At most gyms, the two busiest periods are the new calendar year and the new school year. January sees the largest number of adults enrolling as people embark on the fitness regimen that was a part of their New Year's resolutions, while September and October are the times that see the greatest number of children and teenagers sign up because these months coincide with the end of the holidays and the start of school, college and university terms.
At this time of year we get a lot of enquiries from parents who are interested in signing their children up for a new sport. Origin Sports works with several martial arts groups, and naturally many parents are concerned about whether a martial art would be right for their child. Some parents think of martial arts as being too violent for a child, some are concerned about the potential for injury and others are simply not sure whether their small, young or shy child would do well in the class. These concerns are all perfectly normal and valid, and we hope that we can help you to understand more about the classes that our coaches run so that you can make an informed decision about your child's sporting future.
Are Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Good For Children?
As long as they are taught by a well-trained coach, and performed in a safe environment, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) are good sports for children. Wrestling has something of an undeserved poor reputation, especially in the UK and Europe, because when most people think of wrestlers they think of the sports entertainment variety. The sport of amateur wrestling is vastly different to the kind of wrestling that made stars such as Hulk Hogan and Brett Hart.
The sport of Olympic wrestling is something that is commonly taught in schools in America, and it has numerous health benefits as well as helping to teach discipline and team spirit. Wrestling promotes speed, agility, strength and flexibility. Malcolm Morley of the British Wrestling Association notes that children take to wrestling quite well at an early age. Wrestling is an individual sport but practitioners train together as a team, fostering an environment of trust and mutual respect. Training sessions are quite intense and those who become passionate about the sport often find themselves making positive changes to their lifestyle so that they can do the best that they can on the wrestling mats.
Brazilian jiu jitsu does not quite have the same established presence as wrestling for younger athletes, but its popularity is rapidly growing. The movements and techniques taught in children's BJJ classes are different to the ones that are taught to adults. While adults learn a lot of positional control and submission moves, children's BJJ classes focus more on balance, co-ordination and agility. The children's BJJ classes use games to help children develop confidence and to teach them how to fall safely, how to escape from someone attempting to pin them on the ground, and how to control someone on the ground without hurting them. Older children do learn some submission moves, but only once they have shown that they have the co-ordination and the maturity required to do them safely.
The techniques taught to children are ideal from an anti-bullying perspective, and can arm a child with the confidence required to avoid a fight, and the ability to protect themselves without using excessive force, should it be absolutely necessary.
Will My Child Do Well in a Group Class?
While each coach has their own requirements, in general we suggest that parents wait to enrol their children in a kid's class until they can tell left from right. Mature children and teenagers may be welcome to attend adult classes. This is something that you should discuss with the coach of the class in question. Some children do well in the adult classes, but a child that is small for their age or very shy may need to spend some time getting a basic grounding in the kid's class before joining the adults.
Many parents are concerned that their child may struggle in a group class because they are shy, have a short attention span or are not naturally gifted at sports. This is not anything to worry about. It is a good idea to introduce children to sports while they are still young and can learn through play. Their co-ordination will get better with practice, and they will have a chance to bond with their peers, expend some energy, and hopefully learn some new skills. As they get older, their concentration will improve and so will their confidence.
What Can I do to Support My Child?
If you would like to support your child as they get involved with sports, try to learn a little about the sport in question yourself. That doesn't mean that you should sign up for classes or join a team yourself; although you will find that you will be made welcome if you choose to do so. Just take some time to learn the rules of the sport, and talk to the coaches about the skills that your child is learning.
Make sure that your child is having fun in the classes, and do not push your child to train too often or to compete if they are not enjoying it. There will be weeks when your child needs some extra motivation to step away from the TV and come to class, but if you notice that your child is lacking in enthusiasm every week, ask them why, and give them the opportunity to try another sport to see if they might enjoy it more.
Take care not to put too much importance on winning. Sports Psychologist Simon Hartley often talks about pressure and the impact that it has on sporting performance. In an article published in the Podium Sports Journal, he says "Normally, we feel ‘pressure’ when we start imagining what might happen if we don’t achieve the outcome we desire or that we expect. “What if I don’t win?”… “What will the press say?”… “What will the coach say?”… “What will people think?”…" these fears are something that most adults are all too familiar with. Try not to put your child in a position where they experience those fears. Congratulate them whether they win or lose, and let them enjoy the sport for its own sake.
At Origin Sports, we understand that not all parents have the funds to pay for gym fees, equipment, tournament entry fees and transportation. We aim to make sport as affordable as possible and to offer inclusive, affordable and safe access to sport for all. Our youth sports program is just getting started, and we hope to have some exciting updates coming in the next few months.