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GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT

Children are not just smaller versions of adults. They have very particular needs and capabilities. One of the major issues in children's sport is a lack of knowledge on the part of coaches and parents about how children grow and develop. This ignorance places unrealistic expectations on the child and often causes them to give up the sport.

Good coaches know and understand the many changes that take place from child to adult and structure their coaching to best suit the needs of the young athlete.

There are clear stages that children pass through from birth to adult. Girls generally mature before boys.

Physical Development
Physical growth is obviously important to performance There are important changes in body size and proportions. These changes affect the way children can perform different skills and activities.

There are four characteristic stages of growth from birth to adult:


Rapid growth in infancy and early childhood Slow, steady growth in middle childhood Rapid growth during puberty Gradual slowing down of growth in adolescence until adult height is reached

Patterns of Growth - Changes in Size

Patterns of Growth - Changes in Proportions


The head is proportionally large and the legs proportionally short during childhood. At birth the head is one quarter of the length of the body .

The legs are about one third the length of the body at birth and one half in the adult.
Because the body proportions change this means that not all of the body segments grow by the same amount.

Patterns of Growth - Changes in Proportions

These changes in body proportions will have a great influence on how skills will be performed. For example, changes in the relative size of the head in childhood affects the balance of the body during movement and the relative shortness of the legs in the very young limits running ability. At the beginning of puberty children have long arms and legs. They are better suited for running but the rapid growth may make them appear to be clumsy and to have difficulty in coordination.

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Growth Spurts

When the rate of growth increases rapidly it is called a growth spurt. The most important growth spurt is the one which occurs at puberty. This spurt produces a rapid increase in both weight and height The peak of this growth spurt occurs at about age 12 for girls and age 14 for boys.

During growth spurts most of the child's energy is used for growing. Children will be easily tired and may not be able to keep up their usual volume or intensity of training.

Differences Between Boys and Girls


Girls usually start and finish the stages of puberty and adolescence earlier than boys. Typically, this results in broader shoulders and little change in hip width in boys and broader hips and little change in shoulder width in girls. These changes affect the way boys and girls move. Wider hips in the girls result in the thighs being angled more inwards which changes their running action.

Knowledgeable coaches prepare their female athletes before the changes at puberty.. This period of adjustment can take up to two years. Patience and encouragement from the coach during -this time will be of most benefit to the young woman.

The sexual development which happens at puberty can bring physical difficulties for adolescent children, as well as causing them mental and emotional preoccupation. Coaches need to be particularly understanding with girls when menstruation begins.

Early and Late Developers


Each child develops at their own rate and some children develop earlier and some later than the average. Early success may be due entirely to relative size and strength at the time.

On the other hand, the late developers are frequently overlooked if they are judged only on their performances.

Structure of the Body


The changes in size and proportion are the easily observed signs of development. They are the result inside the body of changes to the skeleton. The skeleton of a child is mostly cartilage, which is softer than bone and can bend. These growth areas in the bone are the weakest part of the bone. They can be easily injured by a sudden force or a repeated force. Once the body stops growing the growth regions become bone and are no longer weak areas.

Children and Exercise


Children do not breathe as slowly or as deeply as adults. The average six year old child breathes in 38 litres of air to get one litre of oxygen. The average 18 year old needs only to breathe 28 litres of air to get one litre of oxygen. This means that the younger the athlete the harder their bodies must work to provide the oxygen their muscles need. .

Implications for the coach

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Think about growth stages rather than ages Think how changes in physical proportions will affect performance Help children understand the changes taking place in their bodies Set standards of performance according to developmental age not chronological age Group children according to physical development, using height and weight as a guide Encourage skill learning for all your athletes, late developers could be very successful later A void weights before adolescence