I have trained, lectured and mentored athletes from different backgrounds, colors, races, countries and across different age groups, kids, teenagers, and adults. Interestingly, in my experience as an athlete, not so many moments can be compared to being able to pass on knowledge to the little ones. Perhaps it’s the pureness of their hearts, maybe it’s their ignorance and naivety, I never seem to understand. They are the most difficult to teach, at the same time the easiest. However, one thing is certain, they are always willing to learn.
It is imperative that a large amount of attention be paid to kids, especially between the ages of 3 to about 9. That is a very crucial period in which the information they process could determine the direction in which their careers in life go. According to a report by The American Academy of Paediatrics, kids between 3 to 5 years of age do not have the needed motor skills required for organized sports. Hence, the kids who fall under this category are often taken through training sessions with basic fun activities like running, swimming, and catching. As they get to the age of 6 and 7, they begin to develop the basic motor skills essential for organized sports. By this time, they already have certain sporting knowledge that aids their development. Hence their motor skills develop in line with the knowledge they are already exposed to. In most cases, kids who are exposed to certain sports early enough, often progress further in their career than kids who are exposed much later on.
In our part of the world, we need to begin to shift some focus in scouting for talents while they are still very young. Recently, during one of my meetings with top officials within the NFF (Nigerian Football Federation), I learned that, although not a criteria set by the regulatory body, the football academies in Nigeria normally begin to recruit young talents from the ages of 10 and above. I expressed my concern and informed them about the benefits of paying close attention to kids below the age of 10. There will be a significant progress in the sports industry in Nigeria and other African countries if prospects are spotted earlier on in their career.
Finally, It is important that knowledge is not forced or imposed on these kids, it is important that they are properly educated and guided with the right kind of knowledge. Enough knowledge that will enable them to take the best possible decisions for themselves as they grow, rather than decisions or choice of career being forced on them.