Written by Anna Bachrata (Bulldogs Brno), Radim Kominek (Bulldogs Brno) and Dagmar Heiland Travnikova (Masaryk University) / Czech Republic
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It is generally known that regular physical activity leads to a healthier and happier kid. Progressive coaches and parents realize the complexity of positive impacts of sport on their children in physical, psychical and social areas. Unfortunately, not all grass-root level sports clubs respect the needs of the young athletes and often emphasise performance, drill and extensive training load over the general motor skills development, joy of movement or a healthy physical activity. If you want to learn which crucial aspects should be taken into consideration within the holistic care of young athletes, this blog is exactly for you!
The importance of movement in a healthy life
Physical activity plays a very important role in the health of any individual, as a prevention means of serious diseases or as a solution for already existing health troubles. The generally known diseases that may be influenced by physical activity are cardiovascular diseases or diabetes, among others. World Health Organisation has defined insufficient physical activity as the fourth leading risk factor of premature death and disease emergence on the global level. It is not easy to admit that older generations still had much more active movement in their lives in comparison with today’s children and youth.
Kids miss the fundamentals of athletics, gymnastics or ball sports games that were common in the past, not only in courses of school physical education. The interest of children in sport and physical activity is unfortunately declining, along with the interest of many teachers.
The lack of natural movement is often replaced by structured leisure time clubs, where the coaches often have to work with kids who miss the above-mentioned motor fundamentals, related to a wrong body posture or problems with motor apparatus during movement coordination. Very often kids get injured and their imbalances get even worse.
Prevention of injuries and health problems
In the Czech Republic, every young athlete that is registered in the sports union has to go through a yearly basic sports medicine check-up. The child is examined by means of load diagnostics in sport. With this testing, the doctor can diagnose the performance of the child and his or her heart functioning. During this check-up, the motor apparatus is examined as well, but unfortunately, we do not think this examination is sufficient.
Direct cooperation with a physiotherapeutic centre
In the Bulldogs Brno floorball club, we are aware of the fact that some sports disciplines are quite one-sided, including floorball. That is why we started a direct cooperation with a physiotherapeutic centre. Our sports kids may see a physio specialist (voluntarily) and in case of problems with motor apparatus, they get prescribed group or individual exercises, rehabilitation, galvanism therapy and so on.
“Our club is aware of the positive impact of sports physiotherapy not only on the elite sportsmen, but also on children and youth, within systematic increase in their sports performance. Besides the injury treatment, we focus especially on injury prevention and regeneration during preparatory and competition periods. Kids doing sport under the supervision of physiotherapy specialists thus leads to a healthy way of spending their leisure time in our club”President of Bulldogs Brno
Furthermore, compensation exercises and proper stretching are included in each training session. Like this, our kids have regular monitoring and our coaches can develop their skills in a proper and healthy way. The coaches also have regular schooling with the physiotherapists. Sometimes the physiotherapists even visit our training personally during the main season and evaluate the condition of children as well as the work of the coaches. They also check whether there is a child who needs an individual approach. If there is such a kid, we consult this issue with his or her parents and recommend a subsequent specialised doctor care.
“It would make me very happy if sports kids and youth automatically considered stretching and compensation exercise a normal part of training, and thus decreased the risk of muscles damage or injuries. With proper muscle preparation and decrease of muscle imbalance, the players will reach better sports performance, and they will be quicker and more stable in personal duels. The parents’ support and home checks of the given exercise are needed as well. The particular exercises are selected by the coach, after consulting with our physiotherapists. However, if a muscle or joint is injured anyway, the players may go through a therapy at our specialized rehabilitation ambulance.”Iva, physiotherapist
In this form of cooperation we also see a great advantage in case of possible injuries. If our youth player is injured, we can exchange the information with movement specialists in a more effective way and we know how long the convalescence should last. Both coaches and the doctors know exactly whom to address for more necessary background information.
Not only physical aspects matter
When talking about the holistic care of a young athlete, we definitely cannot miss the area of the psychological aspects that also have a great impact on healthy and enjoyable kids and youth sport. Nowadays, we can see a great shift in thinking of the importance of sports psychology, not only on the elite sport level. Experience shows that athletes who consult regularly with a sports psychology expert tend to score better in their sports discipline and report greater well-being and basic psychological needs to be satisfied.
„We realize that sometimes sport may bring injuries or pain resulting from the training overload. We are happy that the care of children athletes in the Bulldogs Club is done the way it is. Our daughter started having problems with her knee recently but thanks to the existing cooperation of the club with a physiotherapist, we knew immediately who to address. After the physio check-up she was unfortunately informed she needs to take a break from running during training. But our daughter´s coach shared the information directly with the physiotherapist and therefore she can continue going to the training sessions, just with a bit of adapted training planA parent
What should we as grass root level coaches take into consideration then? In Bulldogs Brno, we think kids and youth sport is a long-term mutual teaching and learning process. Therefore, we recommend a lot of empathy, mutual respect and proper communication, above all!
When children come to our sports clubs and teams, their identity is formed and comparisons between an individual child and his or her peers are very common, which may lead to the feelings of superiority or inferiority. Participation in sport provides a chance for the children and youth to express themselves and develop independence eventually. At the same time, it can be very difficult for the kids to depersonalise comments from peers, coaches, parents and other adults. Negative comments, related to a particular skill or activity, may be understood incorrectly as a sign of disfavour or even hatred by the feedback provider.
Coaches and adults must therefore choose carefully the comments and phrases they use to express their support. It is useful to use phrases that mention the effort, the attempt and implementation rather than just the achievement or success. It is also advisable to find one´s one way through the balance between too much praise and too much criticism.
Make the kids sport more enjoyable!
If we are able to meet the young athletes’ basic psychological needs and provide them with a motivational climate within our training sessions, games or even common moments after the training, we can expect a deeper love and adherence to our sports discipline.
In the kids’ sport, we can often see two coach / parent approaches based on two extreme points of view. Some believe that sports help children develop teamwork skills, self-confidence, resilience, moral character, and other personal strengths. Others are convinced of the dark side of youth sports, believing that young athletes develop aggressive traits like bullying and the need to dominate their opponents on and off the field.
Generally, studies indicate three important aspects of sports participation that affect positive youth development and fun during sport – intensity, continuity, and balance. A combination of all three offers the greatest benefits to our kids!
Kids who spend more time in sports activities have greater benefits than youth who participate at lower levels or not at all. With greater time commitment, children master the skills and superior knowledge of tactics and strategy much better!
The stability and duration of how children participate across their adolescent years is also important. Studies have shown that continuous dedication to a sports discipline is more beneficial than intermittent participation during the youth sports stage. Kids who visit sports clubs regularly also have more opportunities to interact with their teammates, which is great for learning to cope with the interpersonal challenges of working with others.
Not easy to achieve, but very important. Try to achieve a balance between the kid´s sports and other activities. Not only sport is a suitable leisure time activity. Try to find some present real-world challenges that encourage youth to develop a civic identity and see a world beyond a game of winning and losing.
Communicate with your kids and ask them questions. Show them that you care not only about their sports skills and about techniques, but also how they are! Physically and psychically! Maybe they are just not having a good day and a spontaneous icebreaker, or a funny movement game can be a better solution than a planned technique drill based training session! Do not be afraid of experiments! We wish you good luck and many happy kids devoted to your sport!
Do you want to learn more about basic psychological needs and well-being (BPNT) of your kids? Check any of the scientific findings of Ryan & Deci who devote their research work to this area!
Radim Kominek (Bulldogs Brno, Czech Republic).
Radim is a trainer and coach in Bulldogs Brno sports club. He has been playing floorball in Bulldogs Brno since his childhood and achieved a lot of success with this team as an active player. Nowadays he collects achievements with young boys as a trainer. He studies at the Faculty of Sports Studies, Masaryk University where he gains experience in the field of teacher of sports and physical education.
Anna Bachrata (Bulldogs Brno, Czech Republic).
Anna is a trainer and coach in Bulldogs Brno sports club. She has been responsible for girls categories aged 13-16 since 2015. She studies at the Faculty of Sports Studies, Masaryk University and aims to deepen her knowledge concerning sports psychology.
Dagmar Heiland Travnikova (Faculty of Sports Studies, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic).
Dagmar´s areas of pedagogical and research interest include adapted physical activities, psychomotor games or social circus techniques. She gives workshops and seminars for national and international target audiences of a different age and background.
Birrer, R.B., O´Connor, F.G., Kane, S.F. (2016). Musculoskeletal and Sports Medicine For The Primary Care Practitioner. (4th ed) CRS Press.
Price-Mitchell, M. (2012). The Psychology of Youth Sports. When playing the game fosters positive outcomes for kids. IN www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-moment-youth/201201/