Published On: Fri, Dec 19th, 2014

Little Big Sport – Sport adapted for kids

Kathy Fahim
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Little big sportEveryone appreciates that a baby needs to achieve small goals to get to the end result of walking and running. Without this, learning would not occur as quickly or successfully. Similarly, the schooling system is set up so that lessons progress from pre-school to primary school to high school. There is good reason for this, as children need to learn the fundamental principles before moving on to the next stage. You may not realise, but the same goes for sport.

Some sports are assisting children to develop their sporting goals in stages. It’s not about giving a child an adult size bat and going out for a hit around. Sports that appreciate modification have successful coaching programs that use smaller equipment suitable to the size of the child, They use smaller courts and fields and have modified rules to ensure the children are having fun and learning while playing the game. Some sports do this better than others and here are some examples:

Football – Mini roos
Mini roos is football’s (read “soccer’s”) most recent modified game for younger children. The 4’s program is aimed at players aged 5-6 years old. At first glance it seems convoluted but it really makes sense:

  • Number of players ─ four field players plus two interchange players. Rather than the usual 11 per side, this ensures that players are more likely to get multiple touches on the ball every game.
  • Field size ─ 30m x 20m with multiple fields fitting into a regular size pitch. This way little legs can cover the ground rather than running out of puff.
  • Game time ─ 2 x 15 minutes suitable for the age group fitness level and concentration span in attendance.
  • The ball ─ approved size 3 ball suitable for smaller size players as it is smaller and lighter!

Tennis – Hotshots
ANZ Tennis Hot Shots is just for kids. Many countries are operating modified tennis, which is tennis on a smaller court with lighter racquets, low-compression balls that move slowly and that makes learning and playing tennis fun and easy for children. It encourages rallies and gives children the repetition they need to improve.

There are three stages – Red, Orange and Green – that help to develop children’s skills and confidence. Children are taught by qualified Tennis Australia coaches and progress at their pace, moving on to the next stage when they are ready. The three tiered process starts with red ball and has the following details:

Age of players ─ suitable for 5 – 8 year old beginners.

  • Court size ─ 3m x 8.23m or 6m x 10.97m (unusual measurements due to imperial dimensions of tennis court) with both singles and doubles being played.
  • Racquet size ─ varies between 21 – 23 inches depending on age; height and strength (maximum cost should be no more than $30). Keep in mind an adult racquet is around 27 inches (in length). All tennis racquets generally have the same size head for maximum surface area.
  • The red ball is 25% compression and is slightly bigger than a regular tennis ball. This makes the ball slower through the air and bounces lower so that younger, smaller players have a better chance to play a shot.

Gymnastics – KinderGym
KinderGym is GymnasticsAustralia’s movement-based program for young children and their parents or cares. It provides a safe environment for children to develop physical skills in a fun and playful way, at their own rate. Fundamental movements are experienced using a wide range of movement activities and children are encouraged to think, create, construct and solve problems with their own bodies.

A qualified professional ensures the equipment set-up is safe, stimulating and provides endless movement opportunities for children to play and learn. KinderGym allows parents to share (rather than direct) which allows for real benefits from their child’s self-initiated play.

Remember, all modified sport is a staged process so that once a child achieves success at that level they are encouraged to go to the next level, usually a slightly bigger space with more players; longer time on task and more capacity for tactical decision making. Allow your children to successfully move through the stages until they reach the adult size game – it is not a race to the end. To encourage them, consider using a smaller racquet or ball yourself when you play together!

There are a multitude of sports running modified programs for children. Some are better than others. Look for spaces that are suitable for the size of your child; your child should easily be able to hold and handle any piece of equipment based on size and weight. They should not struggle to get to the end of the game from a fitness perspective; they should have success from the first session and most importantly it should always be fun. Remember we want kids to love sport and want them to come back!

By Kathy Fahim

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