Children will develop at different rates compared to their peers and in our society currently this will impact on the sporting opportunities they will receive throughout their childhood.
It is important for parents, coaches and those associated with youth sports to be aware of this and support all children to participate in physical activities through their childhood and adolescent years.
Biological maturation is an ongoing process that begins prenatally and continues through to approximately the first two decades of postnatal life.
Generally the changes of adolescence takes place between the ages of 11 and 16. However some will experience changes as early as 9 or 10 and others later until 16 or 17.
Children will mature at different rates to their peers (We are all biologically unique – and that’s okay!).
Some children have their growth spurt an an earlier age to their peers.
Children who have their growth spurt later than their peers.
What can be the sporting difference between early and late bloomers?
To put it simply, ‘early bloomers’ have their growth spurt at an earlier age to their peers and generally receive sporting opportunities early because they develop faster. Late bloomers are children who have their growth spurt later than their peers may appear to only be average athletes or lag behind their peers.
It is my opinion that in current youth sporting culture early bloomers may be seen as more ‘successful’ on the sporting field and may enjoy advantages that may continue long after peers have caught up. As a result, a late bloomer will be put at a significant disadvantage in getting the attention of coaches and the playing time they need to develop their skills, and may get so frustrated and discouraged that dropping sport becomes their only option.
It is always disappointing to see children discouraged from participating in team sports and physical activity.
We are responsible for ensuring all children enjoy participating in physical activity and are not discouraged by lack in ‘success’.
Who is a famous ‘late bloomer’?
Possibly the most famous example of a late bloomer is basketball star Michael Jordan.
He was cut from his junior varsity high school team and went on to become one of the greatest players of all time.
How do we encourage ‘late bloomers’ to enjoy participating in physical activity through their adolescent and adult years?
1. Find the right youth sports organisation
Find an organisation that is not segregating players into ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams too early. Some clubs do a great job of providing equivalent levels of coaching and player development across entire age groups for the critical development years through to the age of 13. The longer the organisation waits to place athletes on different squads with varying levels of resources and coaching, the better.
2. Be Patient
Recognise that early sport success is not a great predictor of later success and children’s athletic talent will only become apparent later in their teenage years.
3. Encourage a ‘love for the game’
Seek a sporting environment that is promoting a lifelong love of the game, and is surrounded by coaches that are positive mentors and role models.
3. Educate your child
Help them to understand that it is far more important to develop technique, and that it is highly likely the physical element of success will even out eventually.
Teach them that sport development takes time to master, and help them see areas that they can control to become better, such as skill development, attitude and effort, and not focus on areas they can yet control such as strength or size.
4. Ensure they get adequate practice time
Make sure your child has the opportunity to continue to practice their sporting skills. Motor skill acquisition only occurs if the child has the adequate opportunity to practice.
Perhaps take some time on the weekend with your child to practice.
5. Ensure they get playing time
Kids are discouraged and quit when they don’t get to play.
Being selected in a team and not getting to play is not helpful to a young child’s development, and this often happens with some coaching styles. Make sure your child is a part of an organisation that promotes playing time.
Take Home Message
We need to encourage and support children to participate in sport and not to be disheartened if their peers experience athletic ‘success’ before they do. As children grow at different rates, their ‘success’ within the sporting arena really needs to be considered on an individual basis.
If you would like specific advice to help your child achieve in sport, we work with children as young as 8 years old, and you can book in to see one of our physiotherapists right now, through our simple Online Booking system.