Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sports Development - The team player

Inspired by Birmo's piece about sporting development:

From my first sporting development memories, there were lots of kids around playing backyard games. There were the ’straight’ backyard/ street games, like red rover, force-em-backs, scorpion, brandy etc. Also we would play ‘backyard’ modified versions of real sports like cricket, all the football, the Olympics, the winter Olympics, everything. Modified? Heavily modified. There is not a lot of snow in Oz, so luge would be done careening down the street or storm drains on a skateboard, on your back.

Formalised sport was Cricket in summer, and soccer in winter. I played cricket from age 6, and at 39 have missed some season, but played winter cricket enough seasons to say I am into my 32 season of cricket. Cricket started at under 10’s, so I played under 10’s for three years. Soccer didn’t last long, as some of the rules very demanding of the parents. We were in the championship thingy, and it had to be decided. We ended up playing this other team FOUR times. Also, the team culture was vicious. They were training us to slide tackle to maim our opponents - at six years old.

So cricket was summer, but we wandered through a few winter sports. Mum, as a nurse, had violent objections to rugby and the neck injury possibilities, and I already had a neck injury. I remember “Little Athletics” quite fondly, but they most amazing skills leap came from gymnastics. They had us tumble and balance and leap, throw sommersaults etc. I don’t remember it being difficult. I do CLEARLY remember that is where my team sports skills just took off. From the unskilled ruckus of backyard muck-arounds, once I had the physical skills of gymnastics added to my drills, I was in a class above. In cricket, diving, tumbling catches were easy. In athletics, the Frosby flop etc were just modified leaps.

In schoolyard fights, the kids who never did the other sports were like they were standing still. It’s only a step to the side and throw, but I never did any martial arts - these skills just made sense. Don’t be there. Adjust your weight. One of the things you also learn - explaining this is crap. It won’t work. You can’t book read and cheat physical skills. You have to do them. Some people have to do them less times, some people have to practice them for years - but you need to practice.

So I am at the ‘very very’ side of gregarious, and this was done by the exact opposite methods Birmo described. I was doing team sports from age 6, and I ran with mobs of kids to learn the team skills. I also had the fantastic help of gymnastics. I cannot recommend gymnastics enough to anyone, let alone anyone with kids.

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