What do Jarome Iginla, Tim Tebow, Elvis Stojko and Ester Ledecka all have in common? Other than being stars in hockey, American football, figure skating and snowboarding respectively, they also excel in baseball (Iginla and Tebow), martial arts (Stojko) and alpine skiing (Ledecka won gold in both disciplines in the 2018 Winter Olympics!).

These are a few examples out of many that show that developing a wide range of skills in multiple athletic disciplines has benefit across the board. By exposing children to different movements in different contexts, we help them develop stronger muscles and joints through varied direction changes and dynamic movements, increasing strength and durability therefore leading to reduced injury risk through adolescence. On the flip side, when children and youth specialise in a single sport too early, we see an increase in injuries from repeating the same movements and drop out rates increase. The key to all of this is creating appropriate activities for children based on their development, and not on skill or chronological age.

The benefits of engaging in multiple athletic endeavours are not limited to just physical attributes. Between the ages of 11 and 14, children begin to understand consequences to their actions, develop leadership, persistence and identify strongly with peer groups which can lead to trying things they wouldn’t do alone. Providing a safe, fun, welcoming, inclusive setting allows them to explore these developmental milestones as well as developing an awareness of tactics, decision making processes, communication with teammates and many other cognitive processes that can be enhanced through diverse experiences.

At Training Tigers camps, we achieve this through offering opportunities to engage in a wide range of sports and physical activities. There are the more well-known activities such as basketball and soccer, where the emphasis is on skill development and fun, as well as lesser known activities such as orienteering, cricket and Para-sports such as wheelchair basketball and Boccia.

PISE Play Leaders, as active adult role models, pave the way for increased motivation for kids to participate in and experience many different activities throughout their life by providing a combination of activities that children are confident in, and exposure to new activities in fun, engaging ways.. It is equally important that the experiences at this age develop an understanding of values and the dynamics of social interaction within a rule based game.

~Chris Wright is Physical Literacy Coordinator at PISE and proud father of a beautiful, little girl. He is in charge of all of the fabulous kids programs, summer camps, teacher mentorship and much more.