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Let the children play!

Ever noticed how the young of the animal kingdom are always playing? Do they know something we don't?

One thing I've found in training young athletes: the fun helps them learn. Children love to play games. I know what I'm saying is nothing new (as the teachers out there roll their eyes), but let me tell you a story.

Last summer I had the privilege of being invited to train with a school team preparing for their sports day (which would lead on to county athletics competitions). It's always a bit of a nervous time being introduced to a group of athletes who you've never met before and may never see again, but you need to try and impart something to them - that will stick - in the few hours that you are together. Fortunately I have a secret weapon, you see deep down, I'm still a big kid, trying to have as much fun as possible - please don't tell my wife. Anyway back to the story; I was introduced to the athletics group I'd be training for the morning and naturally they were a bit wary of me - I seem to have that effect on people. So how do you break the ice? Well the ice is nothing compared to a game of Jungle (if you want to know the content, comment on this post).

Needless to say in 2 minutes flat we were all at ease and laughing as if we were old friends. The fun just carried on through the rest of the session and the time just flew by, but even then in just showing them little tweaks to the way they moved and letting them solve their movement puzzles we all learnt something.

I must mention though that the ground work for all of this had been done prior to my arrival by the PE department and more so the curriculum followed by the school. The curriculum all tied back into sport somehow and sport was used as a reward for some of the pupils, and this seemed to have a tremendous outcome to the behaviour of the children.

A few days later when I phoned to find out how the sports hall athletics competition had gone, I was super pleased to hear that most of the athletes from the group had achieved personal bests. One of the girls reported that it was down to remembering "cheek to cheek" in her arm technique! All of the session was about playing and solving puzzles.

Children need to play and be allowed to explore athletic movement in the context of games, that way they become better athletes as they get older and generally just move better.

Let the children play!

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