I recently came across an interesting piece in the June/July issue of School Sport Magazine, where David English spoke passionately about the importance of sport within schools. He strongly believed that we must do everything in our power to guide and enhance the talents of young kids in order to cultivate their dreams.
Having had time to reflect on the article, I felt it would be fitting to consider the importance of youngsters playing sport and the benefits it may bring.
With David acting as the vice-president of the English Schools Cricket Association, it was only right that he discussed this topical issue within the context of the sport he loved. So I’ve gathered a number of examples within other sports to highlight how starting young brings consistent rewards within professional sport.
Beginning his career in karting at just 8 years old, Lewis Hamilton’s rise to the top began at a very young age. He climbed through the hierarchy of racing, winning championships in Karts and Formula 3 before making the move to F1 aged 22. After 14 years within the world of racing, he finally secured a contract with McLaren, where he joined two-time champion Fernando Alonso within the team.
His desire and ambition were driven by his father, Anthony Hamilton, where practice allowed him to shine above the rest. He taught Lewis how to drive and advised him on techniques such as late braking which allowed him to exit corners quicker. These simple but effective techniques were key to Lewis’ development in the early stages of his career.
Anthony Hamilton said…
“There are 25 kids on the grid who are all capable of producing the same lap time, but what marks you as completely different to anyone else?
“It’s the same with any sport, if you spend 20,000 hours playing tennis, you will become a very good tennis player.”
It’s clear that Anthony believes in nurturing kids from a young age in order to help them fulfil their talents. He said…
“Some make it, some don’t, but is that because they are not good enough or because they didn’t have enough time or practice?”
Cristiano was first introduced to football when he was just 8 years old whilst his dad worked as an equipment manager at a local boy’s club. By the age of just 10, he was already recognised as a serious talent.
Similarly with Hamilton, his success at a young age can be largely put down to practice and devotion. This was a kid who lived and breathed football.
His godfather, Fernao Sousa, said…
“All he wanted to do was play football. He loved the game so much he’d miss meals or escape out of his bedroom window with a ball when he was supposed to be doing his homework.”
He signed for Sporting Lisbon in 2001 before making a dream move to Manchester United in 2003. After elevating his game further, he then secured an £80 million move to Real Madrid.
Considered as one of the greatest athletes ever, his development began during infancy, and his commitment to bettering himself is well known within the world of football.
He was told at the age of 12 that although he was a good player, he was too skinny to make it at the top level. He therefore began to work hard in the gym and off the pitch to achieve the necessary physical makeup to play.
“For me the small details in the end will make a huge difference in order to compete with other players.”
This work ethic developed at a young age and has continued right the way through his career. From developing his step-overs with weights in his boots to practicing free kicks every day, his ability to consistently elevate his game has been exceptional.
“When the training was set for nine in the morning I arrived at eight and he was already there. Even if I arrived at 7:30 he was already there. I began to ask myself ‘how can I get rid of this guy?’ so one day I arrived at six but he was already there! Sleepy, but he was there.”
Without the desire and ambition to improve during his younger years, would we still see the athlete we know today?
Federer is another athlete that entered sport at an incredibly young age. From just 8 years old, he was playing at the local tennis club where his parents were members. It wasn’t long before he moved onto lessons and private sessions to improve his technical ability. Then at 13, he made the sacrifice to move away from home to join the national tennis centre, where he lived with a foster family in order to achieve his dreams.
His sacrifice and understanding for what was needed has allowed him to become the greatest tennis player ever.
“Tennis can be a very frustrating sport. There is no way around the hard work. Embrace it. You have to put in the hours because there is always something you can improve. You have to put in a lot of sacrifice and effort for sometimes little reward but you have to know that, if you put in the right effort, the reward will come.”