Sport is amazing. There is nothing else quite like it as brings whole nations together, lifts people up in times of crisis and improves physical and mental wellbeing.
The recent Covid-19 pandemic has only highlighted the importance of being active as the country only left their houses for daily exercise – this was the highlight of the day. It also made us realise just how much we miss and took for granted the activities that our children would take part in, especially as a way for them to burn off all that endless energy! I run Leapfrog Sports, which specialises in multi-sports classes for children aged 2-7 years old where children are given the opportunity to have fun, develop a love of sport and be active through playing a different sport each week. The classes gave children time to run, jump, laugh and play with other children all while building confidence and learning new skills until they came to a sudden stop. Online classes were great and offer another option BUT the interaction with the coaches, friends in the class and in particular to sport, the teamwork element is not the same online and many children did not want to interact through a screen.
Covid, as for many other illnesses, also gave us a wake-up call with regards to being a much higher risk if you are overweight. The government has just released a new strategy to tackle the obesity crisis in the UK to get the nation fit and healthy, protect themselves against Covid-19 and protect the NHS. Key to combating obesity is being active and starting this from a young age with fun sports classes that children want to attend, sets children on a lifelong journey towards being healthy as there is overwhelming evidence that a child’s experiences and habits formed during their early years lays down a foundation for the rest of their life and impacts on health as adults.
The Chief Medical Officers’ guidance for children under 5 who can walk on their own is that they should be physically active every day for at least 180 minutes (three hours) spread throughout the day. Nurseries and in particular schools are often unable to give children enough opportunity to be active and sadly, it is something that is frequently seen as secondary to other subjects but due to the importance of physical activity on children’s wellbeing, this should be treated as a core subject as it can compliment and improve children’s academic results and just like in our classes can be combined for example with counting.
So, where does this leave the future of children’s sports activities and specifically multi-sports? It may feel like it is never going to return to how it was before but I believe it is only going to get better! Parents now can truly see the value and when they weren’t able to attend, how much their children loved and missed sports classes and due to the focus on being fit and healthy the importance these classes will have on their children’s lives and development. After lockdown parents want their children to get out and be with other children, have the opportunity to run around, learn new skills that aren’t being taught by their parents and try different things. Especially as they may not achieve and build the skills they need just from going to school and nursery and so need specialists to help teach their children.
Multi-sports are particularly good as by practicing a variety of sports from tennis, volleyball, football, athletics to rugby children develop a huge range of skills and don’t become bored! By playing different sports children build fundamental movement skills which are the building blocks of being active; they underpin every movement that we’ll make throughout our lives. Children need to be taught these skills and given opportunities to practise them with the optimal period for introducing fundamental movement skills in the early years.
If children are encouraged to focus on one specific sport, the opportunity to learn all these essential skills is gone – how will they learn different throwing techniques just by playing football? By jumping ahead to sports specific skills and missing out this essential area of development, children will be disadvantaged and it is difficult to develop these skills in later life. Meaning they may not want to take part altogether with a dislike towards exercise for the rest of their lives.
Multi-sports also helps to show what sport children really enjoy – it doesn’t have to be football or dance! There are such a range that every child can be successful at one sport.
This understanding of the benefits of multi-sports rather than just one sport for young children, along with supportive coaches who build children’s confidence and self-esteem in a non-pressured environment through safe, professional companies with the highest of standards, like those we pride ourselves on at Leapfrog Sports, mean parents can trust and feel confident that they are doing the best for their children by attending activity classes and so demand for these classes at these type of companies will only increase.
As we are starting to reopen, enquiries are coming in and this shows to me that the future of the sector is bright – and active!