Education. Start ’em young. Nutrition. Start ’em young. Sports? Got to start ’em young too. Kids in the western world start their sports programs at a very tender age. In Malaysia, we let our kids play, but having a structured program is – by and large – not yet a priority for parents here. Getting kids active in sports is not for parents to brag that their kids are better than their peers, nor for kids to have a winner or loser mindset. Rather, it is for kids to develop motor skills, cognitive abilities, socialise and have fun!
In next month’s Powerman Malaysia, organiser Fresh Events Asia will maintain the PowerKIDS category (ages 5 – 12), and introduce PowerTEENS (ages 13 – 17). With the teen’s category gap covered, Powerman Malaysia becomes an age-inclusive event from age 5 onward.
To get kids safely into a structured sports program, ToughASIA spoke to Rupert Chen, national triathlete and coach for RC Coaching, on what it takes for parents – both active and those not involved in sports – to initiate the first steps.
“Win or lose, always play fair”
How many people from RC Coaching will be participating in this year’s Powerman Malaysia?
Rupert: About 50, including 5 PowerKIDS and 10 PowerTEENS.
At what age can children start training for multisports and start racing?
Rupert: They can start around 8 years old in a controlled, safe environment with a low structure. The focus will be on fundamental movement skills. Once they reach 12 years old, they can start to specialize in a few sports.
How do you motivate children or teenagers to train or race?
Rupert: The sessions need to be fun and engaging for them without putting too much pressure on performance. Having similar aged children or teenagers around them helps as well as it will be a social outlet for them to have fun. We include games for them as well to keep them excited and engaged.
What type of bicycle do you recommend for PowerKIDS and PowerTEENS?
Rupert: For PowerKIDS, any kind of bike would be fine as long as it is compliant with race regulations. A helmet and working brakes are a must! For PowerTEENS, they can use anything from a road bike to a mountain bike. However, as they grow up quickly, getting a second-hand bike may make more economic sense as they will soon outgrow their bikes.
What training tips do you recommend for teenagers going for PowerTEENS
Rupert: For teenagers, peers can have a significant influence on them. So, it is important to provide training with similarly aged teens such that they can then have an interest in the sport. They can still experiment with a few different sports such as team sports or ball sports but as they get older, they should start specializing in only one sport if they want to perform at a high level later on.
A sample program leading to PowerTEENS:
Monday: Rest day
Tuesday: Swim with squad 1 hr
Wednesday: Bike on trainer / roller 45 mins
Thursday: Run drills & intervals 45 mins
Friday: Swim with squad 1 hr
Saturday: Outdoor bike ride with some drills / skills work 1 hour + 10 mins brick run
Sunday: Team / ball sports
What are the race safety elements or precautions that should be taught to children and teens before the race?
Rupert: Wearing a helmet during a bike ride is compulsory and it is important to do a quick check before riding the bike to ensure it is working well. Parents and coaches should take time to explain the racecourse or even recce the course before the race to ensure they know the course well and are aware of any dangers. Ensure they have eaten a quality breakfast before the race and drink plenty of water before, during and after the race to ensure they are well hydrated. They should be dressed appropriately for the race such as in a tri-suit with proper running shoes to avoid any mishap or injury.
What is the role and attitude parents should have towards their kids’ training?
Rupert: Parents should ensure their children are having fun during training and encourage them instead of comparing them to other children. After all, children or teenagers have different growth rates, interests and natural abilities. They should instil fair play and good sportsmanship behaviour in their children from a young age and support them in the sports that interest their children, not the sports that interest them as parents.
What is your advice for parents in setting expectations when their kids join races?
Rupert: Ensure they have fun racing in the safest environment possible, which includes safety equipment, making sure they have trained well for the race and understand that different children have different abilities and interests. It is important to encourage them to make new friends with other participants and also that sportsmanship and participation is more important than winning.
“Do not compare yourself with others, instead focus on improving yourself to be better than yesterday”
Winning isn’t everything when it comes to kids’ competition. Instil a good set of exemplary behaviours and attitudes, and they will PowerKIDS and PowerTEENS.