Every child physically matures at his or her own rate and has a different degree of athletic ability. No amount of training can improve a child's natural athletic ability, but training helps improve coordination and therefore performance.
Early training should emphasize proper technique and basic movement skills in all sports, especially in children younger than 10. Podiatric physicians, specialists in treating the lower extremities, say children who concentrate on a single sport at too young an age are more likely to develop injuries of the foot and ankle. Save specialization in sports for the late teens, they advise.
Warming up before participating in sports is more important for adults than children, but it helps loosen the muscles and prevent injuries in athletes of all ages. Light jogging and smooth stretching exercises (be sure not to bounce when stretching) are all that's necessary for young athletes. Learning to stretch at an early age will set a good pattern for sports activities as the body develops.
Copyright 2008, American Podiatric Medical Association, Inc.