Discover The Power of Play
Boom! Like a bat out of hell I took off.
Maximum force is being imposed into the grass through my right leg; ankle extension, knee extension, hip extension — I am generating every last watt of power possible. I continue accelerating toward an apparent opening ahead, reaching maximum speed in the process. My legs are now in a cyclical rhythm, propelling me farther and farther from my attacker and closer to freedom.
I swiftly approach the open… — dead end.
Without thinking, I begin to decelerate. My center of gravity quickly lowers and my feet begin to chop rapidly until I can safely stop, plant, and adapt (plan my next escape).
TAG — I’m it.
Little Jimmy just tagged 8-year old me. Game on.
The power of play.
Gone are the days of unorganized sports. Early sport specialization is the downfall of today’s youth. Meeting up with friends to play tag/manhunt, pick-up basketball until mom calls you in for supper, the garbage can strike zone for stick ball — All activities of the past.
“If my kid wants to have a future in [ INSERT SPORT HERE ], he/she MUST begin high level sport-specific training immediately!”
Here is the truth...
All sports are played in a chaotic environment. No, I am not referring to crazy parents screaming at their kid. I am referring to not knowing what stimulus is going to be thrown your way.
Consider the following:
A football safety tracking down a running back to make a tackle.
A center fielder running down a fly ball to make a catch.
A goalie making a diving stop to win a game.
8 year-old me avoiding Little Jimmy’s tag.
All four scenarios task an athlete with reacting to a stimulus they cannot predict (a chaotic environment) and seamlessly moving their body through space. There is no way to predict the future, but there is a way to set athletes up for success via sound fundamental movement patterns and exposure.
Let. Them. Play.
For a young athlete to stand out, the deciding factor will be their ability to seamlessly combine fundamental movements through space. Rather than organized sport, expose your athletes to chaotic environments and let them learn how to move.
Fundamental movement patterns begin with variations of crawling, walking, and running and evolve to squats, hinges, pushes, pulls, and carries. The ability to execute these tasks fall under one of four categories:
Unconscious Incompetence. You don’t know any better, or what is correct.
Conscious Incompetence. You know you can do it, but don’t know how to do it.
Conscious Competence. You know you can do it, but have to think about doing it.
Unconscious Competence. You can accomplish the task, without thinking about it.
Take walking as an example.
When you were a baby you had no thought of walking. You were perfectly content with the ability to crawl, until you became aware of walking (#2). You became conscious of what walking is, but had no idea how to execute that movement. Once you reached a certain amount of exposure to walking, you began taking your first steps. While taking those steps, you had to focus on every movement to ensure you didn’t fall (#3). Today, walking is a non-event. There is primarily no thought put into executing the skill of walking and were pretty damn good at it through years of practice (#4). The more you do something, the better chance you have at mastery.
The more situations kids can be exposed to, the more adaptable they will become in chaotic environments. A one-on-one basketball lesson will not elicit the same benefit as a pick-up game in the backyard.
Is there a benefit? Yes of course, but let’s look at the bigger picture for YOUTH development. Learning a crossover move through a cone and driving in for a lay-up looks GREAT to a parent. But what happens when reality sets in? The cone (player) has a mind of its own, a mind that is dead-set on keeping you from making that crossover move and scoring that basket.
Bring back unorganized sports.
Empower kids to create their own games.
Let kids witness the power of PLAY.