Yes, Young Athletes is a foundational sports play program that focuses on gross motor skills. Yet, if we take a moment to think about playing games and participating in sports, we recognize that there are many other skills, besides gross motor, that impact a child’s success. Knowing how to pass a soccer ball relies just as much on making eye contact and understanding that you are working with a teammate, as it does physically kicking the ball. Displaying good sportsmanship is essentially tapping into self-regulation and control. Understanding the rules of how a sport or game is played involves abstract thinking skills.
Offering Young Athletes the opportunity to develop social-emotional and cognitive skills is just as important as teaching gross motor skills. The best way to teach these skills is within the context of a game or sport so that the Young Athlete can generalize the skill, meaning they can apply that skill in many real-life contexts.
Tips for incorporating social skills and self-regulation into Young Athletes activities
- Model appropriate behavior
- Use “out loud thinking” when modeling appropriate behavior (“I am really mad about having to wait but I am going to take a deep breath.”)
- Use specific praise to encourage positive interactions (“I like how you gave your friend a high five when she threw that bean bag.”)
- Use visuals when possible (example: using floor markers for waiting to take a turn)
- Plan partner games for station activities
- Do a small group game while some athletes are working on individual activity stations
- Ask families what skills they are working on and if they have verbal or visual prompts that they are using
- Create a social story for consistent situations that you see arising with a game or activity
- Don’t shy away from conflict. Children only learn socially appropriate reactions and skills if they have the opportunity to do so
Other Games and Activities to Help Teach Social Skills and Self Regulation