Revolutions not Resolutions! 3 Revolutionary Ideas in Youth Sports and Fitness
It’s time for a revolution! My favorite definition of revolution is “a drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving.” Let’s focus on creating a revolution in how we think about improving the youth sports and fitness climate for our kids through physical activity, physical education, play, and sports.
This year I am challenging myself (and my friends, colleagues, conference attendees, and students) to use a clean slate when thinking, writing, coaching, and organizing youth sports and fitness. Here are 3 “revolutionary” ideas to start the conversation:
- Ask the kids. This mantra has been in the forefront of much of what I write. A Socratic approach may actually help us help kids discover what they like to play, how they like to exercise, and might even introduce us to a revolutionary way to do it we haven’t even thought of. We frequently call out video games as the enemy but video game makers always ask the kids how to keep them engaged.
- Rethink how sports are played. We say that kids are not miniature adults, yet our entire sports structure is exactly that model. Look at the most popular youth sports and check the history of the game. They were created to introduce kids to the adult game but with smaller equipment, shorter seasons (at least way back when), and a progressive development of skills. How then did club teams, travel teams, elite teams, year-round participation, and other adult-driven concepts enter the sports structure? Whatever happened to making the experience youth-centric? Why not bring back Field Day and other fun ways for kids to gain skills?
- Focus on the correct outcome. Do we really want U-8 champs, sports specialization at the expense of positive youth development, or burnout, injury, and disinterest in playing sports to be the outcome? Or, should we focus on a structure that helps youngsters develop athleticism; love of physical activity, play, and sports; and the ability to be healthy and active for the rest of their lives? Kids say having fun, giving effort, and getting playing time are their favorite things about youth sports. How do we give all that to them?
At a time where 97% of all kids play video games (99% boys and 94% girls), childhood obesity is the number one health concern among parents, and sports participation is now less than 37% (and dropping precipitously in baseball, basketball, football, and soccer in the US), we need to seriously rethink how we can engage our youth in being physically active. Let’s start the revolution!