The first thing to look at is posture. Remember how annoying it was to be told by your parents “stand up straight…Don’t slouch” But did they ever tell us why?
Good posture is so important in sport because it allows for greater mobility, stability and force production. The back is a critical part of almost every athletic movement, so having it in the correct position is going to help kids to perform better.
So how can we help to educate our kids about good posture? We can be good role models of course, because kids learn most at a young age by imitating but we can also play some fun games that allow them to start to recognise how the big muscles in their shoulders, chest and abdomen work and how to keep their heads still! Remember that the head is the heaviest part of the body so if it tips forward or backward, other body parts are sure to follow!
Try walking with a bean bag on your head…and if you don’t have a bean bag, try a small bag of sweets.
Or with a ball placed on each hand, arms outstretched.
Or with a longish stick above your head, one hand on each end.
- Along a straight line.
- With an obstacle (cone, hurdle).
- With several obstacles.
Roll a large ball towards the child and see if he can kick it back while still keeping the equipment in place! Kids will soon start to realise the importance of keeping their heads still and shoulders back! It’s all about challenging kids so if they are starting to do an activity easily, make it tougher. They will improve much more quickly if you do! Posture is linked very closely with balance and balance underpins almost all movement skills. It is the foundation of all successful sports activities, so it shouldn’t be underestimated. There are 2 types of balance:
The first is Static balance…keeping your balance while standing still.
A great way to help kids understand this concept is to ask them to stand up straight, feet together, hands by their sides. From behind, push them between the shoulders with one finger. You will easily unbalance them. Then ask them to find a position that will make it difficult for you to push them over…..try to avoid telling them what to do at this stage but be ready to offer suggestions if they don’t find the solution themselves. They are more likely to remember if they discover the solution by themselves but the tip here is “the lower the centre of gravity, the greater the stability”.
The other is Dynamic balance…. staying balanced while on the move.
Think of hitting an overhead smash in tennis, catching a rugby ball on the run, running to field a ball in cricket or a slam dunk jump in basketball. In each of these examples, the player must move quickly, perform the skill and land in a balanced position.
Try the 1,2,3 Freeze game.
Set the kids a task which involves them moving around in a set space. You – or they – can decide how they move. Walking, running, skipping, hopping, crawling etc. Turn your back on the kids and count slowly 1, 2, 3, then shout FREEZE. When you turn round, the kids should be trying to stay completely still. Then count 1,2,3 (so they try to keep balance for at least 3 seconds). If they start to topple, the parent scores a point and child becomes the caller. They will soon discover that it is easier to stay still for longer if they have a wider base of support. By that I mean feet further apart and lower centre of gravity (knees bent).
By taking a turn at FREEZING, the parent has the chance to show the kids how to get in to a more balanced position. So the pressure’s on for you to do a good demo here.
If kids manage to stay on balance for the count of 1,2,3, parent shouts GO and both run to a designated base (hoop/cone). This could be a race or it could be a chase. i.e. kids have to get to the base without getting tagged. Or first to base wins. Kids love to chase and race so this adds an element of competition to the game
TIP – IF YOU MAKE THE BASE A HOOP OR CHALK CIRCLE, THEN THE CHILD HAS TO RUN AND STOP OR JUMP IN THE BASE (RATHER THAN RUNNING RIGHT THROUGH IT) WHICH MEANS THEY CAN IMPROVE DYNAMIC BALANCE.