If I get a dollar every time a parent asks if their child should work out, I’d retire by 25.
Okay, harsh, sorry. Parents want the best for their kids, and with opinions such as “lifting weights stunts growth” running rampant, it does warrant a second thought.
So, should a child work out?
For many Malaysian kids, sports and exercise take back seat relative to academic work. On top of school hours, extra classes and tuition means the only exercise they have time for is the walk up and down the stairs, into and out of tuition centers.
For these kids, I would wager that that being idle, stagnant, studying machines do more harm than having them working out.
Instead of asking “Should children work out?” a better question would be “How should a child work out?”
Here are 2 considerations when training children (age 7 to 15).
7 to 15 is when kids absorb skills like a dry sponge to water. They have seemingly unlimited raw potential.
With this, I personally recommend less time in the gym, more time on court. They should be practicing running, jumping, kicking, tossing, rolling and all things overprotective Gen-Y parents would gasp at.
And maybe they should gasp, because unstructured play, while necessary, can be chaotic and dangerous.
This is where we return to the gym for planned weak point training.
If a child can’t seem to land without a loud “THUD”, we zone in on force absorption, teaching them how to redirect force in a more joint sparing manner.
If they cross their legs when they run sideways, we zone in on coaching lateral movement. Proper side shuffling is perhaps the most important movement in safely navigating across playing fields.
Mastering the quality of moving well in a controlled gym setting help kids meet the complex nature of movement in sports.
Now, before you register your kids for 5x a weeks of sports training…
Know When is “enough”
Having more of certain things are hands down, better.
More sleep, more money, more time, more food sans the weight gain. But more training isn’t on this esteemed list, especially for children.
Let’s talk periodization, a fancy term to imply how much activity one can do at certain time (of the week/ month/ year) relative to all other variables to ensure the best possible performance.
There is a time and place hard training, and there is a time and place for not so hard training.
During hectic seasons, when assignments pile up and having 6 hours of sleep is considered a luxury, our kids come to training looking like they’ve gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.
As coaches, we modify training intensity to coax the best performance for that day. Modification is necessary, because sometimes, they’re exhausted to the point whereby performing at 50% of their regular performance would be a challenge. Other times, with longer warm ups and rest between sets, they get up and going and perform just fine.
But on field, it’s an entirely different ball game (pun intended). The chaotic nature of sports plus even the slightest lapse of concentration is a fertile ground for injury. It’s a risk we’d highly advice against.
To bring this article full circle: If there’s anything that would stunt your child’s growth, it’d be the effects from an irreversible injury.
So, wise cut back on the 7am, 3 hour soccer practices on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during hectic academic seasons, and maintain a weekly session on weekends (or a time where they’re better rested) to maintain their skills. More intensive trainings and games can come during term breaks.
Coaching is a 2-way street, we communicate with clients, even if they’re children, to understand how they feel, because that is, in extension, how they will perform. But there seems to be a disconnect in parents’ appreciation of a child’s physical capacity.
While we think the general activity level among kids can be increased, it is equally important to scale back when necessary. And such are communications we often have with parents to design the best approach to bringing out the best athlete in their children.
Here’s a clichéd analogy to end this article: like fertilizers, there is a right time, place and amount necessary to grow a strong tree.