Let’s Go Retro: The Benefits of “Free Play”
“Free play.” I haven’t heard that term since my days at summer camp. However, it is a term we should to add back into our vernacular, and this especially rings true for young athletes.
Several studies have recently shown that young athletes who engage in “free play” are less likely to suffer a sports-related injury. In today’s day and age, many teens now focus their efforts on one single sport and play it year-round. However, research demonstrates that these single-sport athletes are less likely to engage in “free play” or recreational sports. Research continues to demonstrate that participating in a variety of sports – competitive and/or recreational – can help prevent sports-related injuries. This may be due to building up resistance in muscles that aren’t regularly engaged by playing just one particular sport.
How can you or your child incorporate “free play” into the daily routine?
- Warm up for your sport de jour by working other muscle groups or engaging in other “sports.” For instance, take to the tennis court and hit a few balls before swim practice.
- Partake in a recreational game or activity to spice things up. Shoot hoops with friends or take a cardio-kickboxing class.
- Team up with a friend and share your athletic interests. If you have a friend that’s an avid runner and you are an expert softball player, teach each other a thing or two. Head for the running trails one morning and the next day visit the batting cage.
- If you have athlete friends who play a different sport than you, reach out and give what they do a shot.