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As schools shift to online learning this fall, the hope is that a mix of digital and physical school (also known as blended learning) will help open schools safely. This coming school year will be more of a test of best practices as young people who are already digital natives find their teachers more attune to using online tools.
In addition to school, young people get a sense of normalcy with athletics and recreation. Not only have whole seasons of sports been wiped away, but sports camps have lost millions due to lack of participation and engagement. There’s a great fear in the youth sports industry that the ongoing lack of exercise and socialization will push young people farther into obesity and mental health issues.
Related: How the Pandemic is Driving Innovation in Sports Business
But there have arisen solutions, at least partial ones, with a nod to a future when blended learning also applies to youth sports and athletic training. A number of cloud-based technology companies were already making a pivot to using interactive online training before the pandemic hit, and their businesses have exploded and expanded since. We have seen LeagueApps invest heavily in the digital space.
Super Soccer Stars, one of the largest youth soccer programs in the country, has created online video programs and even Kenny Smith, former NBA great, has launched a platform using former NBA and WNBA players to enhance training skills via the web.
One company in this space that has grown exponentially is Famer. The platform, based in NYC, had been piloting cloud-based interactive experiences in youth sports where kids watch and then upload their training programs and where coaches critique and send back additional drills. Famer had been operating a year before things shut down in March. The program had previously been taking hold in sports like lacrosse, soccer, and basketball.
Since March, through partnerships with organizations like the National Basketball Players Association, their business has expanded globally. Famer has added sports like baseball and softball, all with the goal of keeping kids fit and engaged while away from team play. There is the added benefit that Famer gives coaches the ability to stay connected with kids.
“This is not a one-off pandemic solution,” Famer CEO Rich Abend said. “This is a business that combines traditional athletic skills … with the ability to have kids use the web as a way to continue to improve on their individual skills.”
“The times we are in now have accelerated our growth and our planning, but we see Famer as a way for kids from around the world to connect through athletic training with some of the best coaches in the world. They are all part of a community, they improve their skills and they take those learnings to the field. It is what blended learning is supposed to be…real life interaction tied to a global audience, and we think the future is pretty bright.”
Within the context of youth sports, here is a shortlist of tips for parents to keep online training practical and worthwhile.
Balance the online and practical learning
Cloud-based technology can help kids in youth sports bridge the digital gap, but physical interaction should not be completely lost. Ensure that coaches are committed to blended learning and that the skills taught can be understood by your child.
Use gamification and games to make it interesting
There has been so much talk about how e-sports will dominate the lives of millions of young people: Whether or not they will be effective learning tools, combat a sedentary lifestyle, and encourage social interaction. Let’s turn the tables and use simple games to improve learning skills. Drills are still a great tool. In addition to drills, being able to create competition online between pods of kids makes it much more fun, engaging, and interesting.
Related: Post-COVID-19: How Edtech’s Approach Will Alter To Online
Ask questions and find answers in the cloud space
Frustration can come from the need for educated parents on how young people are learning basic skills these days. A hybrid learning approach is so new. It’s time for parents, all somewhat pressured by the switch in educational infrastructure, to collectivize. Parents should push each other to learn together. Participate in a drill or two, try some stretching exercises, and by doing so your kids will feel more engaged in the activities.
Hybrid learning and the future of education will rely on tech-savviness
Every day is a step closer to returning to normalcy. Our young people adapt faster and learn quicker today than ever before. Technology, although not the be-all and end-all, has given us the ability to adapt and communicate faster. Find ways to ask for help, work together, and use this time as a bridge more than a crutch. We want kids back on the field and it will happen. During this stage of change, use adaptive skills to keep youth sports engaging and healthy.