BY: Tim Mazer- Altoona Center
Youth soccer often is the first truly organized sport with which children are involved. Focusing on the many benefits of soccer while being smart about safety can make for an enjoyable experience for all.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 60 minutes of daily activity for children. Most of that time should be spent doing moderate to vigorous aerobic activity: for kids who have no health conditions, it should make them breathe hard enough that talking becomes difficult.
Let’s face it, any activity that does not involve an iPad or a gaming system is good activity. However, when kids are simply “outside playing” they may not positively stress their cardiovascular systems enough to see maximum health benefits. Something more structured may help them reach the level of activity necessary to truly improve their physical health.
Soccer involves lots of running and continuous movement. These types of whole-body activities facilitate strength development and improved coordination while being a great source of truly aerobic exercise. Activity of this nature is perfect for promoting cardiovascular fitness and is important in helping kids maintain a healthy body weight. In addition, this gives kids the opportunity to develop healthy fitness attitudes and habits that can last a lifetime.
Being involved in a team sport from a young age can help with social development. Children can learn the importance of teamwork and communication; about leadership and trying their best is; about success and failure.
Of course, safety is an important consideration with any sport, and soccer is no different. Good coaching and some common sense measures can help to minimize soccer injuries. As kids grow and develop, and as they progress within their sports, there are some specific training techniques that can further limit the risk of injury, specifically to knees and other lower extremities. Ask your Drayer physical therapist or athletic trainer about the Successful Knee Injury Prevention (SKIP) program.
So many positives can come from involvement with youth soccer. Now get out there and play!