Are the kids adequately prepared to participate in competitive game of tennis?

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Recently I had an opportunity to attend a lecture of a famous pediatric exercise scientist from College of New Jersey – Dr Avery Faigenbaum. He has dedicated his whole career to researching the importance of exercise among children and adolescents.  He is currently one of the most respected experts in this field and runs fitness sessions for both young athletes and common children.  

I would like to share with you some key points which had been discussed during his lecture on the Strength and Conditioning Convention at the Greenwich University.

  • Exercise Deficit Disorder, play now or pay later…

Dr Avery Faigebaum, is trying to raise the public awareness of very detrimental trend among children and adolescents. He named it as An Exercise Deficit Disorder. The term is becoming more and more recognizable among exercise scientist and fitness professionals in the USA and will inevitably spread its popularity to Europe in near future.  The message is simple. By and large, kids do not get enough exercise due to a sedentary lifestyle.  The current generation misses out on vital physical playing time as they spend most of their leisure time playing Xbox, computer games and watching TV. While lack of exercise has a clear negative impact on children’s health which is extremely dangerous and worrying, Faigenbaum also points out how it can hinder sport performance.  That is because when children engage in specific sport activities, like football, rugby or tennis, they simply are not physically prepared for it. As a result they are more susceptible to poor performance and injuries. Some children can be easily discouraged or demotivated or even drop out after a short period of time; others are simply not reaching their true potential.

  • ‘The Play is the Work of Childhood’ Is this still the case?

Remember our childhood? We spent most of our free time outside – climbing trees (this was before Health and Safety had been invented), racing, wrestling (definitely big part of my childhood) and playing various ball games. This was our preparation for sport. We were doing it before we joined sport clubs or on top of the training regime. I regret to say that the time for playing outside has been greatly reduced. Just look around and see how many kids are there? These days kids tend to join sports clubs to play specific sport twice or three times a week but often miss out on a vital playing time which used to develop their strength and fundamental motor skills. This is one of the reasons why additional fitness sessions are more important than ever. They play a vital role as a conditioning tool because children often do not get enough exercise elsewhere.

  • Gain strength and learn basic movement skills through S&C sessions to perform better and safer…    

Fitness professionals, S&C coaches as well as sport coaches are fully aware that gaining sufficient strength and learning basic movement skills is fundamental to enhance performance and minimize the risk of injuries.  Let’s take tennis as an example. This sport requires huge amount of explosive power, an agility and speed. The player is expected to accelerate, decelerate, rapidly change direction, run sideways, backwards, jump and finally hit the ball with more and more power.  The demands upon the body are immense.   Hence kids should know how to throw before they learn how to serve, should be able to squat before they master explosive starts, learn the lunge before they volley, and perform a press up before we expect them to hit the winners. To master their motor skills they have to gain sufficient strength and flexibility first. If they start early enough they can really reach their true potential and be the best they can be.

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