I was doing some work around the house tonight when my good friend Joe Hanson called me. Joe always calls me to talk Athlete Development and we get into some pretty good discussions. Tonight he called because his High School’s football team just ended their spring practice with a scrimmage against another local team. Joe coaches at a small Christian School (translate: mostly white) and they played a team made up of mostly black players. Joe’s question to me was “Why are their kids so much faster and quicker than our kids?”
Now I am not a scientist but I do have some opinions on this. I can’t speak really well about the genetics, but I do think that, at least to some extent, they do play and a part in this. However, I think a bigger factor is culture. Go to a basketball game where blacks kids are playing and they are all expected to handle the ball and run the floor. At a game where the kids are white, you get the ball and outlet it to a guard and, especially if you are a big kid, they don’t care if you ever get down the floor. They don’t want you handling ball.
Black kids are expected to do run fast, have rhythm, jump high, be able to dance and such things. They see this all the time and the mirror neurons in the brain allow you to mimic these actions. ( Bill Hartman: Please write a blog on mirror neurons). White kids aren’t expected to do all of this. The expectation is that they are slower, non rhythmic, can’t dance and can’t jump. Is there any wonder why there is a difference?
This is why free play is so important. In free play, you get to try things without the fear of being yelled out or taken out of the game because of a mistake. Nobody tells you what you can or can’t do. In free play, if you are 5’6 and weigh 300 lbs, you can still be a wide receiver and defense back. You learn to run and catch and make moves which will help you become a better athlete later on. The kids become fearless to new things an situations and aren’t afraid of failure . These different movement experiences are what creates athleticism. This is athlete development at it’s finest. No expensive gyms or toys needed. Just let the kids play.