Most sports authorities provide recommendations for junior sport with regards to the dimensions of grounds, courts and pitches. The idea is that children will play on fields that are commensurate with their size. Hence the dimensions increase with age.
However, for some reason, many sports recommend that children should start playing on full size fields by about the age of 10 years. In the figure below, the Australian Football League and the International Tennis Federation recommend full size ovals and courts by 10 years while the International Basketball Federation recommend a full size court by 12 years. In this example, only soccer (the Football Association) provide guidelines whereby pitch size increases linearly with age.
What is the major advantage of reducing field or court size?
A key reason for scaling the task for children is to allow children to play the game more like adults. For instance, a child playing on a smaller tennis court is more likely to direct serves to specific locations (much alike the adult game) compared to when playing on a full size court. Similarly, the match tactics when playing on a scaled tennis court, compared to a full size court, will be closer to the tactics of an adult game. Essentially, scaling allows children to experience similar perception-action couplings as the adult game – an important aspect of skill acquisition.
Scaling sport for juniors also results in (a) more desirable movement patterns, (b) enhanced learning and (c) more engaging environments. For these reasons, it is advantageous for sports authorities to develop scaling guidelines that are appropriate to children’s development.
Buszard, T., Reid, M., Masters, R., & Farrow, D. (2016). Scaling the Equipment and Play Area in Children’s Sport to improve Motor Skill Acquisition: A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine, 46 ,829-843.