Learning through play is supposed to be at the core of education. The ability to adapt and survive within the world around you is essential to survival, let alone sports performance. Social development along with cognitive and motor skills can help promote self confidence. The sporting environment is ever changing, the ability to learn and adapt quickly can make the difference between success and failure. However, this seems to be missed all to often when it comes to the gym and sports performance. Discovering movement in youth athlete development is a must. Failure to do so can limit performance later on.


Sport Should Be Fun

The point of sport, especially for the youth athlete should be to have fun. Think back to why you first started your sport, you enjoyed it, right? Progressing to a level of performance that requires strength and conditioning should not remove from the sense of fun.

Deliberate play, can allow a youth athlete to discover movement, problem solve and have fun all at the same time. The constraints placed on the game by a coach can then direct this self discovery towards a desired skill. Feedback can assist in self learning, to read more on feedback technique check out one of our previous posts.


An Example of Deliberate Play

I run a regular strength and conditioning club at a local school. The first 15 minutes of each sessions consists of various assault courses and challenges. Throughout the 15 minutes I do no technical coaching and provide no direct feedback. Sure, I may manipulate the rules to get a desired outcome but the athletes themselves do the rest themselves.

Joint stiffness and transfer of force are essential in acceleration, change of direction and the majority of athletic movements. The easy thing to do would be line the athletes up and get them to repeat pogo jump down a 10 foot track. Yes, this achieves the goal but they aren’t actually learning how to control the movement so to speak. One of the assault courses we set up involves various height obstacles and no set route. Athletes must find their desired route across the course in a variety of ways. This may include the least a mount of jump, the fastest time possible or the fewest obstacles passed. In order to do this they must coordinate their limbs, transfer force effectively and have a high level of joint stiffness. All the benefits of straight line pogo hops and it’s much more fun. On top of this, they’ve figured it out themselves.


It’s Not Just For The Youth Athlete

Just because you’re now a grown up doesn’t mean you should stop playing. I firmly believe that is almost more important to put time aside to play. Life can get very regimented and planned with a “correct way” to do everything. When was the last time you challenged yourself to try something new, just go out and have a play. Give it a go, I bet you’ll find your progress sticks with you much longer.


Play and Personal Training

Play and self discovery can be the same thing. As a leading Personal Trainer in Twickenham, new clients are often surprised at the initial lack of exact technical information I give them. Why am I not simply giving them a perfect step by step guide of how to performa a squat. I will 100% guide the way and ensure movements are being done safely and to the “correct” standard. However, allowing someone to discover their body and how it moves is going to stand them in much better stead in the long run. At NK Fitness we want to make you better at life, not just better at following instructions.