Mar 19, 2008 - ..Children, Family & Parenting, Health & Fitness    No Comments    1,939 views

Can children be gifted in sports?

Kids ASK! about Health & Fitness

We know that regular exercise is important for a variety of reasons, from being healthy to keeping fit and looking good. However, how important is it for children, who are by nature active and whose muscles have not yet fully developed? How advisable is it to cultivate an affinity for sports and exercise from a young age?

We hear of child geniuses who complete their degrees at the age of 13, or child prodigies who master their instrument at a young age, but seldom do we read of children who are able to compete alongside adults in the sporting arena. This raises the question of whether it is possible for a child to be destined to be great in sport – is sporting excellence an inborn talent or a cultivated skill?

The fact is, unlike mental capabilities which typically define if a child is gifted or has high IQ, sports has largely to do with a person’s physical and muscular development, which, unless the child is Clark Kent, is more a product of nurture than nature.

Some examples of famous sporting personalities who started training in their fields at a young age include Chinese diver Fu Mingxia and golf sensation Tiger Woods. Fu started diving training at age 8 after being deemed too old for gymnastics, and at age 11 won her first gold medal at the Goodwill Games in 1990 in Seattle. Woods on the other hand started playing golf as soon as he could walk and by age 6 had recorded two holes in one.

Then there’s the ugly side of exploiting the young into becoming sporting phenomena. Recently, it was reported that a boy from India became the world’s youngest marathoner after he completed a 65 kilometer run at the age of 4½ in 2006. Human rights bodies questioned whether this constituted child abuse. At the expense of his health, Budhia Singh completed the torturing run and in return gained numerous television advertisements and invitations to tour abroad. His coach claimed he did not pressure the boy and the boy wanted to run on his own, but there can be no doubt of the strain on the child’s little limbs doing a punishing distance that even adults have difficulty with.

With the inaugural Youth Olympics to be held in two years here in Singapore (see ASK blog post on the official announcement), our sporting profile is set to increase further and people should soon have confidence in sports as a viable career option.

For further reading on children and sports, you may wish to check out these publications:

How to teach your baby to be physically superb : birth to age six, by Glenn J. Doman
Publisher : Garden City Park, N.Y. : SquareOne Pub., c2006
Call No. : 649.1 DOM –[FAM]
Description : Explores the early development of mobility in newborns in playing a vital part of their future ability to learn and grow to full potential.

Why Johnny hates sports, by Fred Engh
Publisher : Garden City Park, N.Y. : SquareOne Pub., c2002
Call No. : 796.0830973 ENG -[REC]
Description : In his book, the author argues that children should be allowed to have fun and learn the fundamentals of the game without the pressures of overzealous parents, coaches, and administrators looking to mold the next Ken Griffey or Kobe Bryant.

A running start, by Rae Pica
Publisher : New York : Marlowe & Company, c2006.
Call No. : 372.86 PIC
Description : Young kids can spend their free time finger painting, playing in the sandbox, inventing games, and still turn out to be smart, talented, successful adults. In A Running Start, renowned educational expert Rae Pica looks at the many misconceptions under which today’s parents are laboring. Among them are beliefs that “earlier is better” when it comes to athletics and academics; achievement is more important than play.

Fit Kids : Smarter Kids, by Jeff Galloway
Publisher : Oxford : Meyer & Meyer Sport, c2007
Call No. : 613.7042 GAL -[HEA]
Description : A guide for parents, teachers and youth leaders on how to make exercise fun, with research showing how fit kids learn better and are more successful.

Children’s book of yoga : games & exercises mimic plants & animals & objects, by Thia Luby
Publisher : Santa Fe, NM : Clear Light Publishers, 1998.
Call No. : J 613.7 LUB
Description : Presents six complete yoga workouts designed for children from three to twelve years of age.

Sports Illustrated for Kids : Year in Sports
Publisher : New York : Scholastic, Inc.
Call No. : J 796 SIKYS
Description : An almanac for children for all that they need to know in sports, in the form of handy, concise sports facts.

Peak, by Roland Smith
Publisher : Orlando : Harcourt, Inc., c2007
Call No. : Y SMI
Description : An emotional, tension-filled story of a fourteen-year-old boy’s attempt to be the youngest person to reach the top of Mount Everest.

All websites were last accessed on 19 March 2008. Please check the websites’ homepages for the terms and conditions of use.
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Book summaries were taken from book descriptions listed at and

For the availability of the above book titles, please check the library catalogue.

Galv.JPGPosted by Galvin Soh
Children’s Services

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