“No coaches, no umpires, no rule books.”
–Dr. Sergio Pellis, neuroscience researcher and co-author of The Playful Brain
The youth sports journey begins almost without notice, when adults are not promoting or even really paying much attention. Children instinctively play. And it’s a good thing not only for the body, but for the mind, emotions, and spirit. The foundation of unstructured play makes the youth sports experience possible. As Hara Estroff Marano has noted in her insightful book, A Nation of Wimps:
“What play does, by stimulating neurogenesis, is hasten the development of the frontal cortex and program it. It solidifies the executive functions of the brain. In other words, it fosters the maturation of the very centers of the brain that allow us to exert control over attention, regulate our emotions. and control our behavior. Here is the very subtle trick that nature plays: its uses something thats not goal directed to create the very mental machinery for people to be goal directed.”
Thus the unstructured leads to the improved capacity to be structured. If you are thinking ahead of what special training might be employed to maximize your little offspring’s chance at the Major Leagues, you better start with letting them have copious amounts of time to play…without adult intervention, except of course in matters of fairness and safety!