Creating Space for Creative Play and Athletic Development
On President’s Day, we put together our first Sports Day camp. Our goal was to provide a space for athletes to compete in a variety of sports and fun athletic challenges for an entire day. From world cup to spike ball to handball to leadership challenges to goal setting this was a full day of athleticism and teamwork building activities. What did we learn?
Youth athletes are incredibly competitive and engaged while they play in uncoached environments. It was amazing to see the athleticism and the competitiveness. It brought us Fortis coaches back to our youth sports days. The conflicts that arise during a game of handball can be intense! “He took four steps!” “He is wrapping the guy up, that’s a penalty!” The athletes were so engaged you could barely get their attention. And we know that it is when they are engaged that they improve the most!
Youth athletes will “train” for hours if we would just let them! Imagine a set of youth athletes in lines, sprinting up and down the field or ice. Okay, certainly a time and place for it. How long do you think they can do this for and be engaged? Whatever your answer, it is certainly lower than six hours. At our Sports Day camp, athletes competed at high intensity levels for more than six hours. There were almost no breaks. The athletes didn’t want to be bothered – they were training!
Youth athlete need to learn HOW to play in uncoached and unstructured environments. What do you do when an opponent trips one of your teammates? What if the goal is disputed? How do you pick teams? What if the teams turn out to be super lopsided? All of these questions need to be faced in unstructured environments. At first, the athletes in our camp wanted us to solve every single one of these questions. We had to let them know that we were there to monitor, not coach every single game and make sure everything was absolutely “fair”. They had to police themselves a bit. Over the day, they got the hang of it. By the time lunch was finished, they needed no help sprinting onto the field and picking their hand ball teams!
We need to set up more spaces for youth athletes to compete. Imagine if athletes spent ten days throughout the year doing something like our Fortis Sports Day camp? That is at least 60 hours of “training”! Just imagine the athleticism they are developing, the conflict resolution skills they are learning, and best of all, the fun they are having.