By Cindy Adair, Cross Campus Assistant Principal, Extra Curricular Activities and Sport, Bangkok Patana School
LONG TERM STUDENT-ATHLETE DEVELOPMENT
As a parent it’s easy to watch your child in the swimming pool or on the football pitch and start to imagine your child as the next Michael Phelps, or Ronaldo. So how can you nurture talent and at the same time ensure that you promote an active and healthy lifestyle? The answer is to take a long term approach! The average age of an Olympic athlete is 24 and the vast majority of those Olympians train full-time for at least the four years preceding the Games. To undertake this level of intense training you must have a passion and deep love for your sport, so that is where we start…
Children need to spend time both indoors and outdoors exploring their environment. Tricycles to ride, climbing frames to dangle from, toys (big and small) to engage with and plenty of room to run are a great place to start. Young children need challenges to build their fine and gross motor skills. We want our children to run, jump, kick, roll, climb, throw and catch. Students at this age (and all ages really) need to move to learn and so a big part of the day is spent being active. There does not need to be a focus on any particular sport, although some students will develop early passions for certain activities, which is great. Being active as a family always helps – go swimming together, ride bikes, visit the park or an indoor play centre.
By the ages of six and seven, your child may start their first organised sport or physical activities. There are a huge range of activities for your child to try; Swimming, Gymnastics, Football, Tennis, Dance, Taekwondo and more! Sampling a range of activities is encouraged. The focus at this time in their lives should be on developing the FUNdamentals of movement. You can help at home by continuing to expose your child to a range of active play opportunities – jumping on a trampoline, learning to ride a bike without training wheels, learning to hula hoop or skip with a jump rope are all great age-appropriate fun.
As your child turns 8 or 9 (females tend to mature physically earlier) they start to become ready to consider a slightly more serious approach to their sport or activities. Early specialisation is discouraged; however, your child might narrow their focus to two or three of their favourite things. At this age, coaches and teachers often observe a period of accelerated learning of coordination and fine motor control. Extra curriculars and PE classes for this age group should include not just skill development but also sports specific rules. You can help your child by ensuring they don’t specialise too early and maintain an interest in several activities. If your child is losing interest in physical activity, help them find something they enjoy, consider taking a fitness class together – yoga, spinning, boxing and indoor climbing are all great options. Being active as a family is also great – walk the dog together, enter a Fun Run or learn to wakeboard.
As your child enters the “pointy end” of their time at school, regular physical activity becomes all the more important for them to manage stress and a healthy mind and body. A good school will have a PE programme right through to graduation and students should be given a broad range of choices so that they get a workout and social exposure to physical activity at least once a week. It is hoped that via this approach, students get both the confidence and basic knowledge to join social leagues and clubs when they transition to university or their working life. Those with a passion for sport can pursue selection school or community teams where training is more focused, intense and requires a bigger time commitment. Well-structured training sessions include ongoing skill development but also fitness and strength development, tactical awareness and competitive challenges. At this stage you can help your child by letting the coach be the one to guide their athletic career and offer your support by ensuring they are well fed, well rested and know that they are loved regardless of their last sporting result.
Cindy Adair is the Cross Campus Assistant Principal for Extra Curricular and Sports at Bangkok Patana School. She has lived and worked in Thailand for 12 years. Cindy has a Bachelor of Applied Science in Sports Coaching, a Post Graduate Certificate in Education as a well as a Post Graduate Certificate in Career Counselling for Elite Athletes. Cindy started at Patana in the role as Head Coach of Swimming and has a passion for aquatics. Cindy is a Performance Coach through Swimming Australia and a Presenter for the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association.