Russ Nuffer talks about getting the most out of youth sports

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on October 27, 2011

Fit Kids Club offered by Russ Nuffer

Some times a bit of serendipity plays a role in business expansion. Such was the case with Russ Nuffer’s fitness programs. He was training a group of adults at the park when the kids playing there wanted to give the exercises a try, too.

“That was our wake-up call to begin Kids Fit Club,” he says. “The classes are centered around the reality that kids have different needs and wants, so the fitness games we play are custom tailored to highlight every child’s strengths.”

In addition to kids-only classes at Burgess Park, Russ also provides youth fitness activities at private events, including birthday parties. “We are able to find out what the birthday boy or girl enjoys most and provide a fun-filled hour of fun and fitness — two words that are not typically synonymous,” he says.

As we’d first met Russ when interviewing Ashley Riley about her Fit Kid Foundation, where Russ also has a role, given a second encounter, we wanted to talk to him about some of the overlooked aspects of youth sports. He offered thoughts on the following topics:

Early exposure/neuro-muscular connection facilitation: “The earlier you expose your young athlete to sports and fitness,  the better chance you give them at becoming proficient. The body develops most easily early on in development just as in learning a language. The earlier the brain connects with the muscles the longer the athlete has to develop full body coordination and strength.”

Risk of injury and overuse: “Injury is one of the primary reasons kids — and adults — stop progressing along the sports ladder. Over use contributes to injuries. When a youngster is introduced to a new sport there is a learning curve to learn the game, and there is an adaptation curve that the body goes through.

“Although every child is different, the best results come from rotating sports every season. The child will still be working on hand-eye coordination, strength, acceleration,  endurance etc. The difference is that the emphasis is different in every sport so the muscles and tendons are stressed differently resulting in a more well-rounded, strengthened individual with decreased risk of injury and injury set back.”

The 10,000 hour rule: “In order to become an expert in any sport, one must spend 10,000 hours playing that sport. In order to play a sport for 10,000 hours, enjoyment must come from playing. While some kids may be extremely good at one sport, many of the young athletes who continue to play one sport exclusively lose interest over time. Mix up sports, and watch your athlete enjoy them more.”

What to work on at the beginning: “With ball sports, kids should focus on improving throwing and kicking distances more than accuracy. Often coaches and parents will give praise for the obvious, scoring goals, making baskets etc. But often they forget to praise the distance of shots, throws, kicks, etc. With praise, kids will try and find ways to project the ball further resulting in the full body being utilized. Accuracy is important but is better refined after distance is acquired.”

How to win, lose, and promote sportsmanship: “Parents often overlook the social dynamic of being on a sports team. Because most kids will grow up to do something other than play professional sports, it’s important that the time they spend in sports also incorporates learning how to work with others in a social situation. Sports can be a platform for learning how to win and how to lose. By explaining the ins and outs of winning and losing on the fields to your child, you can set them up with the tools for a lifetime of positive social group interaction.”

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