Variety is Key
We love football – FACT
The reason behind our Academy is to bring a European style of football teaching and learning to youngsters in the UK which we feel is missing from the English system.
In saying all of that what you read in the following article may seem a little counter intuitive and strange for us to be recommending.
One of our goals as an Academy is to teach players how to use their bodies and educate them to be healthier in a variety of ways not only through football, but in a variety of ways… WHY?
- Multiple sports build better all-round skills.
- Kids don’t need to specialise until later on age (15+) unless they are aiming for age dominated sports such as the Olympic events of diving and gymnastics for example.
- Multiple sports early on will cross over to football.
As an Academy we love the kids doing well across all of their chosen sports and activities. As a coaching team we encourage them to experience many different sports, especially with our younger players under the age of 12.
It is well researched (2) that kids who play many different sports and experience a wide range of movement patterns associated with them, develop useful skills, techniques and decision making abilities that can cross over to other sports now and when they reach an age in which they may begin to specialise in a single sport. (1,5)
We believe children can be encouraged to not only play their favourite sport regularly but have the chance to experience other team sports, which is not only fun but can be of a great help in potentially combating the problem of overuse injuries where over specialisation in one type of repetitive movement can lead to injury. (2,4)
Briefly… when is specialisation generally encouraged?
Research has pointed towards youth players beginning to whittle down the amount of different types of sports they play at around ages 13-15 and then begin to specialise in their chosen sport around age 16 (3).
However this doesn’t always mean they stop playing other sports completely, they generally are just more focused on the one sport as their priority and dedicate more training and time to its mastery. Elite level competitors though will put in the time and effort to learn and a much larger rate than those who do not.
Research has suggested that specialisation in a sport where sport specific training begins to take priority is to be encouraged around the age of 15-16 years old. (3)
Experiencing different environments where the body is stimulated outside of their favourite sports can also help (2) …
avoid overuse injuries;
and increase social skills.
One of the key aspects of our academy program…
…is introducing kids to different movements that are not directly football related but help to develop fundamental movement patterns that cross over too many sports which have been shown to improve strength, skill and ability.
We do this at training sessions in warm ups and fitness work and in gym sessions with their movement training. Focusing on these movements challenges a young player’s ability to use their body differently, involving aspects of strength, coordination, balance, speed, power and creativity in a variety of ways (5)
So what are key sports to look for that could help?
Sports or activities that involve
- catching and,
are all great movements and fundamental patterns of movement that should be encouraged and have the potential to cross over to a players ability to be successful now, and in their future chosen sport.
So this takes us back to my original statement
“We love football, and to be a better footballer having a wide range of exposure to many different sports early on can give a player a step up on the playing fields and in life!”
- Baker, J., Cote, J., & Abernethy, B. (2003). Sport-specific practice and the development of expert decision-making in team ball sports. Journal of applied sport psychology, 15(1), 12-25.
- Baker, J. (2003). Early specialization in youth sport: A requirement for adult expertise?. High ability studies, 14(1), 85-94.
- CôTé, J. E. A. N., Lidor, R., & Hackfort, D. (2009). ISSP position stand: To sample or to specialize? Seven postulates about youth sport activities that lead to continued participation and elite performance. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 7(1), 7-17.
- Malina, R. M. (2010). Early sport specialization: roots, effectiveness, risks. Current sports medicine reports, 9(6), 364-371.
- Naclerio Ayllón, F. J., Radler, T., Kang, J., Myer, G. D., Fabiano, M., Faigenbaum, A. D., … & Farrell, A. (2011). Effects of Integrative Neuromuscular Training on Fitness Performance in Children.
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