From Birth and On Development

If one was going to create an environment to give a person maximum potential to be an athlete, what would be the basis or the foundation? Most threads here deal with athletes, at least at high school athletes. However, what should young children be doing to build a base for a future that will most likely involve athletics?

It is always suggested that children be exposed to the 3 pillars of sport for an all-round foundation- track and field, swimming, and gymnastics, and, of course, sound eating habits. BUT, be very wary of trying to “engineer” the great athlete. Remember Tod Marinovich?
From a track and field perspective, the best guidance would be competitions offering only events that are conducive to future development. Why are 8 year olds running 1500m??? Why would young children be exposed to the triple jump??

Children usually learn the most through games. If they are interested - and given the right motivation I don’t know any child who is not - you could enlist them to a kids baseball, basketball, soccerteam, “classical” gymnastics (something I found most kids finding not cool at all) encourage all kinds of different outdoor activities swimming, iceskating (coordination) , bicycle riding (aerobic) the list is endless.
From the age of ten it might make sense to take them to the track, but the playful component should be number 1 still - maybe up to the age of 14.
Make them race for fun for 30 meters, maybe 50, single leg hopping “competitions” there are even some books on the topic of developing kids that age. Any recommendations?

From 14-15 more serious training can begin, like Charlie described in “Speed Trap”. At 14-15 (boys) it might decide if the kid wants to go seriously into sports or follows certain distractions (the time when the interest for the opposite sex starts to dominate their thinking :wink:

But the age 8-12 is crucial, too. Children that age should try out as many sports as possible (without forcing and frustrating them) since a variety basic motorical skills are developed mainly at that age.

How about exposure to teams and team sports?

Exposure to opportunity is always good- as long as there’s no pressure. By gymnastics, I mean a few agility, balance, and flexibility moves, not necessarily the sport itself.

I am well aware of Marinovich. He did well at USC but eventually flaked out because his Dad forced him to train and be an athlete from birth. I never have heard of the “3 pillars.” Whatever they do it hasto be fun or they will quit.

It could be argued that today, kids are exposed to too many different sports and other activities, which creates stress-related problems. The problem may not lie in the actual exposure though, but rather the way in which it comes about.

For instance, when I was a kid a typical soccer-tournament would last for 2-3 days, and the (same) parents had to be there as support for the whole time. Today the tournament as a whole might last as long as back then, but every team are scheduled to appear for one day only, and often the whole tournament are over in a couple of hours, apparently to fit the busy schedules of the parents. The result seems to be that instead of doing a few activities for a prolonged period, children are doing lots of different activities, each with a shorter duration, creating a stressful environment. Most times there is no communication between those responsible for organising the different activities either.

I have a feeling that all this talk by experts about organized physical activity as an answer to the proposed problem of a more sedate living among todays children, create more bad than good.

A thoughtful post. There is a lot of over-scheduling of children.

Regardless of the sports they do, #1… FUN,even if they are the most gifted in the world, if you suck the fun out of it, they will rebel & quit.
#2 (in my opinion) it has to be part of your life, not just theirs. A few too many soccer parents (or other sports) need to both get & life & a waistline to call their own & lead by example.
After dinner each night when there is no game to play, my son gets to pick a sport… soccer (just a fun game), basketball, tennis, riding a bike through the park.
I think a mixture of team & individual sports gives a balance of needs. My son prefers individual sports but playing soccer right now helps build teamwork.
I think they need to get to know their bodies before they can know what sport they prefer or are suited for. Being allowed to figure how to push themselves is also imperitive as standing over them yelling will not work for most.
How many of the best said they weren’t great to start but loved what they did?

Its a great time to be a physiotherapist! I see so many kids with knee problems & back problems. Their weekly schedule has them doing something everyday, that’s coupled that with very poor food choices, chips, pop, candy!

And of course then there’s the opposide side of the coin. Growing up I remember there being one kid who was the ‘fat kid’, today we see 10 year olds with stretch marks! Scary.


Children are mostly interested by games, and most of the time team sports. I can remember back in the day i was un beaten in every sports day since infance, that is from 5years old. All the way up until i was 1years old. I us to love sports day, it was mainly athletics with abit of egg and spoon racing and asault coursers.

But talking about children, i can rember my friends crying befor sports day, some wanted to stay off because of the fear.

I myself use to be unbeatable in my enviroment and land. My playground and track. But when i went to the big schools champs i would cry, and be scared.

I think some kids should have a chocie weather to do athletics at a young age, because it is a very mentally intense sport.

(just to say more about my young sporting career, long jump, high jump, sprint it was over when june came along.

woooooo the memories are coming back, i can remember in high school. The first sports day we had there, all my childhood compedators APPEARED.

I was no longer unbeatable, i can rememebr the first time i was beaten in the 100meters. It was in the warm up day, for the main sports day.

People where shocked!

Like when you are in school, certain people are respected. And that is the hard people, the best fighters in the year. And others

who is the fastest, and that was always me but that change in high school.But i was good at every other sport, and was a well respected person. I could hold my own, and stuck up for other people.

(fuck sake i loved school, all the days i messed around, took the pissed, going on mission around the school, bunking lesson.

i was never cheeky or used bad language, just mischevious!

Thats when i started trying out different events, like long jump and triple along with 200meters.

I was never the number one chocie for the 100meters, all throughtout my high school years. Until the last year, where i faced my fear who upset me very much in the first year.

In my last year of school, sports day was no more. It was now called olympic week. Each class was given a country to represent, i think that we where JAMACIA!

The germans got disqaulified for drawing NAZI signs on there heads! ha ha ha ha and that was on the last day.

We had a chance of wining, if we would of won the rounders. I can remember, i cut all my arm batting and this seriously affected my batting, we reached the final and came second.

After five long days, including football!

BASKETBALL we won, i was on fire!

gymnastics,are girls took over the show, plus i made a apperance in the vault.

it was the last day, last year! last event!


I wsa facing MRBEAT lets just call him that, the guy who beat me in the first year of high school And i had’nt beaten him since, he was a man beast had and beard i year 8. I had’nt even started to mature than.

Well anyway i had my spikes on, but decided to run with my trainners on, LIKE ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE.

my start destoryed him, the wholle school was on the field. It was amazing, i had my hands up with 15meters to go ( am back). I won 12seconds, if i can recall!

we did’nt win the whole olympic week but great memories. I was beaten in the triple jump that day aswell, by one centermeter.

I had a Mr. Cool type predicament. When I was young, I was the track stud. After never doing any sports at all (I still have terrible hand-eye coordination), and being the youngest bookworm ever, I won all my events in track and field day in 6th grade, and the middle school track career began. the next year at junior high meets, I was undefeated in the 100m, and beat most of the 8th graders in the 200 and 400. In 8th grade I moved to Montana and set the (dun dun dun) middle school record in the 200, and long jumped farther than any 8th grader my coach had ever seen. Freshman year I struggled. I still long jumped farther than any freshman my coach had seen, but I didn’t improve on much of a curve from middle school. Sophomore year I barely improved at all, but that was due to a badly sprained ankle. Maybe. I won a state medal on the short relay, but didn’t even make it to state in any open events, although my best event, long jump, I didn’t do, ankle again. So I don’t know what that shows about development, but I guess I hit my peak in a sense at young age, maybe from not doing anything and then becoming diehard instantly. who knows?

it needs to be FUN…
when I played youth soccer, my father used to throw me into puddles of mud when i “didn’t get dirty enough.” later on when I was a dancer I used to dance at least 3 hours a day 6 days a week with instructors who made us all cry and told us we needed to lose weight… at 10 and 11 years old!

team sports were a lot more fun, even though dancing developed me a lot more athletically.

Amen to the need to be fun. I ws put into soccer when I was five years old, and it was fun for a while. I got pretty good at it and my parents kept pushing me and pushing and it really started to get annoying. I went on to make a pretty good club team and we won State Cup for California (really good) when I was almost 13. I quit a month later, I was bored and tired of being pushed into something that had lost its fun for me. Over three years later I have not played competitive soccer since we won that championship. Thats just an example of what can happen when you dont have fun. Sure you get good, but whats the point? Let youngsters choose something that they want to do. Also, I would recommend that specialization start in high school and not any sooner than that.

The topic we are all referring to is termed, with respect to sport, Mulitlateral Development. I had taken 2 courses in coaching, one with Tudor Bompa on Periodization and the other a more general coaching course; and the concesus regarding this topic was that, @ a younger age, you want kids to experience a wide spectrum of sports, as Charlie and some others were mentioning, to gain valuable experience and develop the body overall.

It was said that if training a child to only one sport from a very young age and not exposing them to others, research was shown that the child would most likely not remain committed long-term.

Take home message was 1) make it fun 2) use variety, then see which sport the child excels at and which sport THEY (the child) are interested in pursuing.

i had a good set up i used to get chased by dogs a lot but then everyone hit puberty faster than me so it looked like i was real slow…then in my second year of hs noone touches me ever

I had played alot of different sports growing up; t-ball (probably started at around 5 years old to maybe 7 ?); also got into soccer for 3 or 4 years; tried baseball for two years when I was 9 and 10; I even thought I liked basketball throughout elementary school. I really didn’t show I was a really good athlete til I was probably around 12 years old. I ended up not ever playing these sports again; 1.) I didnt have fun with them. 2.) I wasn;t very good at baseball or soccer 3.) Basketball was just no fun for me

So then comes middle school; I found something I was actually good at! I joined the track team because in PE Class I would always win the mile. I ended up being a 13.2 100m sprinter and 27.65 200m runner at 13 years of age. 8th grade I ran 56.59 400m and 25.2x 200m. After 2 school records in middle school (400m-8th grade and 4x400m-8th Grade(3:55) I knew I wanted to stick with track at that point!I always wanted to play football, but my mom and dad would never let me play til I was in the 8th grade. Football takes so much time to develop skills, but I stuck with it and grew to love it. I did both track and football in high school, I found it was very important to do both so I didnt burn out in one sport.

Now, as an incoming college freshman at SRJC, I will be joining a football program that is one of the top programs in CA, and had the No.1 rated passing offense in the U.S. last season for JC Football. It took me a while to really find out what I was good at (track and football). Give it some time and the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy.

In primary school I used to be the swimming stud, I’d win that hands down and lose all the athletic stuff. And now in high school I’m untouchable at my school and at regional meets, and when I hit state, well, those boys have coaches… but who cares… I’ve athletic champion at my school 5 years in a row and regional champ 5 years in a row… and tomorrow I have to defend my titles! The regional and school meet have been combined into one, and the preasure is on… i’m going to miss these days when I’m old and have bad knees… wish me luck

Something interesting happened the other day… as I have said previously, my son & I do sports after dinner (this is on top of my training that is in the am). I want him to have an active lifestyle. When previously he would stop part way up a hill when it got tough, this time he pushed himself harder than I had seen before. He couldn’t shift gears fast enough to keep the momentum so he had to walk his bike up the last bit of a steep hill. At the top, he said “I want to go back down & try again”. He was determined to bike the whole way (this is a big hill). I did not push him. I have always told him, if he had to walk up, I’ll wait at the top for him. It was he who decided to push hard.
The next day, I heard clanging in the back yard… he had taken apart (nothing unusual there as “rebuilding” seems to be a hobby of his) his go-cart & was using the axel, wheels & all, as a barbell… bench press, bicep curls & shoulder press (maybe I should teach him a power clean!?ha!). This thing weighs about 25 - 30 lbs. This was all on his own.
This month is 20 years since my first World Championship in a sport & I am still racing internationally (different sport) & he has always come to the track or the gym. He has seen my run until I puke & have to ice injuries & get accupuncture (at 3, he said I looked like an alien with the needles in my head!) & ART until I cried.
My son turns 10 next month & he seems to have also turned a corner into being able to push himself.
This is my idea of development of a child in sports… lead by example & if they are inclined, they will follow.
If he never becomes an athlete, he will be able to push himself in work & in life. I know I sound like a gushing mom here but I am proud of him & the character he is building. And that is what sports does for us.

what would you do if your kid was obviously athletically gifted but refused/showed no interest to participate in any sport? i.e. had other interests, etc. or do you think all kids have an “innate” attraction to (team) sports so long as conditions and environment are right?

just wondering…i’m not a parent. I just know that many of you are state/national/world level competitors, and that track is a large part of your life, and you’d probably want your kids to have it in their lives too.

I am considered to be an athletic person (though not to the extent of some of you), but my parents don’t do any sports at all, and never really pushed me to do any sport. I guess being asian, academics and music are more of a focus, and being from a christian family, god is the number one focus. Anyways, I do pretty well in sports I like, and probably for that reason. However, I do see (and i’m sure you all have too) some other kids who are obviously not as “gifted” for a specific sport and may not even like it, yet their parents, probably the soccer star in their day, push their kids anyways (and a lot harder than my parents do). When I grow up, I am planning on continuing my athletic career, and would prefer to have my kids participate in sports too. but to what extent, i’m not sure…