Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Games

How video games make your kid a better athlete

with 6 comments

Wired’s Chris Suellentrop is echoing the chorus that attributes the increasingly complex brand of football played at lower levels, and the strategies employed at the highest levels, on a generation’s worth of players growing up with the Madden video game, which premiered in 1989. After all, if pilots get better through flight simulators, and studies show that gamers make better surgeons, then it stands to reason that years of basement video-game playing could translate into real-life football, right?

Cognitive scientists have published a series of studies demonstrating that playing fast-paced action videogames — mostly first-person shooters like Call of Duty and Halo — can alter “some of the fundamental aspects of visual attention,” as a paper published in the July 2009 issue of Neuropsychologia put it. By training on these games, researchers found, nongamers can achieve faster reaction time, improved hand-eye coordination, and greatly increased ability to process multiple stimuli. Studies have demonstrated that military pilots and laparoscopic surgeons can improve their professional skills by playing videogames. It’s not much of a leap to think that athletes could, too.

There are limits to how much virtual training will be able to boost on-field performance, of course. Don’t expect football to follow on the heels of poker, a game in which Internet-trained players have upended the professional cartel. (Chris Moneymaker won’t be quarterbacking the Titans next year.) A better analogy for virtual training could be weight lifting: It’s an activity that won’t turn you into a professional athlete, but if you are one, it will make you better at your sport. And once everyone starts doing it, you’ll need to do it regularly to remain competitive.

Plus, you don’t need to inject steroids into your teammate’s ass to make them a better gamer.

I would say something smart-alecky about Suellentrop’s thesis… except that I agree with it. Suellentrop has plenty of supporters, including pro athletes, in his story. But I’ve seen it work in my own kids.

When my oldest son, now 12, first signed up for baseball, he didn’t know much about the rules of the game — but he learned them quickly, thanks to a preseason of playing Backyard Baseball. He’s not tall enough or strong enough to stand out playing basketball — he didn’t make his seventh-grade team. But I can’t help but think that his strongest suit — quick, thread-the-needle passing — is helped by his years of gaming. If he can figure out how to snake through a zombie-infested subway in Left 4 Dead while also being aware of his teammates’ position, it makes sense that he can make a quick decision with the ball when his teammates are surrounded.

Where I see games translating to real life the most is in my 7-year-old son’s bowling league. First, the whole reason he got interested in bowling is because of Wii Sports. But he, and his teammates, have learned to adjust their starting positions and throws because of Wii bowling. And then it circles back, with my son using real bowling to help position himself on Wii bowling. And then using what he learned from that applied back to Wii bowling.

So if your kids are spending a lot of time playing video games — don’t freak out!

Written by rkcookjr

February 6, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Video games are ruining my athletic children!

with 6 comments

Billy Shepherd, a former Indiana Mr. Basketball and ABA player who now is a sports parenting advice guru (and whose father was the athletic director when I ran cross country and track at Carmel, Ind., High School), takes a question about a common holiday problem: kids not getting the hell off the new video game system. From his column in the Crawfordsville, Ind., newspaper, that is understatedly and appropriately called The Paper:

Dear Billy,

I think my wife and I have made a big mistake. We bought our two boys (6th and 3rd grade) the [W]ii game for Christmas. All they have done the last eight days is play the game non-stop.

While both are good athletes we are now concerned that they will spend more time playing wii than actually practicing sports.

Any suggestions? We had heard that the game was great for teaching sports, but we are concerned because of the lack of physical activity. Are we being over concerned in your viewpoint? Old Time Parents in Indy

[youtubevid id=”CBSwm-mPXhQ”]

Meet Old Time Parents in Indy’s children, Buckner and Garcia.

First, I’ll give you Billy Shepherd’s response, which is sort of even-handed, reasoned approach that is the hallmark of good sports parenting. Then you’ll get my response.

Dear Old Time Parents,

What you are seeking is a balance for your kids. Only you as parents can make those decisions. Do you have time limits on the games? Do you make them go outside and play which results in physical activity? How are their grades in school?

Once school starts back you need to place restrictions on when they can play the video games and for how long. Try and balance it with homework, sports activities, and computer time. Keep a close eye on their grades and keep them involved with their sports.

Balance is the key to help develop any young person socially and physically. Be sure to monitor their time in all facets of their lives, just not video games. That way you will have well rounded young men as they continue to grow up, whether they play sports or not.

I’ll put it more practically and succinctly, Old Time Parents in Indy: get the stick out of your ass! Why did you buy them a Wii and somehow expected a sixth-grader and a third-grader to have natural restraint in playing it? It’s been freaking freezing in Indianapolis over the holidays. What do you want them to do, go outside and play Who Gets Frostbite First?

When kids get a video-game system for Christmas, they do nothing but play it for the bulk of vacation. It happens. Old Time Parents, I bet when you got your first hula hoop, you were swinging your hips with excitement for the next two weeks. I bet your own Old Time Parents worried you would never do anything productive ever again. Also, have you notice your sixth-grader and third-grader have probably spent more nonfighting time together the last two weeks than they have in their life? The beauty of video games is they can help siblings bond like nothing else.

I agree with my former athletic director’s son that once school is back in session, you can and should put limits on the video game playing. However, I wouldn’t start out by saying, you have only X amount of video games and/or screen time (a term I detest. I’m not sure why. I just do.). I would say that you have these responsibilities, and once they are fulfilled, knock yourself out on the Wii (not literally, because you can the way the controllers get swung around). I’ve found that works wonders with my own kids. Punishment is much more effective when you take away what they already have in spades. Plus, you don’t give the Wii the succulent flavor of forbidden fruit.

So I’m in agreement with the concept of what the ex-Memphis Sound has to say, though we differ in technique. And in our desire to tell people to get the stick out of their ass.

Written by rkcookjr

January 4, 2010 at 11:54 pm