I come from a fighting background, and part of my experience when I was a young fighter was watching very young children training, at that point in karate. Apart from pure karate skills, I could see that that they were learning much, much more.
The children were also building a great circle of friends, developing listening, learning focus, concentration and discipline, all important life skills. This early experience, I suppose, was the basis of me ultimately being so passionate about young children joining a sport and benefiting from all the positives that would be carried through into adolescence and adulthood.
I was very fortunate to be part of the England Boxing coaching team at Crystal Palace, where my very first session included a very young Amir Khan. What was very clear to me even then was that many of the boys who were part of the young England team came from what you might call disadvantaged backgrounds. When I started to chat to the other coaches, it became obvious that many of the young men had found positive focus in their lives through finding a sport such as boxing. It’s widely accepted now that sport can keep young children focused and on the ‘straight and narrow’. Boxing definitely plays a part in this process in my opinion, and so does many other sports.
Apart from the skills that can be learned through a commitment to sport, there are many other benefits which affect the body and the mind in a major way. Sport and exercise will build and maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints, and through physical activity weight control will be experienced as well.
We now know that sport and exercise can have a very positive effect on a young child’s thinking and emotions and can be a big contributor to mental health as well as physical. Personality and self-esteem can be massively influenced by sport, and this self-development is an important part of growing up. It ultimately helps to form the personality and character you will possess as an adult.
I believe that the main benefits of joining a sport early in childhood can be seen well into adulthood. If you join a sport as a child, there is a much higher chance that you will enjoy a healthier life as an adult; there has been a lot of research in this area.
The passion I have developed through my coaching has led me to encourage as many young children to take part in some form of sport as possible. If you have children, or grandchildren, and they are not involved in a sport yet, my advice is to look at how you can get them involved. There are many sports to choose from, and many of them do not cost a lot to get involved with.
There’s a sporting life waiting for your children. They may just play for fun, or who knows, maybe you might be nurturing an Olympian?
Nino Severino – Learn Play Grow founder