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Fundamental Movement Skills

This is a post I wrote for Sport4Kids in Hong Kong (now ProActiv Sports) back in 2016. This post discusses how to structure a Sports class / Athletic Development Session.

As stated in a previous post, one of our core aims here at Sport 4 Kids is to develop physical literacy in every child, which can be defined as:

“Individuals who are physically literate move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person.”

The purpose of this post is to draw attention to the underlined part of the definition, namely “a wide variety of physical activities”. At Sport 4 Kids, we offer numerous classes in numerous sports such as football, rugby, athletics, gymnastics, basketball and tennis. The purpose of this is to develop fundamental movement skills which are essential for a lifelong involvement in physical activity. Previously we discussed the stages in the quest for physical literacy; this post will examine the skills that must be developed throughout each of these stages.

Fundamental Movement Skills

Fundamental movement skills (FMS) can be grouped into types of movement: locomotor skills; object skills; and body control skills.

· Locomotor skills: involve the body moving in any direction from one point to another, e.g. walking, running, hopping, skipping and jumping.

· Object manipulation: involves controlling objects with the hand, foot or an implement (tennis racket), e.g. throwing, catching, striking (hands, feet, implement)

· Body/Stability skills: involves the body balancing in one place (static) or while in motion, e.g. twisting, turning, balancing (static or dynamic).

General outline of a Sport 4 Kids session

At Sport 4 Kids, we try to devote time to develop each type of skill in almost every session. This needs to be done consistently over a long period of time in order develop physical literacy.

The warm-up generally contains a variety of locomotion skills, combined with some stability skills. For example, we get children to do various types of animals and motor vehicles to ensure they are developing skills but doing it with a smile on their faces. For example:

· Car & aeroplane = running + balance (due to the change in arm position, the position of the child’s centre of mass changes).

· Frog leaps & kangaroo hops = jumping / hopping, landing + dynamic stability.

· Lion crawl + guerrilla walks = development of upper body strength, balance + coordination.

After this, the focus might switch to a series of catching games, where there is emphasis on dodging and evading and developing the skills of agility (Perception-Action always linked; a post for another day).

If the class is a football session, then the kids would be given a football to work on their ball control and their dribbling abilities, along with a kicking exercise. There may be an emphasis on accuracy or power, or simply the development of the kicking skill.

There would be a variation on the content of the session given the coach and the class type (rugby, football, basketball etc.). However, this is a general guideline as to how the sessions run by Sport 4 Kids target the holistic physical development of the child as opposed to developing sport specific skills only.

Injury prevention

To give an idea as to why learning fundamental movement skills at a young age is important from an injury prevention standpoint, we can use the metaphor of learning to drive a car.

When parents want their child to learn how to drive a car, they would much prefer them to learn in a Fiat Punto as opposed to a Porsche 911. As the child is learning, they realise that there are many mistakes that could potentially be made – stalling the car, reversing into a lamp post or hitting another vehicle. If these mistakes are made in a Fiat Punto, it is likely some damage will occur, preferably to the car and not any drivers or passengers. However, if there is an accident involving a Porsche 911, the damage is likely to be much more severe. What is the reason for this? The Porsche is much more powerful than the Punto and so in the event of a crash of some sort; the damage is going to be much greater.

The same point can be made for the development of fundamental movement skills. If a child does not develop the necessary movement skills to be able to control their body dynamically when they are young, they are at an increased risk of injury when they are bigger and more powerful as a teenager or adult.

Let’s take the specific case of jumping and landing. A child is not as strong or as powerful as a more developed adolescent or adult. Therefore, they cannot jump as high and their landing mechanics and abilities will not be put under as much stress. This is the ideal time to develop and learn fundamental movement skills from an injury prevention standpoint and they will be more resilient when they get older.

The development of physical literacy is something that we strive for here at Sport 4 Kids. Through the use of Fundamental Movement Skills in a three stage system (detailed in a previous post) we are determined to provide the optimal environment for children to develop physically, mentally and technically.

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