Paleoanthropologists have discovered as many as 27 different human species have been in existence. Neanderthals and Homosapiens coexisted for a period . Neanderathal children entered adult life as soon as possible so that they could breed young and learn to provide for the community while homosapiens over the course of many generations , aided by evolution , inserted an extra six years between infancy and pre-adolescence ie CHILDHOOD— This was the game changer !
How is it possible that by lengthening the time between birth and procreation that we homosapiens outlived all other human species?
During those early critical childhood years our brain wires and rewires itself ,recording , encoding our experiences, laying the foundations for who we are ,developing our diversity and our CREATIVITY..We learnt to think creatively , develop soloutions , invent new weapons , cooperate ( teamwork) and communicate better as we developed language , an essential element in developing a culture.
In a recent interview Professor Grant Schofield, director of AUT University’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition New Zealand said studies showed unstructured play was critical to developing the prefrontal cortex a part of the brain that helps people to understand risk and control impulsivity and emotion.
“Children need to ‘unplug’ and venture into the backyard to let their imagination run wild. Let them take some risks. Let them make mistakes. This is how they will learn …… an over-reliance on structured activities such as sports training is causing problems”.
The prefrontal cortex is also essential in developing creativity.This is where you generate and evaluate your ideas. In short , lack of play can deny children an activity that is essential to healthy brain developed .Last year a group of neuroscientists from the Karolinska Institute found a link between ” executive functions” and success in football. Our executive functions ,especially problem solving get called into action regularly on the football pitch ,Neuroimaging studies have showen that these activities take place within the prefrontal cortex.
As coaches we have a duty to ensure that the young footballer is allowed to experience the game in an enviroment that enables them to match up to the needs of the game that suit his/her stage of development. When the young player is playing the game, multitasking ( working their technique, decision making, movement, awarnss, perception etc ) they light up an area of the brain that saved our species from extinction.
Dont coach against hundreds of thousands of years of evoloution.
LET THE KIDS PLAY.