Teaching physical literacy skills in youth sport practices

    Sport development is a topic that occupies a lot of "think" time at our office. Sport development isn't really a complicated process but it suffers from a general lack of understanding. Sport is one of those things that everyone thinks they know so when new ideas or new ways to think about or do something come up they are frequently overshadowed by past practices or the "This is the way we've always done it" mentality.

    Change is hard.

    But one change that shouldn't be hard is incorporating physical literacy skills into youth sport practices. While humans can build physical literacy at any stage in their lives the best time to develop these basic skills is between 7 and 12 years of age. Being physically literate equips youngsters with the skills they will need to participate in almost any sport and, later, to lead healthy and long lives.

    The problem with the current trend toward early sport specialization is that it focuses on sport specific skills from a very early age. And no matter what sport a child engages in the skills are limited when it comes to learning a full range of fundamental movements. Football, for example, includes very few fundamental movements for the upper body and swimming features movements designed specifically for moving through the water. Athletes participating in either sport will not develop a full range of movement skills. The only exception to this is gymnastics where practically every movement the human body is capable of is part of the sport's skill list, both fundamental and sport specific.

    Developing physical literacy especially in youngsters, is easy but it can only happen if it's deliberately planned as part of the sport training program. The skills can be easily incorporated into youth sport practices. All it takes is an understanding by the coach that learning all basic movement skills is important. It will make athletes more robust and give them a deeper skill set upon which to draw in whatever sports they participate it.

    Sometimes it can be hard to explain why a football team may be warming up by chasing Frisbees around the pitch working on catching and throwing skills, or why swimmers are learning a bit of gymnastics before getting into the pool. But if enough coaches take responsibility for helping athletes become physically literate then this kind of activity will eventually be accepted as part of youth sport.

    Young athletes who are brought up in a learning or sport training environment where physical literacy is an accepted part of the process will grow up to be better athletes. They will have better foundational skills which will result in richer, more athletic performances as the child ages.

    I was asked in an interview after the most recent Commonwealth Games what was wrong with Malaysian athletes. There isn't anything wrong with them. The current crop of elite athletes in Malaysia are doing the best they can. They have the support staff, coaches, and funds they need to prepare for their sports. Their performances in international competitions are as good as they are because of this support. Malaysia is doing exactly what it should be doing for their high performance athletes.

    However, if Malaysia wants to see better performances, higher placing performances, indeed gold medal winning performances, then it needs to shift its attention to the very bottom level of sport preparation. That's where gains can be made. These gains start with making sure that all youngsters become physically literate. Yes, it will take a number of years before these changes show any result but over the long term Malaysian athletes will perform better and Malaysians in general will be leading healthier and more active lives.

    --------
    Bill Price (price@sportkid.asia) is the owner and Chief Data Scientist at Sportkid Metrics.

     

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    Fear of missing out is hurting youth sports - 23 October 2018


    Deliberate practice vs. late specialization - 24 September 2018


    Is talent identification even possible? - 17 September 2018


    Who won the Asian Games? - 10 September 2018


    Re-thinking the mission of Malaysia's sport associations - 03 September 2018


    Using maturity offsets to determine age at peak height velocity - 27 August 2018


    The youth sport talent illusion: How we confuse early-maturers with good athletes - 13 August 2018


    The tip of the iceberg: What are we seeing when we watch elite sport performances? - 30 July 2018


    7 things youth sport coaches should know - 25 June 2018


    Who is responsible for athlete performance: Athletes, coaches, or committees? - 18 June 2018


    Creating a culture of achievement in sport - 05 June 2018


    Sport development in the headlines (sort of): Is Malaysia really serious about revamping their sports system? - 28 May 2018


    Who won the Commonwealth Games? A points analysis of the Gold Coast games - 23 April 2018


    Kaizen: Improving sport administration will improve performance - 02 April 2018


    What can Malaysia learn from Norway about sport development? - 05 March 2018


    More efficiency tips for coaches: Dealing with more than one email address and other communication ideas - 26 February 2018


    Efficiency tips for coaches: What can you do to work more efficiently? - 19 February 2018


    LTAD: Training to compete - 22 January 2018


    Sport clubs are the lifeblood of national sport development. They need help from sport associations to do their job. - 15 January 2018


    Sometimes taking risks is the only way to improve: Take a chance! - 18 December 2017


    How we calculate age in youth sports can have benefits and consequences - 11 December 2017


    What is bio-banding? Can it help reduce the relative age effect in sport? - 04 December 2017


    Understanding the role that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation play in the athlete development process - 20 November 2017


    Great expectations: Expect more, get more! What we learn from raising the bar in sport performance - 14 November 2017


    Why process is far more important than outcome in a learning environment - 25 September 2017


    Sport associations are embracing physical literacy training - 18 September 2017


    Creating a true sport development system in Malaysia - 11 September 2017


    Who won the SEA Games? - 04 September 2017


    KL2017: Reporting individual sport results deserved better planning - 29 August 2017


    Can we please forget about ways to identify talent and just work on getting more athletes? - 07 August 2017


    Using the team selection process to boost motivation and increase athlete participation - 24 July 2017


    LTAD: The Train to Train stage - 10 July 2017


    LTAD: The Learn-to-Train stage - 26 June 2017


    Athletic training for youngsters - 12 June 2017


    Visualization and imagery in sports - 05 June 2017


    Young, single-sport athletes suffer more injuries and do not reach their full potential - 29 May 2017


    Transformational vs. transactional coaching - 23 May 2017


    Will they come back tomorrow? The most important KPI for youth sport coaches - 08 May 2017


    Advice to parents of young athletes - 01 May 2017


    Is VIP leadership of sport associations a good idea? - 22 March 2017


    What happens after an athlete's initial introduction to sport? - 27 February 2017


    "Where do athletes come from?" A paper presented at the Kuching sport psychology conference - 16 January 2017


    Understanding sport talent pathways - 09 January 2017


    Make 2017 the year of the growth mindset - 02 January 2017


    Teaching physical literacy skills in youth sport practices - 12 December 2016


    Developing sport from the ground up: How does the process really work? - 06 December 2016


    Pay for what you want: Why less government funding may be the best strategy for sport development - 21 November 2016


    The 10,000 hour rule: "Not for the faint of heart nor for the impatient" - 14 November 2016


    Parent involvement in their child's sport participation sometimes backfires - 07 November 2016


    How to do the measurements for determining peak height velocity (PHV) - 24 October 2016


    A foreign coach is not always the answer - 17 October 2016


    Tips on creating an effective coaching environment - 10 October 2016


    Peak height velocity and aerobic development: Using simple measurement data to inform training decisions - 26 September 2016


    Early sport specialization is still not a good idea - 19 September 2016


    What kind of data do we need to develop sports? - 13 September 2016


    The attrition and transformation models of sport development - 05 September 2016


    Solve for <x> - 29 August 2016


    Artificial elimination of athletes from training and competition hinders sport development in Malaysia - 15 August 2016


    Time is the most important factor in talent development - 01 August 2016


    What if opportunity never knocks? - 13 June 2016


    The long-term athlete development framework offers youngsters a chance at sport success and an active and healthy life - 06 June 2016


    Early sport specialization is not a good development strategy - 30 May 2016


    What does a declining population mean for sport? - 2 February 2016


    Coaching 'flow' - 11 November 2015


    The coach's role in creating a deliberate practice environment - 02 November 2015


    When should athletes specialize in a single sport? - 11 September 2015


    Physical literacy: The Holy Grail of health, wellness, and sport development - 1 September 2015


    Revisiting the 10,000 hour rule: Practical thoughts on talent and practice - 10 August 2015


    The power of 'not yet' - 20 July 2015


    Let's stop trying to identify sport talent and start developing it - 22 June 2015