By Brooke de Lench
When my sons were young, I remember going to their soccer and basketball games and wondering why they were playing with balls that were hard to kick, throw or dribble. I imagined how frustrated I would have been if I had to shoot free-throws with a 20-pound medicine ball, and it gave me some idea of what they were facing.
Not only is playing with a ball that is too big and/or too heavy for their size less fun (in fact, it can be downright intimidating), it can cause kids to develop bad throwing or kicking mechanics; bad habits that may be hard to correct later on.
It is important for children to start off on the right foot when playing sports so they do not immediately become discouraged by their lack of skills. One way to get them off to a good start is with equipment and games that are appropriate for the age and development level.
Studies have consistently found that the primary reason athletes succeed in sports is they love the game, a love affair with sports that comes from learning the sport's most basic skills at an early age. How do they do that? By playing with equipment that is specifically designed for their small size and weight and that can help them learn proper techniques and mechanics, build confidence and have fun.
This is exactly what Spalding has done in introducing its innovative Rookie Gear™ line of basketballs, footballs and soccer balls for kids 4 to 8 years old. Because the balls weigh 25% less than standard youth balls, players are less afraid to catch a pass or go up for a rebound, freeing them up to focus instead on playing and enjoying the game and developing sound fundamentals, skills which will make the subsequent transition to standard sized balls that much easier.
Blind tests with youth athletes around the country have shown that:
Kids using the Rookie Gear™ basketballs rebounded more confidently, dribbled more successfully and shot with dramatically better form;
Players threw Rookie Gear™ footballs 15 percent farther, with better form, and more accuracy than standard Pee Wee balls; and
Rookie Gear™ soccer balls could be kicked 20% farther than standard size 3 soccer balls.
No wonder the new balls are getting such rave reviews. Sam Mutz, Pop Warner Football Commissioner, says that the ease of throwing and catching the new Spalding football, which has been approved for all Tiny Mite and Mitey Mite Play, will have a "great impact on player development and learning the fundamentals of the game."
Sally Johnson, Executive Director of the National Council of Youth Sports, "loves the Spalding Rookie Gear™ initiative. Any time youngsters are given an opportunity to have more fun playing sports while increasing their confidence and improving their fundamental skills, we are headed in the right direction!"
Too bad Spalding Rookie Gear™ balls weren't around when my kids were starting out in sports.
For more about Rookie Gear™ footballs, basketballs and soccer balls, click here.