Don’t Teach Algebra to Kindergartners

Valuing Long-Term Development Over Short-Term Success in Sports

Imagine a classroom full of kindergarten children listening intently to their teacher, taking detailed notes as she teaches integers, exponents, equations, and other algebraic concepts. Learning algebra is one of the pinnacles of success for students, so it seems only natural that the earlier kids learn these concepts, the more successful they will be in math as they get older, right?

Of course, this is a ridiculous notion to say the least. Kids in kindergarten are still learning their “ABC’s and 123’s”, so algebra will be a foreign concept to them for several years. But when you look at this scenario through the lens of today’s youth sports culture, there is an alarming similarity. Today, there is increasing pressure for young athletes to succeed immediately rather than develop over time in their skill and love for the game. Many parents today are working hard to identify future talent in their kid, demanding short term success at a very young age. They emphasize performance over participation well before their kids’ bodies, minds, and interests mature. And many coaches tend to value the child who can help win games or whose families can afford the rising fees to participate. The risks for that child are overuse injuries, concussion, and burnout.

A 2014 study for George Washington University shows that 76% of today’s young athletes quit sports altogether by the age of 13 because the sport was no longer fun. The reason was because of the constant pressure put on them to succeed now rather than to develop in the sport. If a young athlete is not learning the game and developing at the proper pace, he or she will burn out or lose interest quickly.

By fast-tracking their athlete at a very young age through today’s sports culture of intense training schedules and the pressure of winning at all costs, many parents are putting their child at a disadvantage in their overall development. Instead, young athletes should go through a 3-part progression in sports:

The first is the Discovery phase, where they develop a love for the game by learning basic fundamentals. The second is the Development phase, where they hone their skills and prepare to succeed at a higher level. Finally, the Performance phase is where athletes grow in the sport deeper as they are able to use techniques and strategies to compete.

At Upward Sports, we believe that this progression should be a part of every young athlete’s journey through sports. It is why we are the only youth sports program to offer the 360 Progression™, a uniquely designed sports experience that adapts and expands as players develop and grow in their personal athletic journey, resulting in the development of total athletes – mentally, athletically, spiritually, and socially. By developing at the proper pace in both age and sport skill, Upward Sports Athletes will not only have better understanding of the game, but will have time to cultivate a love for the sport while participating in healthy competition.