunities are available and they don't want their children to miss out. To carry out parents' hopes and expectations there are tremendous burden even for the most gifted and ambitious children; this expectation may be a problem for the child, as he can feel worried or stressed when trying to succeed the results that the parents want. Then the sport is turned from a game into a torture.
Children could feel stressed because they can not satisfy their parents' hopes.
Children do not enjoy when they are playing and they miss motivation and interest in the sport.
Children want to please their parents, so they strive so much that they could have injuries and that would stop their development.
Children could get bored by the amount of competitions.
Parents can make their children start and love the practise of sport
Parents can help their children when becoming stressful.
Parents can control the aggression in the competition and avoid the use of violence.
Schools, most of schools require physical education classes, but it becomes a problem in the schools that have historically reinforced sport participation just for the prestige of the school. That means that the participation of all the members of the team is not important and most of the times only the best players play; this is foiled for the rest of the players and a loss of motivation in the sport, as they may feel discriminated. We should not forget the untrained teachers, they do not have the basic skills for what the youths athletes can improve and they do not miss the interest in the sport. Another important factor are friends and mates, who sometimes influence strongly in the practise of the sport, or vice versa.
Discrimination of the children : only the best players play.
The coaching are very competitive, there is a loss of the funny side.
The most important thing is the result and the prestige of the school, not the development of the children, or at least it is secondary.
Violence will probable appear.
Preoccupation for the development of the children in all aspects psychological and physiological.
Utilize the sport like a way of socialization of the children.
Utilize the competitive element to improve their skills and their character.
Mass Mediais also the most important factor in sport socialization. Children are bombarded with sports through several forms of media including television, newspapers, and magazines, even the parents are very influenced by the Mass Media. The children watch a competitive model, where the results are more important than the participation; where there is a specialization of the players; where the athletes compete to improve the records and sometimes they use violence and frauds like doping; besides, children are watching constantly how the sport's stars become very glamorous and famous. All this has a great influence in the children (parents and coaches too), who want to imitate their idols. They confuse the actual game with the professional sport whose characteristics are: specialization, quantification, records, results in short time… in fact, when children do not succeed to imitate their idols, they get frustrated and stressed because their hopes are out of reach and they see how they cannot be able to follow the steps of their stars.
The Mass Media gives us an image of the sport being very competitive and aggressive and that has an important influence in the society.
Children watch how their idols make traps or use aggressions and violence only to win.
In the Mass Media all is exaggerated and that influences on the children.
The Mass Media has succeeded that sport is a social phenomenon.
What are welookingforwith thesport inthe children? When we are asking that question we have to think in their motor control, environment and their psychology.
Between 6-12 years old children are improving their basic skills and capacities. Between these ages it is very good to start the specialization skills in any sport, but we cannot forget that they are developing and therefore we cannot risk their health only for our interest. Besides, we have to watch over our children so that they do not run health risks, as they tend to compete at their maximum level, forgetting that it is only a game.
The fundamental stage is well structured and it is fun! The emphasis is on the overall development of the athlete's physical capacities, and fundamental movement skills, andthe ABC's of athleticism - Agility, Balance, Coordination and Speed. Participation in as many sports as possible is encouraged. Speed, power and endurance are developed using FUN games. Correct running, jumping and throwing techniques are taught, using the ABC's of athletics.
As a conclusion I would like to say that sport can be very important in the development of the children and youth athletes, but we have to be aware of what sport is and not to think about it only as a competition, where the most important thing is the result and not the development. Specially we have to watch over to the earliest athletes where the main objective is the development in a fun environment. At these ages, a bad experience could create a trauma in the child making him/her not wanting to practise sport again.
Competition should start between the ages of 8 and 12, but it shouldn't be the main target, as it could strengthen the character of the young athletes.
Fun is the most important thing when developing a child in his/her early ages.
Stress: Competitive stress in the negative emotional reaction of a child feels when his/her self-steem is threatened. This personal threat occurs when the young athlete perceives an imbalance between the performance demands of the competition and his/her own ability to successfully meet those demands, under conditions where the consequences of such a failure are thought to be important (Marteens, 1977)
Aggression: aggression involves the intention to hurt or emerge superior to others; it does not necessarily involve physical injury (violence), and may or may not be regarded as being underpinned by different kinds of motives. Parents consider aggressions to be the “… attempt to control, act upon, and master ourselves and our environment, including the people within it” Parents see aggression as having two major forms, the first being “non-destructive aggression” manifested as “assertive, nonhostile, self-protective, goal-achieving and mastery behaviours” the second form is, he says “… hostile, destructiveness, which we see in angry, nasty, hurtful behaviours: hate, rage, bullying, torturing, vengefulness…”
Overview of Long-term Athlete Development
FUNdamental Training to Train Training to Compete Training to Win
Chronological / Biological Age Male & Female: 6 -10
FUN and participation
General, overall development
Athleticism: ABC's of running, jumping and throwing
ABC's of movement Agility, Balance, Co-ordination and Speed
Speed, power and endurance through FUN and games
Proper running, jumping and throwing technique
Medicine ball. Swiss ball and own body exercises for strength
Introduction to simple rules and ethics of sport
NO periodization, but well structured programs
Sport participation 5 -6 times per week
Male: 10- 14 Female: 10- 13
Emphasis on general physical conditioning
Shoulder, elbow, core, spine and ankle stability
FUNdamental technical skills progressively more specific skills towards the end of the stage
FUNdamentals of tactical preparation
Participation in complementary sports; (similar energy system and movement pattern requirements)
Individualization of fitness and technical training
Introduction to mental preparation
FUNdamentals of ancillary capacities
Sport -specific training 4 times per week, with participation in other sports
Chronological I Biological Age
Male: 14- 18 Female: 13- 17
Sport and individual specific physical conditioning
Shoulder, elbow, core, spine and ankle stability
Sport-specific technical and playing skills under competitive conditions
Advanced tactical preparation
Individualization of technical -tactical skins
Advanced mental preparation
Sport and individualspecific "ancillary capacities"
Double or Multiple Periodization
Sport-specific technical, tactical and fitness training 6 -9 times per week
Male: 18+ Female: 17 +
Maintenance (or possible improvement) of physical capacities
Shoulder, elbow, core, spine and ankle stability
Further development of technical, tactical and playing skills
Modelling all possible aspects of training and performance
Frequent prophylactic breaks
All aspects of training
Develop further "ancillary capacities" (there is no “ceiling limit”)
Triple or multiple Periodization
Sport-specific technical, tactical and fitness training 9-12 times per week
Eldon E. snyder/ Elmer A spreitzer. Social aspects of sport
David L. Gallahue. Developmental physical education for today's children
Albinson and Andrew. Child in sport and physical activity
Coakley, J (1986). Mr Weiss and Gould (EDS). Sport for children and youths. Champaign Illinois: Human kinetics
Moral psychology in the context of sport. Light Bredemier, BJ and Light shields, DL (1993), Handbook of research on sport psychology.