Challenges to Becoming Physically Successful
Physical activity should be one of the most fun parts of any child's day, and the benefits of an active life are so compelling that virtually any parent would like to see their children be active. However, increasingly the odds are stacked against children who are not naturally gifted athletes from becoming physically successful and staying active.
Among the challenges:
- Screen time is up – TV, video games, computers, etc.
- Safety concerns limit outdoor free play time for many children.
- Even when free play time is available – at home or at recess for instance – it is not sufficient alone for skill development. Some amount of instruction on proper technique, especially at early ages, is essential for helping children build a solid foundation that will enable them to achieve strong physical competence.
- Many physical development programs, from PE to commercial offerings, are dated or poorly structured – they often involve too much waiting time, too little "touch time" and too little variety to fully develop children and hold their interest over time.
- Organized sports leagues are increasingly competitive and catering to the most talented athletes, leaving the "average" child discouraged and dropping out.
- Many coaches in local leagues, though well-intentioned, lack the time and often the skills to coach beginners.
- A bad start can cause a child to want to sit out, missing the opportunity to develop fully during key growth years, and making self-doubt snowball into a self-fulfilling prophesy that can last a lifetime.
- There is also an increasing willingness to allow children to opt out of physical activity. If we treated physical development like we do mental development, this wouldn't happen – what child would be told "it's okay for you not to learn to read, just focus on math instead?" In academics, we tend to give the less gifted reader more attention. But in physical development, the less gifted athlete increasingly is sitting out.
- At the other end of the spectrum, many good athletes are specializing too young. This puts a child at increased risk of injury and of failing to develop the general motor and performance skills needed for overall long-term physical success – even in his or her primary sport. Being "well-rounded" is as important for young bodies as it is for young minds.
Great Play is committed to helping children overcome these obstacles. We want every child to develop a love of physical activity that will lead to an active, healthy and confident life, whether they choose to pursue competitive athletics or simply to play and move for fun.