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Transitioning from Recreational to Competitive Sports
In the previous issue, as you may recall, my first topic focused on how to select a sport or an activity for your kids. This edition will aim at the transition from the recreational mainstream sports to the competitive ones.
Let’s say you have chosen a few activities for your child and then, a coach or a teacher tells you that your child has talent and he/she should get more involved, spend more time at practice, and start competing throughout the year. What should you do?
You will have to choose between letting your child continue playing sporadically the selected sport or making a transition to the world of competition.
Some parents err while making this transition; they have high expectations such as wining and getting results and forgetting about having fun altogether. Parents usually forget that they have to invest money and time, and also schedule family vacations around the competitions of the child.
While doing research, I read important information on the Canadian Sport for Life’s website. They developed a feature called LTAD (Long-Term Athlete Development), which they describe it as, “a developmental pathway whereby athletes follow optimal training, competition, and recovery regimens from childhood through all phases of adulthood.” Their mission is to offer guidelines to parents, coaches, and athletes.
One important element that LTAD shows is that it takes 10 years to build an athlete. So what you do at age 5-10 or 20 will stay in your life for ever.
Here are the stages of LTAD (some sports have changed the names of the stages)
- Stage 1: Active Start (0-6 years)
- Stage 2: FUNdamental (girls 6-8, boys 6-9)
- Stage 3: Learn to Train (girls 8-11, boys 9-12)
- Stage 4: Train to Train (girls 11-15, boys 12-16)
- Stage 5: Train to Compete (girls 15-21, boys 16-23)
- Stage 6: Train to Win (girls 18+, boys 19+)
- Stage 7: Active for Life (any age participant)
You will see that the recommendation is to play at least two sports till stage 3. Playing competitive sports does not translate to becoming a professional athlete at 9-years old. Too many times we find ourselves evaluating and comparing to exceptional athletes.
Here are some important questions you must ask yourself before making the transition.
- Are you ready to commit to your child’s schedule of his/her chosen sport?
- Does your child want to do more?
- Is the timing or season good for your child?
- Are you ready to travel to a specific location, and spend time and money? Ask the coaches or the federation what being involved entails.
- Do you think your child excels in school? There will come a time when he/she will miss school and/or even exams. He/she will have to go the extra mile to keep up with both school and sports. (Should be more in stage 3-4 depending on the sport)
- Make sure your focus remains on helping your child develop his/her skills on the sport.
- Don’t try to take the coach’s place, be the parent instead.
- Be positive and don’t evaluate your choice by the results.
- Keep calm and be patient; you will be challenged a great deal as a parent in this new world of competition.
- Ask if your child is doing enough.
- Don’t doubt your decisions.
Remember to enjoy the process and not the result!
Learn more on LTAD at: www.canadiansportforlife.ca
Coach, consultant, author
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