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Incorporating Unstructured Free Play into Organized Sports

Barreiro, Joshua A. BSc; Howard, Rick MEd, CSCS*D

Strength & Conditioning Journal: April 2017 - Volume 39 - Issue 2 - p 11–19
doi: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000291
Article

ABSTRACT: PLAY IS AN ESSENTIAL ELEMENT OF POSITIVE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT. YOUTH SHOULD ENGAGE IN ALL 3 TYPES OF PLAY (UNSTRUCTURED, SEMISTRUCTURED, AND STRUCTURED) TO BEST PROMOTE PHYSICAL LITERACY, MOTOR SKILL PROFICIENCY AND MUSCLE STRENGTH, LONG-TERM ATHLETIC DEVELOPMENT, AND FUN. UNFORTUNATELY, HOWEVER, EMPHASIS IS TOO OFTEN PLACED ON STRUCTURED PLAY, SUCH AS PLAYING ON A SPORTS TEAM, POTENTIALLY AT THE EXPENSE OF MOTOR SKILL MASTERY. OVERUSE, INJURY, AND DROPPING OUT OF SPORTS ARE POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF SPORTS SPECIALIZATION. THIS ARTICLE DESCRIBES HOW PLAY POSITIVELY INFLUENCES ATHLETICISM AND LIFETIME PARTICIPATION IN PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND RECOMMENDS HOW TO BALANCE AND INTEGRATE FREE PLAY INTO SPORTS PRACTICE.

1Department of Kinesiology, West Chester University, West Chester, Pennsylvania;

2Department of Health and Exercise Science, Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey; and

3Department of Exercise Science, West Chester University, West Chester, Pennsylvania

Address correspondence to Rick Howard, rihoward41@gmail.com.

Joshua A. Barreiro is a graduate student at West Chester University in the Kinesiology Department and the Director of Make & Move Club, a nonprofit corporation focused on increasing physical activity levels in youth.

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Rick Howard is an Instructor in the Health and Exercise Science Department at Rowan University (NJ) and the Department of Exercise Science at West Chester University (PA), as well as the Director of Fitness at the Wilmington (DE) Country Club.

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© 2017 by the National Strength & Conditioning Association