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Growth and Development of My Child

In this section we discuss some of the key considerations pertaining to children’s growth and development that may influence their sport experience.

Children’s (athletic) development is driven by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The genes a child is born with, the way in which they are raised, the experiences they have, and the environment they are exposed to will all impact on development. Consequently, not all children will develop in the same way and at the same time. Instead, children’s development is often unpredictable, occurring at different times and in different ways. At one moment a child may develop rapidly while at an other moment the child may progress slowly or even drop back. With this in mind, it is important that you remember that your child will develop in their own way and find their own path both within and beyond sport. Understanding your child as an individual and focusing on their personal development will enable them to progress in sport and enjoy their experience.

As well as growth and development impacting on children’s sporting experiences, participation in sport can also impact on children’s development. For instance, sport can foster a child’s motor skills, and support their physical, psycho-social, and cognitive development. However,  sport participation only yields such positive effects when sport is offered in such a way that it matches with children’s developmental level or stage. By understanding how your child develops, you will be better positioned to support and guide your child’s sporting experience. 


Questions about growth and development

What is development and why is it important to understand in sport?

Development is a process that occurs throughout a lifespan. It is the process of change in functioning that occurs as a consequence of both maturation and experience. It is important to understand in relation to sport because children will develop at different rates, which will impact on their sporting ability, as well as their ability to understand coach instructions and interact with teammates among others.

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How will my child physically develop?

Physical development occurs in a dynamic and non-linear fashion, whereby children and adolescents will grow quickly, slowly, nor not noticing much change. Differences in physical development due to maturation can often explain why certain children may appear more (or less) dominant within a sporting environment.

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How will my child cognitively develop?

Cognitive development refers to changes in learning, thinking, and remembering. It is the development of mental activities such as acquiring knowledge and problem solving and it changes substantially throughout childhood and adolescence.

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How will my child develop psycho-socially?

Psychosocial development refers to a child’s developing ability to interact in a social world. Psycho-social development occurs through a number of stages throughout our life, with children’s main relationships shifting from parents/caregivers and family members to neighbours, peers, and friends.

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How can I support my child’s development in and through sport?

Understand that your child is not a mini-adult, rather an individual who is cognitively, physically, and socially developing. Children cannot do everything adults can do so ensuring sport opportunities are developmentally appropriate is critical.

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Resources for Download

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