“The boat is sinking; would you save your mum or dad?” This familiar question has one caveat though: the child must first know how to swim!
Which aptly brings us to the importance of sports in supporting a child’s growth and the development of physical coordination abilities. In this digital era, a quick Google search will bring up zillions of tips and guides on this subject. Good, my job is done here.
But if you are still reading this, then here is my personal and perhaps unorthodox take on why children must acquire these sports skills as early as possible. At the very least, before your next family boat trip.
1. Save a life
Every swimming coach will tell you about how it can improve cardio health, build confidence, strengthen lung capacity, and develop better motor skills. The activity requires physical coordination and mental focus as the child needs to manage her breathing while constantly staying focused on the direction she is headed.
Here is the first “wah lau” (expression of astonishment or amazement in Hokkien). The World Health Organization states that there are more than 236,000 annual drowning deaths worldwide and drowning is among the leading causes of death of children aged 1 to 14.
This means that if your child can swim, she would likely not be part of these stats, and more importantly, she could be the one keeping others from being added to the list as well.
2. Bond with the community
Cycling is the ultimate eye-hand-leg coordination skill at its best. And this was only for me when I was teaching my son Adam to ride a bike. I was watching him like a hawk, my hand pushing him forward gingerly, and my legs trying their best to catch up with bike and kid.
That earlier Google search would have shown you answers like learning to balance, overcoming fear, and facing new challenges. Browsing further, you will learn that the skill also helps to strengthen a child’s cardiorespiratory system, builds muscular fitness, and improves cognitive performance.
The next “wah lau” reason: cycling helped Adam quickly make new friends and forged a bond with our neighborhood community. By having more friends within our residential area and more parents recognizing him (and us), we felt safer letting him zoom around in the evenings. He even started teaching others how to cycle. Of course, mainly because they had much cooler bikes that he could borrow later.
3. Keeping mummy sane
If there is only one sport to teach your child physical coordination, then it is undoubtedly badminton. The demand is high as it involves a total body workout. He will improve his limb coordination, enhance overall flexibility, boost hand-eye coordination, and increase mobility.
This is also a sport that, like chess, trains a child’s concentration, keeps him focused, and triggers his strategic aptitude. He is learning the decision-making process of when to drive long, play at the net, smash, and when to wear down the opponents with boring long rallies that surely put daddy to sleep.
For the third “wah lau”, badminton, in my perspective, is perfect for keeping Adam’s mummy sane. It is one of the few sports that requires no contact with the opponent, unlike cycling or rugby. Even swimming in a crowded pool comes with its own set of dangers. With no chance of being hit, pushed, or tackled by a fellow player, Adam’s mummy only needs to worry about the bruises from those 200 km per hour smashes.
4. Follow instructions and stay with the process
Football requires plenty of running. Through a combination of sprints, jogs, and multi-directional running, children can improve endurance, develop speed, and build better stamina.
Each time she is training or playing a game, she will be jumping, running, and kicking for over an hour. All these exercises promote core strength and improve stability. Over time and repetitions, it will result in stronger bones and a larger area of muscle development for the child.
The fourth “wah lau” is my favorite. Football is a sport filled with instructions from the coach, teammates, referee, and yes, even parents (this last point will require another three-hour discussion). By attending training sessions and playing matches, Adam was able to acquire the ability to listen to coaches, understand the technical demands, and follow instructions.
I am sure the above four “wah lau” reasons are not exhaustive of all the possible justifications of why and how sports can help your child develop better coordination and improve their overall physical growth. Here is where Google may provide you with more information and ideas.
But if you need to bounce off some ideas or just to reach out to a real-life uncle instead of typing away with an automated bot online, then do drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can sing Frozen’s “Let It Go” together while watching your child roll down the bottomless hill on his bike.
Chris is a career adventurer – sounds better than serial job hopper – and an avid sports enthusiast. A least-selling author, a blur photographer, and much-too-polite football coach, he continues to pursue a deeper understanding of children’s development and human behavior.