4 Games You Should be Playing with your Children for Athletic Development

Being a parent of a child who plays competitive sport is extremely tough and can often lead to the parent asking themselves the following questions:

Are they in the right sport?
Are they with the right team?
Are they with the right coach?
Are they training enough?
Are they improving?

This is where my advice gets a little tough for parents.
If you are leaving every little aspect of athletic development to the coach, you are doing your child a disservice.

Your child might see your coach twice a week, 3 times maximum for most youth sports. So that’s a total of 2-4 hours per week with the sports coach.
Compare that to the rest of the week and there’s a lot of time to forget good habits…especially in an Xbox/snapchat/texting world.

Below is a list of 4 games that I believe will help with youth athletic development without meaning you have to study to become a coach yourself.
I’ll also explain why I chose these games and the skills they will improve.

Bulldog/tig: 🐶
This is a game I play regularly with my younger son’s football (soccer to some of you) team. It’s a great test of true agility as the child responds to a stimulus, in this case a child trying to catch him/her,  by taking evasive action to avoid being caught.  The stimulus isn’t predetermined, meaning there isn’t a pattern to follow so it becomes a true test of agility. 

One last thing, speed ladders or running to various cones in a predetermined pattern does not improve agility. It may improve dance moves though 🕺🏻

Twister: 🔴🔵

Yep, that game we all played in the ‘80s when we were a little more flexible and probably a lot more coordinated.
Possibly the most basic way of improving iso-metric strength whilst not making the child think they are doing ‘gym work’.
A good example of iso-metric strength is a plank. But, in Twister, a better example would be to have each hand and each foot on different colour spots whilst waiting for your next turn.
Unconvinced? Ok, get yourself in the position of the highest part of the push-up. Now hold for 20s. Next, move one of your arms 3 inches forward. Now, lift you left foot up…..getting tough?  Core strength, coordination, proprioception, stability and mobility are all tested here. 

Climbing: 🧗🏻‍♀️

As a parent, I’m totally to blame for sounding like my mum when it comes to my kids being exposed to the slightest of danger.  “Don’t climb up there!”,  “That’s too high!”.

But, we should allow our kids to do some level of climbing.  Walls, climbing frames, trees, things we all did  growing up and maybe got a little scratched knee or elbow from it.

Climbing is primitive, it’s like we all start with this urge to climb stuff. Toddlers see stairs and have to conquer them, infants see slides and race to get to the top, so we should encourage safe climbing.
Grip strength is a big indicator of overall strength.  As well as core strength, mobility and proprioception. 
Surely a strong child is a healthier child?

Running up hills: 🏃🏻‍♂️

A great, easy and cheap tool to use to improve sprinting mechanics and acceleration.
Encourages a positive shin angle (important with acceleration) which helps to improve ground force into each stride and a forward lean in the sprint.
Sprinting uphill forces the child to run in this way so it’s even easy on coaching cues.
With kids, I find the less cues given the better, just introduce activities where the child can learn them in a more organic way.
Keep the number of sprints here relatively low.  As soon as the child starts to slow down, go and play something else that isn’t as taxing. 
Good movement patterns aren’t made in a fatigued state.

With all the boring explanations put to one side, these 4 games are fun, easy to set up, and don’t need a lot of coaching.
Your child’s coach will thank you for it. ✋