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Kids should be focused on general development

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The concept of general physical preparation for kids is gaining ground over sport-specific training.

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The concept of general physical preparation for kids is gaining ground over sport-specific training. Photo Store

I make a living helping people get stronger and healthier. So it can be surprising for some people to hear that I don’t consider myself athletic.

This stems from my experiences in physical education class and playing team sports as a child. Though I was a fast runner, a good jumper and relatively strong for my size, I hated gym class. All we ever did was learn the rules and skills related to some arbitrary sport that meant nothing to me at the time.

Plus, I was quite concerned that my phys-ed grades would adversely affect my high school average and my chances at getting into the university I wanted.

Things have come full circle. Now I help physical education teachers spot good movement. I do this because I feel we are headed down a dangerous path, one that emphasizes sport-specific skills at the expense of general physical preparation for our youth.

It is not uncommon to see children playing a single sport all year round, often as young as five or six years old. It is also more and more common to see these children being seriously injured due to repetitive stress injuries.

Often these are injuries that could easily have been prevented if the child had been strong enough or athletic enough in the first place, or if the child had a bit more variety in his or her physical activity. When a child’s ability to take a slapshot or throw a curve ball becomes more important than running, jumping and playing there is a problem.

Not all children will play team sports but all children need to learn how to move well.
This means working on basic skills like squatting, pushing, pulling and jumping. A child who learns how to move well will have the opportunity to try many sports and choose the one he or she likes, instead of being relegated to being that kid who always gets picked last in the school yard.

What we need for kids is less emphasis on win-lose sports and more emphasis on general physical preparedness.  

GPP stands for general physical preparation, which means basic athletic conditioning.

GPP aims to develop all facets of physical skills, from strength to cardio to agility and balance. Focusing on these general physical skills prepares a young athlete for virtually any sport and it significantly reduces the incidence of sport-specific injury due to repetitive strain.

For everyone, but particularly for kids, it is essential that we focus on general athletic development first, and train the entire person not one part at a time.

Tania Tetrault Vrga is owner and head trainer at CrossFit Winnipeg. Send questions to her at www.crossfitwinnipeg.com

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