Modifications to All Programs

  • Equipment – Change the size of the equipment used depending on the age group. In tee ball this could mean using a large ball and a large bat to help kids make contact with the ball more frequently. Use softer equipment. Using softer equipment takes away some of the fear of getting hit by the ball. Most equipment manufacturers make this type of equipment.
  • Field size – Use a smaller field for smaller participants.
  • Goal size – Use larger goals or no goalies so all can score.
  • Team size – Play games with fewer participants on the field so that each person will get a maximum number of touches on the ball.
  • Roster size – Limit your roster size to only a couple subs. This will help everyone get lots of playing time.
  • Cuts – Do not allow anyone to be cut from your team if you are below the high school level (1).
  • Age divisions – To minimize the relative age effect, use a narrow age gap, such as 6 months or 9 months, rather than 1 year or 2 years (2).
  • Developmental level – Instead of organizing teams by birth date, another suggestion might be to organize teams by maturity level (2).
  • Select teams – This should be the youngest age that participates on a select or an elite team (1).
  • Specialization – Participate in multiple sports. Only think about specialization once you reach age 15 or 16, not before (1).
  • Playoffs – Eliminate playoffs up through 5th grade, and in 6th-8th include all teams in the playoffs (1).
  • Practice – Use fun activities and games to teach, instead of drills. Make sure all are involved and no one is standing around.
  • Season – Limit the season to 3 months with practices varying depending on age. K-2nd Grade: 1 practice/game per week that lasts up to 1 hour
  • 3rd-5th: Hold no more than 1 practice and 1 game per week, for a total of 2 sessions, that lasts no more than 1 hour. Limit season to 10 games.
  • 6th-8th: Limit practice to 90 minutes and games to 12 per season (1)

Modified Programs

NAYS Smart Start Development Programs – Smart Start offers programs to help children aged 3-5 get ready for organized, structured, formal sports participation. All you need is a facility and a coordinator, and they send you the starter and participant kits. Smart Start is available for the following sports: Sports Development Program, Baseball, Soccer, Basketball, Golf, Football

YMCA -Program Philosophy: “emphasize teamwork and cooperation over winning at any cost, developing good values over developing the next superstar”
YYouth Super Sports – uses a games based approach with three levels:
YMCA Rookies, a noncompetitive, developmental program for 4- to 7-year-olds that prepares them to participate successfully in YMCA Winners and YMCA Champions.
YMCA Winners, the YMCA’s unique, values-based competitive sports program for youth 8 to 16 years of age.
YMCA Champions, an innovative awards program for youth in YMCA Winners, recognizing their achievement in and through sport. Coming soon.


(1) Bigelow, B., Moroney, T. & Hall, L. (2001). Just Let the Kids Play: How to Stop Other Adults from Ruining Youth Child’s Fun and Success in Youth Sports. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, Inc.

(2) Musch, J. & Grondin, S. (2001). Unequal competition as an impediment to personal development: A review of the relative age effect in sport. Developmental Review, 21, 147-167. Retrieved January 17, 2006 from Science Direct database.

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