It’s All About Fun, The Games Should Be For Kids

From the Singapore TODAY Newspaper, by Low Lin Fhoong

Thursday March 5, 2009

THE battle to top the medal standings at last August’s Beijing Olympic Games captivated the world, with the hosts eventually topping the table with 51 gold medals to end the Americans’ dominance from 1992 to 2004.

The medal race will surely be closely watched when the Youth Olympic Games is held here from Aug 14-26 next year, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have opted to move the emphasis towards a balance of sport, culture and education.

The inaugural Youth Olympiad will see over 3,500 athletes aged 14 to 18 years, from over 200 countries, competing in 201 events across 26 sports.

For teachers like Dr Jean Cote (picture), professor and director at Queen’s University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, it is a welcome move for youth sports development.

“There is a tendency to get the kids specialising in sports earlier, causing problems with more injuries, burnout and dropouts,” said the Canadian, a visiting professor at the National Institute of Education’s Physical Education and Sports Science department under the EW Barker Professorship. “Medals should not be so important. If it’s done in the spirit of teaching kids these values, then it’s a great idea.”

Cote, 43, delivered a presentation on positive youth development through sport at the Singapore Sports School yesterday.

He said studies have shown that, to prevent burnout, it is better that children aged between six and 12 play four to eight sports, before choosing one to focus on in their early teens.

China may have enjoyed tremendous success by starting athletes from as young as five years old, but Cote warned: “In China, with table tennis, there are so many kids so they don’t care about the dropout rate.

“For countries like Singapore, focusing on getting young kids to play different sports is more efficient and a better pathway. “The problem with youth sports today is that it’s over-professionalised, in terms of coaching and the number of hours in training, and the element of enjoyment is lost as a result.”