Is it OK for 8 – 10 year old kids to participate in Triathlons?
While I am 100% heartened by virtually any activity a young person chooses to engage in, it is important to be careful how we direct their efforts in terms of "developmentally-sound" parameters.
The essence and need of childhood play (or fitness – they are interchangeable terms) is self-exploration of movement. This movement must be in the style of "free play". Meaning simply, kids must be encouraged to move in a variety of fashions (run, climb, crawl, jump, hop etc) without the over-prescription or repetitiveness of specific movements.
This is an imperative part of neural growth and development, setting the seeds for both a future full of movement and athletic ability as well as injury avoidance. Much like the academic world, the early years of school is based on learning a variety of subjects in order to create a well-rounded brain. Specification occurs later in life once this broad base has been built.
While triathlons involve three separate movement functions, they are still rather myopic in nature and will become repetitive during training phases. One only needs to look at the tremendous number of injuries that adult tri athletes endure (mostly in the realm of chronic injuries resulting from REPETATIVE action) to see what this type of training and over-indulgence of competition has the potential to do to younger people.
Repetitive motion of any kind is developmentally limiting for kids and could easily lead to overuse injury.
Free play and freedom of motion are the core necessities of fitness for kids.
Enough is enough.
It’s time for our industry to get educated and start creating youth fitness
and sport training programs that both WORK and are DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE.