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Athlete Development

Nurturing a child's sporting development

Here are our collated top 10 tips to nurture and support a child’s sporting development.

This page provides evidence-based advice on how to best facilitate a child’s sporting development.

When considering these tips or recommendations, it is important to match your expectations with a child’s developmental status and their motivation for participating in sport. Children often play sport for fun and social reasons, competitive and performance-orientated reasons or a combination of all these factors. Nurturing a love of playing sport at any level has many benefits. Remember this is just the start of their lifelong journey enjoying sport.

Well-intentioned individuals often exhibit the traits of a ‘bad sport’ because they simply lack better guidance. Parents, family members, coaches and teachers are recognised as critical support agents for a children’s sporting future. Guidance, support and behaviour during a child’s formative sporting years can positively influence their sporting journey, enhance your own enjoyment of sport and foster an enriched bond between you and a child.

For a positive, fun and nurturing experience of sport, individuals must remain positive, regardless of the result, and stay realistic in their shared expectations to avoid putting pressure on the child. You can greatly assist a child’s development by providing a strong and positive role model and upholding integrity and respect.

Don’t forget the fundamental movement skills!
Nurture a full range of movement skills including kicking or hitting a ball, running, jumping, climbing, balancing and basic aquatic skills.

Deliberate play
Deliberate play promotes movement problem solving, creativity, diversification, variability and adaptability of skills, self-challenge and mastery

Family support
Family and friends are instrumental to sporting skill development and later sporting expertise.

Age-modified sport formats and equipment
Children should participate in modified versions of a sport that are appropriate to their age, size and skill level.

Sport sampling
Encourage children to try a few sports. This will help the development of a full range of sporting skills, coordination and control.

Smart practice
The quality and type of practice is more important than simply how much you do it and make sure it’s challenging and fun.

Observational Skills
Children learn many behavioural responses such as reaction to failure or how to respond to a coach or referee from their parents, their siblings, peers and sporting idols.

After the game, ask the child: ‘what felt good today?’ or ‘what do you think you could improve on for next time?’

The 'sport-ready athlete'
Get a healthy sport-life balance. Get an understanding of the role that good nutrition, hydration, rest and recovery, plays in the child’s sporting life.

Right coach and club fit
Find a sporting club that provides products and services including quality coaching, that focus on fun and participation regardless of skill level and ability.

The above tips are in accordance with best practice specific to the foundational levels of the Foundation, Talent, Elite and Mastery (FTEM) athlete development framework which is informed by contemporary research and practice.

FTEM is a user-friendly framework of sport development, representative of the ‘whole of sport’ pathway which includes active lifestyle activities, recreational and high performance sport. Common to all three outcomes is a strong foundational base of development and life-long participation in sport (F1, F2 and F3).

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