Free play is important, especially at younger ages. Work with coaches to consider ways for athletes to play on their own for fun, even during practice.
- It is possible that free play may be protective of overuse injury (as it is child directed) so it is important to find ways to increase weekly free play.
- Some studies suggest there is a greater risk of overuse injury if an athlete’s sports training to free play ratio is greater than 2, meaning an athlete spends two times the weekly hours in organized sports as their weekly hours in free play. For example, an athlete participates in 6 hours of soccer each week but only plays outside with friends for 2 hours.
- Free play also allows children to work together and be creative in coming up with their own games and working together to solve problems. This can have important benefits for social development and learning to cooperate with peers.