Team sports and your primary school child: Experts speak
THREE experts come together to share their viewpoints on how to approach team sports with your primary school child.
Mr A Saravana Pillai - former physical education teacher, current 1,500m national record Holder (A Division), on post-graduate studies.
Ms Jean Sng - physical education teacher, former national netball player.
Professor Ian R Haslam - experienced Canadian sports educator who has taught in various universities in the US and Canada, and also at NTU-NIE, and is currently Vice-Chancellor of Emirates College for Advanced Education in Abu Dhabi.
Why is the 7-10 years (early to mid tweens) age range a good period for children to begin playing team sports?
Saravana: It is a good age for the acquisition and development of proper fundamental skills (in some sports they even start earlier). At this age, it will be far easier to mould the skills and develop them in a progressive manner. To give you an example, we have students today at about 16 years to 18 years of age who are very passionate and committed to train in their particular sport. However, due to their lack of training in the fundamental skills at an early stage, it is more challenging to get them ready.
When they start early, they will also be able to understand the intricacies which accompany team sports:
- the cognitive part (e.g. knowledge of the game, the application of simple team strategies).
- the psychomotor aspect (e.g. hand-eye and ball coordination - technical skill development).
- at this age level it is more effective to learn to play as a team member rather than an individual.
Due to these reasons, laying an early and good foundation is critical.
Jean: Since most families have one or two siblings nowadays, engaging them in team sports would be ideal as it allows the individual to mingle and build up social skills during interaction amongst team mates.
Prof Ian: It's not, but developmentally appropriate games (not sports per se) can help a student's fitness levels by lowering obesity and by helping to control calorie intake. It can also improve their self esteem, develop fundamental motor patterns and improve their motor fitness, agility, speed, power, balance and coordination.
What will my child gain from team play?
Saravana: Aside from the pure joy one can get, it helps to promote:
- life skills, self-knowledge and/or awareness.
- strategy and tactics (strategic and tactical thinking)
- management (socio-emotional, team)
- ability to embrace adversity
- leadership qualities.
Besides, team sports help to promote social, emotional and spiritual well-being. In today's sedentary and self-centred lifestyle, team sports will certainly help to instill these ingredients. Winning and losing is part and parcel of a game. It will help to educate the child to accept defeat in a gracious manner and victory in a gentlemanly fashion.
In addition, the child will also develop mental skills to address and overcome failure (which is never fatal!), to be elated and confident in winning and yet not be carried away as victory is never finaI.
Jean: Caring for others, friendly competition among players, building up determination through the process of hard work and time management to juggle between studies, sports, family/friends and rest.
Prof Ian: Team play improves social skills. Through team play, one can learn how to deal with winning and losing. Team play also teaches how to respect the opposition and the officials.
How will I know whether my child is ready to engage in team sports?
Saravana: You will never know until your child is involved. Of course, certain considerations will have to be looked into, namely, the age-group, level of training, expectations from the parents and the child's interest.
Jean: It is hard to tell when a child is 'ready'. Engaging the child in fun activities surely will benefit them, especially at a younger age.
Prof Ian: You can ascertain their readiness when they ask you if they can play a team sport or if they want to talk about what is expected of them, especially if it is a game all their best friends play.
WiII my child fall behind athletically if he/she is not involved in team sports now?
Saravana: It does not necessarily translate to that. We have seen 'world beaters' who started off very much later in their life. Sports, when started young, will certainly help to lay a foundation in terms of skills, knowledge, confidence, social value, management (time, activity and differences), focus, and (importantly) interest.
Jean: I would say yes for the majority of them, the reason being that most do not spend time on the sport. And with the stress over exams, most children are not engaged in physical activities like running around, jumping, playing ball-games, etc. All these contribute to a child's locomotor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Prof Ian: Definitely not. If a child has a healthy attitude toward physical activity or likes to play in the playground or likes picking up games, they will be fine. If they express interest, that's great, but do NOT push the child into a sport unless they want to be involved.
Next: What should I do if my child plays badly? (& other queries)
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