Sport-specific practice is, by nature, designed to make the athlete better at the specific sport. Makes sense, its in the name! In football, tackling drills make for more skilled tackles; In soccer, shooting drills make for more skilled shooting; in baseball, batting practice makes for more skilled batters. However, while those activities may have some incidental effects on the athlete's overall fitness, that's not their main intent. Nor should it be. Sport-specific training needs to be the apex of a pyramid, the final polishing that takes a (hopefully strong, resilient) athlete and makes them a super-star.
This is where a CrossFit Kids program can be of service. At the base of that pyramid is nutition, above that is sleep and recovery, above that is General Physical Preparedness, and finally we reach Sport-Specific Training at the top. We aim to help with those foundational levels. Guiding food choices, encouraging proper sleep patterns, and ultimately, building up the general abilities, the ease of movement, the "comfortable in their own skin" feeling of body control and mastery. General strength, general endurance, generally prepared for the unknown and unknowable.
Another element, less talked about, is our desire to instill in our kids a love of movement, a love of accomplishment. Maybe Timmy loves football today, while he's playing PeeWee league, but maybe he won't in 2, or 4, or 10 years. If he grows tired of it, is that it? Were all of his (and as importantly, his parents') hopes and dreams and aspirations riding on that one, critical activity? Or will he move confidently into another activity, needing just a little sport-specific training to immediately find a new favorite activity?
Among the activities we engage the kids in, some are what I refer to as body-armoring. Building up the body's capacities to absorb impact. In every sport, both organized and not, there is a higher chance of kids getting hurt from collisions than from any other danger. So we toss medicine balls back and forth, learning how to absorb the impact. We play "Hoover Ball," throwing medicine balls back and forth over a pull-up bar, learning to absorb impact, and to really harness that explosive hip-opening action that is such a foundational movement in almost EVERYTHING we do. It also dials in situational awareness, a major factor in injury prevention. We do odd object carries (Zombie Tag), and even more 'formalized' movements like walking lunges with a weight carried overhead in one hand, coaching for body control and awareness.
Will any of that translate directly to improved performance on the field or in the pool? Honestly, its hard to quantify. Will any of that translate directly into improved resilience to collisions and accidents? It depeds on the collision and accident. But better to spend the time and effort trying to improve these parameters and fall short, than to not try at all, and fail our kids completely. Never mind the injuries they're avoiding from their sport-specific training; stronger arms and tendons are less likely to need Tommy John surgery to repair/replace a loose tendon that has ONLY ever been used to throw baseballs 90+ mph!
To put it another way: In football, look at the average running back vs. the average place kicker. Both are crucially important to their team's chances of success. However, put them in an accidental on-field collision, and who's more likely to get hurt? Almost certainly NOT the guy who spent years armoring his body, building muscle, improving change of direction skills, honing situational awareness, and ultimately, trying to be the best overall athlete he can be. Depending on the collision or type of accident. All we can do is try, and do our best to prepare our young athletes for the world outside our doors.
The exact same way we do for their parents in the adult classes. We just get to play dodgeball a lot more often!