While long runs can create an aerobic base, too much long-distance running—without focus on short sprints and other high intensity activity—can have a negative impact on an athlete’s speed and power.
According to a poll taken by The National Alliance for Youth Sports, 70% of kids quit sports by the age of 13. The No. 1 reason? It isn’t fun anymore.
For either competitive or recreational athletes, the first priority is that kids enjoy practices and games so they want to return the following season. That means training and playing have to be fun. Fun and competition can go hand-in-hand. At the same time that sports can be physically and mentally demanding as well as competitive, kids can be having fun.
While genetics determine an athlete’s potential, nurturing innate abilities in the correct sequence determines how closely the athlete reaches peak potential.
For long-term development, follow the First-Things-First theory.
Studies indicate, and parents can verify, that the creativity of free play—without interference from adults—helps kids learn leadership skills, conflict resolution, and problem solving. And for developing motor skills, core strength, agility, balance, and coordination, free play is essential.
Specialization is defined as intense year-round training in one sport while excluding others. Studies as well as observations from coaches verify that playing multiple sports is best for developing both physical and mental literacy in sport as well as decreasing the likelihood for injuries and burnout.
Many experts believe and studies confirm that today’s culture of early sports specialization with an emphasis on year-round structured training is stunting the mental and physical development of youth. Until about age 12, general athleticism—nurtured with free play and multiple sports—should be prioritized over sport-specific skills. Even after the age of 12, free play—without interference from adults—remains important.