Thank you for choosing the Sport4All (S4A) Program to start your child in sport.As you already know, this is a movement- and play-based approach for preparing children to be successful with participation in sport and other active games.Our goal is to help build the fundamental physical, mental, social and emotional skills needed as a foundation for skillful play, the enjoyment of movement and the development of an active lifestyle.
Sport educators consider the age of seven as the starting point for the emergence of actual sport skills.That is why the S4A Program delays the introduction of sport games until that age.There will be no sport matches for children between 3 and 6 years of age.There will be lots of activity with a ball to help build the ball control skills and confidence that are a prerequisite for success and enjoyment in the playing of sport games.
Children ages 3 to 6 are not ready physically, mentally, socially, and especially emotionally, for sport contests.Even though some sport organizations place children this young in formal sport contests, parents must examine this decision critically.This is not the time to be satisfied by the fact that so many other parents place their children in these competitive programs.Children need lots of practice playing cooperative games and activities before beginning competitive ones.This is crucial!Please get a copy of our handout, Cooperative Learning, if you have not already read it.
When children begin playing sport contests at age 7, they need to be playing informal, small-sided games. S4A starts children at age 7 with small-sided games. This introduces children to the game at a level of complexity that is appropriate to their development.They can play games without the requirement of constant sideline instruction by coaches and parents.If you will notice, in programs where they start children in larger-sided games on larger spaces, there is constant sideline coaching.Children that young will require sideline coaching in such an environment.Some sport educators believe that this robs young people of valuable decision-making opportunities.Another good reason to keep children in small-sided games is that every child is intimately involved in every second of the game, the ball is frequently at their foot or hand, and skill development and enjoyment is accelerated.
Every aspect of the S4A Program has been carefully designed to be developmentally appropriate, fun, and inclusive so every child plays all the time.As a lifetime member of the National Association of Sport and Physical Education, I have had access to some of the best researchers and practitioners in the field at both national and regional conferences.Valuable contributions have been made by such nationally prominent people as Dr. Marianne Torbert, Director of the Institute for Human Development Through Play at Temple University and author of Secrets to Success in Sport & Play, Follow Me and Follow Me Too; Dr. Diane Craft, a professor in Physical Education at SUNY at Cortland and co-author of Moving with aPurpose and Purposeful Play; and Dr. Stephen Sanders, founder of the Children’s Movement Center and author of Designing PreschoolMovement Programs and Active for Life.
As I titled this communication, “A Personal Note”, I want to disclose my personal reasons for the design of this program.
First of all, I want children to acquire an intrinsic motivation to play sport and active games.By this, I mean that I want children to be motivated by the enjoyment of PLAYING, not by the secondary reinforcers of WINNING and TROPHIES.The provision of secondary reinforcers actually erodes away the intrinsic, or primary motivators for playing sport, active games or any other endeavor.
Second, I want children to be in an environment where kindness is modeled by the coaches, parents, participants and everyone else in the play environment.I believe that kindness is one of the highest forms of personal expression in life.And role modeling has been found to be one of the most productive ways of teaching and learning!
Third, I want the youngest children to be in an environment where their own parents can be theirplay partners.I realize that there are some circumstances where this cannot occur and the child must play with another caretaker.Unfortunately, in our time-pressured, highly stressed economic environment, some parents do not have the time to invest in play experiences with their children at this time of day.I wish this were not so for at least two reasons:
1) Play is enjoyable for both parent and childand deepens the bonds ofattachment; and
2) Parent/child play offers an optimal state for learning.
My last request is that you think seriously about keeping your child in a PLAY-BASED Program until the onset of puberty when many child development specialists is the ideal time to introduce formal, competitive activities to young people. I believe adults do a significant disservice to children by placing them in formalized, league-structured programs, sometimes referred to as “little league”, prior to the time when competition actually contributes to a developmental need.This is when competition meets very real and important developmental needs.One of the greatest tragedies in U.S. youth sport is that most children (75% in most reputable studies) are burned out with competitive sport leagues by the age of 12.Unfortunately for them, this is the time that formal, league-structured programs begin to contribute significantly to important developmental needs.
Please do not pressure your child to participate in all of the activities. If the activities are interesting to him or her, the child will get involved.Let the children enjoy this as an authentic play experience.It must be voluntary to be play!Maria Montessori teaches us that the child’s absorbent mind works best in the absence of pressure or fear.Take time to replay activities between practices.That’s where real skill development occurs!And, that is when you and your child can have a wonderful time together without worrying about anyone else or other distractions.Do it.Your child deserves it!
And, please check out three great web sites, www.allianceforchildhood.net, www.atlc.org, and www.ttfuture.org.I strongly endorse a book, Magical Parent-Magical Child: The Art of Joyful Parenting, by Joseph Pearce and Michael Mendizza.It is fantastic!It will both stretch your mind and confirm what you already know deep down inside – but may need some outside confirmation!!!
Sport4All...Starting Kids Out Right! Tel: 301-325-9166