Pick up don’t drop off

“The only team I would coach would be a team of orphans”. The quote is taken from the Matheny Manifesto. Mike Mathey is an ex-professional baseball player and well-respected coach.

Parents are the biggest issue in sports. They simply get in the way. Rather than be a silent source of encouragement they are a distraction. Mike is not the only one, sporting governing bodies feel the same way.

I’m not going to disagree with the sentiment. But I am going to add much-needed context. And highlight what I think is one of society’s biggest opportunities.

So here it is:

Kids should not focus on picking up sport-specific sports skills until they are at least 9 years old. Instead, kids should be focused on developing foundational movement skills.

Kids/parents need emotional maturity to handle the competition. Kids should not play sports in which they keep score until they are in senior school.

Age group (9 -11 years old) coaches should use competition as a risk-reward tool, not as a method of ranking kids.

So what’s the upside?

We all need an excuse to become more active. And it can start with stressed out, time-starved, and inactive parents.

Parents become the experts. The convenience of sport-specific youth experts is replaced by a simple recipe of throwing, catching, running, jumping, skipping, climbing, hopping, hitting, walking, kicking, balancing, falling, and rolling. And parents get to do it with their kids.

And the downside?

It’s on us. Dropping kids off at little kickers would no longer be an option. Instead, parents become actively involved in helping their kids become active, healthy, and curious.

And after all of that. The increased connection. The creative process of play. And learning what it takes to master bodyweight control and movement.

If you are prepared to forget it all and stand on the sidelines and shout and bawl your way through the introduction of competition to a 12-year-old kid. Then, you know what to expect.

Teaching kids sport-specific skills and competition at such an early age sends the wrong signal. To both competitive sporty parents and to kids.

But there is a better way. A more flexible, empowering, and positive way for everyone. And that way is to begin by providing an example worth copying.

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