Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1403, (26 July - 1 August 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1403, (26 July - 1 August 2018)

Ahram Weekly

The right sports for your child

Mai Samih asks experts how parents can choose the right sports for their children

photo: AFP
photo: AFP

Before choosing a sport or sports, a child starts learning basic physical skills at home and school. He may then find that he enjoys one type of skill, which will then determine the sport he will succeed in. 

“Developing the physical skills of children starts at home by what we call basic skills. These are what a child starts to learn early on, such as rolling over, walking and running until the age of three,” said head of sports and leisure at the Faculty of Sports Education at Helwan University Yehya Mohamed. He added that the role of the family is very important in terms of developing children’s skills in this phase.   

Mohamed said that it was at this time that any problems that could be preventing children from exercising would be apparent, such as physical problems that could be cured at an early stage. Parents should watch out for distortions in children like flat feet, as these could develop if they are not taken to gardens and playgrounds during their first four years.

Professor of sports education in the same Faculty Nabil Hassan said that a child learns physical skills in a gradual manner, adding that there is no particular age associated with each.

“There is no particular sport for each age group. All children of the ages of six to eight can practise sports like mini-basketball, mini-volley, mini-tennis and so on,” he said, adding that the objectives were to develop basic physical skills in children through drama, physical education classes, and other such activities.

However, Mohamed said that there ewre some skills that must be taught at an early age to learn coordination, which is essential for things like swimming and gymnastics. 

“A two-year-old may start learning such sports before even learning to speak. An adult has physical awareness, so he will know how to stop himself falling, for example. A child does not have this awareness, which needs to be developed. Once this happens, everything else will swiftly follow, which is why the average age of a world champion in gymnastics is usually 16,” he said.

A child must enjoy a sport for him to continue practising it. “A child must like the sport he is playing because if he does not he will not continue playing it. A parent should bear in mind what the child wants to do. He should look at what his child’s physical and biological characteristics are good for, as some modern research has demonstrated,” Mohamed said.

“For example, in some foreign countries schools conduct tests to find out the sporting inclinations of each child and whether children can excel. This is because in some cases children practise sports they like, but their physical characteristics are not suitable for them. Practising sport is like choosing food: each person eats the food he likes, but that food must be good for him.” 

Moreover, “children are eager to play and discover from their early years, and these are the years in which they should be encouraged to learn as much as possible. They are hyper-active at this point, so having them practise many types of sports at the same time absorbs their energy,” commented Mohamed. “According to the theory of growth, a child should be in a constant state of movement to grow.”

However, Hassan warns against parents “drowning” their children in sports. “Sometimes when parents make their children practise many sports, it gives the opposite result to what it wanted. This is because a child may suffer from an overload and do more than his body can take. A parent may believe this is a good thing, but it is better for a child to practise one type of sport that is suitable for his physical and psychological characteristics.”

As for the right time to practise sports, Mohamed said that scientists have stressed that the summer holidays are the period in which a child acquires the most physical skills since he has plenty of time to learn them instead of causing trouble at home. 

Hassan agreed that sports can also improve children’s behaviour. “Young people sometimes see violent films on TV and are affected by them. It is very important for a child to practise sports since they keep him out of trouble and assist parents in bringing him up according to our traditions,” he said, adding that people who cannot afford to go to clubs should visit their local youth centres.

Mohamed agreed. “The more we plant good habits in our children, the better, which is why there are 4,500 youth centres in Egyptian villages. However, these centres are mostly run by non-specialists, and they should be provided with equipment so that each child can use them. There should also be records of each child’s achievements. Once he has learned the skills, he can choose a certain sport at his leisure and excel in it,” he said. 

“Of course, the current number of sports sessions at school is not enough; however, there is now a new system that allows a child to practise more sports, like whole-day sports lessons in which there is a competition between children and their peers from other schools organised by the Ministry of Education,” Hassan said.

“In addition, there is extra homework in which children can practise sports in local playgrounds or even youth centres with affordable fees, enabling them to find their favourite sports,” he concluded.

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