Beginner drills and progressions versus play

One primary societal concern is physical activity, and the lack thereof in children. Everyone has his or her own theory on how to solve the problems of inactivity. However, what if it is as simple as my tweet above?

I never played tennis or golf as a child because entry into those sports required lessons. Nobody would let me golf until I lived in Sweden, and played daily with my host father. Instead, everyone encouraged me to take lessons. I ignored the sports that required lessons because they were boring, did not resemble the actual sport, and limited physical activity.

If you look at the complexity and difficulty involved with youth games such as tag, compared to the initial environment in most sports teams and lessons, children move from a rich, highly complex, self-initiated environment to a sterile, simple adult-led environment that resembles the rest of their school day. When children finish sitting in school listening to teachers lecture for 8 straight hours, they want to play. They want some control. At least I did. When they join a team, and it resembles the school day, does that meet their needs? Instead, they can play a video game without an adult telling them what to do or they can go to a skatepark and avoid instruction and adult interference and just play.

In our rush to make children into professional athletes, or to prevent children from failing, we have created an environment that discourages play for play’s sake, and for those children not ready to train for the Olympics at 8 years-old, this environment has stripped away the fun, the complexity, and the natural learning from physical activity, leaving a large percentage of the population sedentary.

By Brian McCormick, PhD
Director of Coaching, Playmakers Basketball Development League
Author, The 21st Century Basketball Practice and Fake Fundamentals


2 thoughts on “Beginner drills and progressions versus play

  • You make a great point about control. One of the benefits of play is that is initiated by the child which gives them autonomy and purpose. If they enjoy it they will strive towards mastery.
    As Peter Grey points out, they also have the freedom to quit at anytime. From an adult perspective quitting is bad, but from a child perspective it gives them control of the situation rather than being controlled as they are in school and organized sports.

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