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Active play is key in improving your young athlete's performance
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I have often been asked how it is that my kids perform so well athletically. Some have even gone as far as to ask if we train our kids. There is one key ingredient in helping young athletes perform better, and that is active play. - photo by Arianne Brown
As I sat and watched an indoor soccer game where two of my sons were playing on the same team, I saw my 6-year-old dribble through players and make a pass to my 8-year-old, who then scored a goal that would put their team ahead. I cheered loudly, shouting each of my sons names proudly.

Noticing that I was doing a cheer only a mom would do, a parent sitting next to me asked if they were my kids. She then followed up by asking me if I had a personal trainer to help them develop their skills.

This mother went on to point out how quickly each of my sons moved, how good they were with the ball, and even likened them to the Energizer Bunny, who never gets tired.

I smiled and thanked her for the compliment, then told her that my kids didnt go to a personal trainer. Since she knew that my husband and I were both former collegiate athletes, she asked if we trained the children ourselves.

Again, I smiled. "No, we didnt do that, either."

You must have the soccer gene or something, she said.

I always laugh at that one. If you have ever seen me try to kick a soccer ball, you would swear that I had wet noodles for feet.

Then, what do you do to get them to play so well? she asked.

Whenever I am asked this question, my answer is always the same: My kids are always playing together.

As a mother of six, I dont have the money to hire a personal trainer, and I dont have the time or know-how to train them myself. I do, however, have a backyard and a basement, and regularly herd them outside or downstairs to play. And if my husband or I are able, we join in not to critique techniques, but to play along with them.

And its not always soccer. My kids love to play basketball, football, tag, trampoline you name it. If it involves running around, jumping or kicking and throwing things, my kids are all over it.

As simple as it may sound, active play is the main reason my kids have been able to perform well in their sports.

Active play not only teaches teamwork but also helps the body learn to move in ways it would not otherwise be used to doing. It builds muscles, flexibility, balance and stamina. All of these things are key ingredients in any sport, from soccer to gymnastics.

So, if you are that parent who wonders how to improve the skill level of your young athlete, consider sending your child outside to play. Take him or her to the park, or better yet, send the whole family out there and invite the neighbors.

I can promise that you will see improvement on the field.
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