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Development of Sports Skills

Sports skills are acquired in a very progressive sequence. Not every child will acquire every skill equally or at the same rate, but most youth acquire them in the same order. So give yourself and your kid a break, just like when she was learning to walk. Pour some tea and learn what exciting things are happening a mile a minute in that cute little bundle of energy you call your child.

During the first 2 years of life, many responses from your child are primarily reflex actions. Touch her cheek and she turns to find food. Touch the ball of the foot and the toes curl over. Touch his hand and his fingers grasp. Proud, beaming fathers of their firstborn son already dream of a football star. Stop there. Do not put sand in rattles to make baby dumbbells. Do not install a basketball hoop on the side of the crib.

Scientific research tells us that those futile attempts will not work no matter how much you want a head start on Johnny’s 3-point shot. Natural curiosity and interaction with the environment will stimulate the growth of motor activity.

Close your eyes and think real hard—where does everything go that a baby touches? In its mouth! So be real. Little baby footballs, baseball gloves, and running shoes may be cute and color coordinated, but their effectiveness as sports equipment is lost when they become just another baby chew toy. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness does not recommend infant exercise programs as beneficial for development or helpful for future performance. Supervised, unstructured, and explorative activities in a safe environment are the way to go.

Once children are a few years old, however, hints of sports skill development start to take shape, and the preparation process for sports readiness begins. To be acquired successfully, sports skills involve a complex interaction between movement, sight, and thought. None of these by themselves are completely helpful without the others.

Motor skills (movement) require the right visual processing to allow the correct movement response. These skills also require appropriate brain processing and thought patterns so the response will be meaningful and effective.