Sports Modification for Children

Essay by crookseyHigh School, 12th gradeA, July 2008

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Part A: Research 2 adult sports that have chosen to introduce a modified version for children.

Explain the rationale behind the modifications to rules and equipment for each of the modified sports you research Sport is a very important part of the Australian way of life. It is also one of the main ways to help children, young people and adults to keep fit and healthy and avoid experiencing later health problems. Sporting skills and enjoyment learned in childhood build foundations for enjoyment of sport throughout life. Sport is a way of making exercise an enjoyable and social event.

Junior sport covers the ages 5 to 17, which has been identified as the most important time to nurture, educate and simply have fun with sport. The National Junior Sport Policy recommends that children should generally not play organised competitive sport until 8-10 years. If children are started in competitive sport before they are emotionally or physically ready they are likely to experience disappointment and stress and may give up playing altogether.

By playing a modified version of a sport from a young age, individuals can develop skills (physical, emotional and people) for when the time comes that they want to play on a more competitive level without all of the restrictions.

The Australian Sports Commission - Junior Sport recommends that young children participate in modified sport so as to avoid the risk of injury and also to ensure that appropriate skills are developed using equipment that is suitable for young people. There are over 40 sports that have been modified to meet the needs of younger children.

Research conducted by Ballarat University, in partnership with VicHealth, has found that parents are directing their children away from seemingly higher-risk sports and aren’t aware that participation in a modified sport has many safety benefits for their child. Modified sports are a great way to introduce children to sport in a safe and fun way.

Modifications made to sports to make them safer and more appropriate for children include:•Decrease in the size of the playing field /court•Smaller, and sometimes softer playing equipment•Rule changes•Duration of games shortened•Increased use of body protection and/or protective equipment•Team sizes and interchangesModified sport decreases the risk of injury for children by teaching them the correct rules and skills of the sport in a safe and fun environment. This then ensures children continue in sport in the long term through encouragement and an emphasis on fun and enjoyment.

MODIFIED SPORT #1 – MILO Kanga/Have-A-Go CricketMILO Kanga Cricket is a modified form of cricket for young children between the ages of 5-10. Kanga Cricket is intended to help children develop their skills in the game, while having fun, playing outside with their team mates. MILO Kanga Cricket is played with two teams of between six and 10 players with games lasting around one and a half hours. The game was devised so that Aussie boys and girls could enjoy learning the basics of cricket and developing their skills before they reached the stage of competition age groups. It plays an important part in the Junior Cricket Policy of the Australian Cricket Board.

MILO Kanga cricket is a fun way for youngsters to learn about a new game that is seen in Australia as probably the number one sport. By taking into account children’s ability at this young age the program includes huge modifications to the conventional cricket rules as to protect them from injuries (physical, emotional) and other factors.

It is recommended before the game, coaches take players through a series of skills and drills to help enhance their ability and teach them new skills which can be practiced and will help further their development. Each team is split into pairs and bat for 3/4 overs each pair. Scoring is done where if you are dismissed you continue to bat for your full allotted overs, with wickets not having any significance to the outcome. By allowing players to bat for this duration, everyone is getting a fair turn and developing their skills whilst not having the pressure of trying to not get out. If the player doesn’t score on 3 consecutive turns the batsman swap ends to ensure fairness to both batsmen in the amount of deliveries faced. Bowlers bowl one over of 6 balls each with no sundries rebowled as to keep the game moving. The field is set up in a circular shape where at the end of each over, players rotate clockwise one position to enable them to try out every position on the field and kept on their toes as to not lose interest in the game. Players are not allowed to stand within 10m of the bat as a safety precaution incase a ball is hit at them. This is because players are still developing and their reactions may not be sharp yet and they may not be able to get out of the way in time. Being hit by a plastic ball at speed would most likely only cause a bruise at the most but necessary steps are taken to try and prevent this.

The equipment used in this form of the game is specially designed for this common purpose and consists of items that are all made out of plastic to prevent injuries/accidents and also to simplify the game. With there being a plastic ball, there is no need for players to wear protective equipment (gloves, pads, helmet etc) that can be quite costly and a hassle for them to put on and off in such a fast manner that Kanga cricket requires. The plastic bats are a hard plastic that is hollow as to make the bat lift very light and easy for the children who are in a rapid state of growth and may not as of yet be capable of lifting a full size willow bat. The pitch that games are played on varies and can be any reasonable flat surface (asphalt, grass, concrete, indoor, Astroturf). The length of the pitch itself is shortened so that players who are in a stage of developing their bowling action are able to make the length without the ball having to roll the length of a full pitch. Boundaries are reduced to a max of 35m so that they are a possibility and to reduce the overall dimensions of the field to protect fielders from exhaustion or having vast spaces.

As with any sport, the umpire is the person responsible for regulating game play and may be the coach or another parent volunteer. Children learn to respect the umpire's decisions and spectators remain positive. It should be remembered that many decisions will be based on the game rules, but also a degree of discretion, exercised to encourage the players and their development. In most cases benefit of the doubt is handed to the batsman on any dubious decisions, especially run-outs. That is there are no stumpings or LBWs that could make the player upset that they believed they were not out causing too much conjecture and having the youngsters morale drop and lose interest in the game.

Scoring is done by a coach/parent; however any system to confirm a winner and loser is not to be used. Coaches, players and parents are to focus on the positive aspects of their skill development (e.g. they lost less wickets this week or running between the wickets was improved) and not on winning or losing. This helps lift players morale and give teams the ability to set goals for each game without having to outperform the other team.

Through the MILO brand, Nestlé is the principal sponsor of junior cricket development programs in Australia which encourage kids to get active. They not only encourage children to participate but to live a healthy life through a good diet and following such guidelines whilst playing as being sun safe, drinking plenty of fluids and following the players’ code of conduct for fair play.

MODIFIED SPORT #2 – AuskickAFL Auskick rules games are heavily modified at the early age levels. As children proceed through middle to later age levels, less modification occurs until by age 13, the standard rules are recommended. The rules are modified to ensure the emphasis is clearly placed on skill development, safety and enjoyment.

The AFL Auskick rules are designed to ensure that participation in the game falls within the developmental philosophy of the program. The AFL Auskick policy was designed by leading AFL experts in an attempt for there to be an available introduction into Aussie Rules. The main objectives of this modified version were:•Be fun and safe.

•Be designed specifically to maximise participation, skill learning and development.

•Be based upon rules and procedures appropriate to the children involved.

•Involve appropriately accredited coaches.

•Provide a logical, sequential transition from introductory level through to competitions at club and/or school.

•Be managed by the community.

The Auskick policy outlines the use of smaller player areas, reduced game length and suitably modified equipment (smaller balls, protected goalposts) to take the emphasis away from endurance and allow for children to experience their first taste of the game and enhance skill development. Smaller grounds are appropriate as it reduces the amount of vast space, in which at early levels is evident when players tend to run around in a pack until they develop a better understanding of the game. It also helps players to concentrate on the game, as the ball is never too far away.

Smaller sided teams are also used in AFL Auskick. This allows individual players to have more frequent and longer contact with the ball. This is useful as it helps young players develop confidence in their abilities without having players dominate. It also allows for grading and matching of opponents and teams. With fewer players, play is more open, even when played on a reduced size oval. Because of the openness of the game and the fact that fewer players are contesting the ball at once, marking and picking up skills can be better developed. Also having reduced numbers ensures fields are not too over crowded which can result in unnecessary injuries through accidental collisions.

In the interest of their players’ learning and development, Auskick coaches are encouraged to make changes in one–sided games to create a reasonable contest. Usually one-sided games result in little learning or enjoyment for either team, or their individual members, and they do not achieve AFL Auskick objectives. This is a major cause in sport of children who choose to drop out because they have played in a side that has frequently lost and they have minimal morale or confidence as they have never learnt about accepting losing. Recommended changes include ensuring good matching of players, different rotations, etc.

Auskick uses zones that restrict ‘pairs’ of players to an area and thereby prevents ball-chasing and subsequent congestion where all players congregate around the ball. The zones start the players thinking about their positioning on the ground prior to being allowed the freedom to move wherever they wish as will be the case later. Zones also enable groupings of players of similar size and ability to play within a zone. In general play, zones are not intended to lose continuity of the game.

Auskick encourages children to experience playing in a variety of positions. The rotation of players through different positions and the interchange bench enables the development of a solid foundation to all skills and adds variety and interest to a game. This help players become accustomed with the basic positions of the game and helps them learn basic rules in the sport.

Instead of having boundary throw-ins, a free kick is awarded to the opposite team where the ball leaves the play. The fact that there are no boundary throw-ins means that the number of opportunities to kick the ball is increased, congestion is reduced and the ball is kept in motion.

Auskick rules aim to provide players with the best possible conditions to learn, develop and improve their kicking and handballing by reducing the congestion and pressure on the player in possession. It is because of this that there is no tackling in younger ages until around the under 12s. This is because it allows the players to develop evasive skills and be less likely to incur injury. Similarly contests for possession (scrapping, stealing) are phased in as player skills develop.

Auskick policy of marks being awarded over any distance is designed to reduce congestion and to encourage players to attempt to catch the ball. It also recognises that many youngsters cannot kick the ball over 10 metres. Also players are restricted to one bounce when in possession of the football toprevent players running excessive distances with the ball. This furthermore encourages disposal skills and team play.

Order off rules and distance penalties are normally used to reinforce the spirit of the game. They are generally invoked for such things as bad language, poor sportsmanship, disputing umpires’ decisions (order off) and hindering opposing players who have been awarded a mark or free kick (distance penalties). These are only used in severe cases where the habits start becoming persistent and detrimental to others enjoyment of the game.