On reading a headline in the Telegraph a few weeks ago, I stumbled across the headline and a story from Graham Taylor (ex-Watford and England manager). The headline read "Don't coach kids too early, warns Graham Taylor remembering his school sport days". Now, being the co-founder of Sport4Kids, who provide sports classes for children from the age of 18 months, I couldn't help but feel naturally intrigued by Graham's viewpoint.
On reading the article, the headline was somewhat misleading. What Graham had actually said was that he felt that kids should enjoy football and sport by playing it "off the cuff" rather than in a structured coaching environment. They should be allowed to find their own love for the game and develop a passion from there. Completely agree Graham - too much regiment and too many rules at a young age can drain all of the fun out of sport for children - but there is a happy medium.
Teaching children and toddlers football through analogous and child-centric methods is a highly engaging and entertaining way for children to learn. They DO learn best through structure, familiarity and repetition, but they also learn through doing. We can build up the basic mechanical moves that constitute a step over at the age of 3 years, but if we tell the kids that they are in fact Harry Potter and are circling the ball with their wizard cloak, they tend to enjoy it and learn a lot faster.
Teaching sport early is EXACTLY what we should be doing...just with an emphasis on fun!