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Understanding sport for children

Physical exercise in young children has many heath benefits, from improved

fitness and self-esteem, to social skills and interpersonal skills on the playing

field and in the classrooms. Children are attracted to sport for the opportunity to

be with friends and to learn new skills rather than extrinsic rewards of receiving

trophies or prizes. It is therefore important to understand the reasons why

children play sport to help children to have the best positive experiences in

sport. Children experience three main stages of growth, i) early childhood, from

4 to 6 years old, ii) pre-adolescent, 6 to 10 years old, and lastly, iii) Adolescent,

10 to 20 years old. Throughout these stages, children experience various changes

in physical, motor ability and skills competency. It is important to remember that

the physiology of children is dynamic and they cannot be regarded as miniature

adults. Children have varying rates of development and early and late matures

would display varying levels of physical fitness and responses to exercise.

Trainers should be aware of the physiological changes of children and limit the

intensity of training and focus on nutrition during childhood and early

adolescence, especially during the pubertal growth spurt. Successful trainers

must adopt effective communication strategies with children and guide children

along the most suitable development pathways in their chosen sport. It is

important to ensure that children train in a safe environment and have an

enjoyable experience in sport.

Dr Ann Mahakeeta

Faculty of Physical Education, Srinakharinwirot University


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