Even though our Coaching Services and articles here at FasterSkier.com may seem to focus on master and elite skiing, we are also involved in coaching children and youth. Using the knowledge of the growing child's developmental stages is critical in fostering a lifelong interest in skiing, and optimizing their enjoyment and potential.
It is human nature to care about our children and the quality of their childhood. As parents we constantly read, learn and implement what the “experts” say is good for your child and its development, or what we ourselves feel is important for our child to participate in or learn about. As educated coaches we also have strong opinions of how children should be “coached”.
Ages 8 – 12 – More than learning to ski
It is known that ages 8 – 12 are optimal in terms of developing and learning motor skills. The body’s nervous system, which controls our muscular movements, is nearly fully developed (90 – 95 %) at age 10. The combination of an almost fully developed nervous system and a small and light body is optimal for learning new skills. It is therefore important to include and practice many and different physical activities at this age, such that a broad all-around foundation of motor skills and coordination can be developed. Broad and varied movement-skills have shown to be optimal in terms of further development and specialization later in life.
We all also know that children love to play and have fun, and that it is through play and games that they best develop social and physical skills and learn how to tackle challenges.
It is through these two basic principles that we as coaches should build youth ski programs. The sessions should be planned such that they develop all-around skills, such as reaction, rhythm, balance, speed and flexibility. We should prioritize all-around skills over specialized skills. For example, it is not beneficial to teach specific techniques at this age, but rather let the skiers find out on their own (often through designed activities and games) what the most efficient ways of moving or skiing is. It is also very important at this age to foster creativity, initiative and self-confidence. Some of the coaches’ and instructors’ goals should reflect such priorities; we want:
– to create activities that the children enjoy
– to create an environment where the children enjoy themselves
– to forget measured results and other typical “adult” principles
– to find each child’s ability level
– to focus on the process – “we will have fun here and now!”
– to build the program’s content such that having fun creates a need for learning more
Editor’s Comment: If you would like to learn more about how to optimize your training or coaching, please check out John Aalberg and Torbjorn Karlsen’s Coaching Services (click on their advertisement banner on www.fasterskier.com or www.torbjornsport.com home pages for detailed information).