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Revolutionary research inspires new approach to coaching ‘Fundamentals of Movement’

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New research has inspired a radical rethink into how to coach fundamental movement skills (FMS) to children. The evolved model promotes coaching FMS throughout a lifetime of sport and challenges opinion that strength training should be held back until children reach adolescence.

Every parent wants to do what’s best for their child.

And every coach will echo that sentiment, and profess to want what’s best for their performers.

But do parents and coaches always stick to their principles and lead children down the most suitable path when they encounter key junctions in their life?

What is in the best interest of a child can sometimes be obscured, forgotten or even ignored.

In the pursuit of sporting success, for example, more often than not, the hankering for short-term profit triumphs over long-term ambition.

Impatience distracts the mind from what is truly important and can directly hinder a child’s long-term progress, success and happiness.

Coaches adore the phrase, ‘a season is a marathon not a sprint’. Well, so is a child’s physical development.

But what we have seen in the context of sport and physical activity is children’s development being rushed, to the extent that they are not learning the diverse range of core movement skills that are necessary for building long-term athletic confidence and competence.

Some grass-roots coaches overlook the teaching of fundamental movement skills (which include the ability to crawl, balance, run, skip, jump, catch and throw) altogether in favour of sport-specific drills and games, unaware, perhaps, that they have bypassed the basic building blocks that support the development of physical literacy.

And unaware too of the adverse effects this could have on sustained participation and well-being, not to mention the risk of burnout and injury that threatens to emerge like a rabbit out of a hat at some point in an athlete’s future.

These fundamental body shapes and movements can also be honed by playing a wide variety of sports.

But with children often encouraged to specialise in one sport at an early age, they are being deprived of this opportunity to expand their range of movement skills.

This can hinder long-term development, with research telling us those who specialise early when it is not essential have shorter careers in sport and a lower likelihood of going on to achieve success at a senior level.

Coaches and parents must not lose sight of the long-term horizon, and remember to pause for thought at these sporting T-junctions.

In the clamour for immediate success, coaches and parents push their athletes/children into the role of the hare, rather than the tortoise. But they are forgetting that a child’s sporting journey should not be treated as a race to begin with.

balance

Time for a revamp

Governing bodies and coach educators have traditionally used the Long-term Athlete Development (LTAD) Model to promote and endorse the value of fundamental movement skills (FMS).  

The framework was developed at the turn of the millennium, but its overarching theoretical principles have recently been built upon by Cardiff Metropolitan University lecturers Dr Jon Oliver and Dr Rhodri Lloyd.

After years of evidence-based research, Jon, who is a Reader in Applied Paediatric Exercise Science, and Rhodri, a Senior Lecturer in Strength and Conditioning, have unveiled an evolved model that promotes coaching of FMS throughout a lifetime of sport, not just childhood.

It also flies in the face of long-accepted opinion that strength training should be held back until participants reach adolescence.

Their Youth Physical Development Model (YPDM) has been integrated into the brand-new ‘How to Coach the Fundamentals of Movement’ workshop being offered by UK Coaching (formerly Sports Coach UK), which replaces the old FUNdamentals of Movement suite of workshops.

UK Coaching's Development Lead Officer for Children, Schools and Safeguarding, David Turner, helped design the new workshop in collaboration with Jon, Rhodri and Jon Woodward.

David explains: ‘We’ve gone back to the basics and tried to isolate what the core movements and competencies are that children need to have before they move on to some of those more difficult and more complex exercises, skills and movements.

‘Research is telling us YPDM is a much better version. It has a greater emphasis on developmentally appropriate training than previous models used in the coaching of pre-adolescent and adolescent children and young people.

‘What it is fantastic in doing is explaining to coaches what their training should focus on in these different development stages.’

The birth of the YPDM model, and the new workshop, could not be better timed, with the valuable role FMS play in supporting ongoing enjoyment and lifelong participation in sport and physical activity being – at long last – nationally acknowledged.

The need for children to be taught these basic building blocks from an early age has now been written into the PE national curriculum for primary schools, while governing bodies have recognised that a Multi-skills upbringing leads to longer-term ability and success, and have begun incorporating FMS into their early level qualifications.

The physical cost of inactivity

This acknowledgement is a welcome start, coming at a time when there is an even greater threat to children’s physiological development – the trappings of modern society.

For many young children, fast food, computer games and television have taken over from climbing trees, playing ball games and making dens as the hobbies of choice.

Combined with a decline in the number of children’s play areas and the perception that it is no longer safe for children to play outside, the country has stumbled slowly but surely into an inactivity crisis that is costing the UK economy billions every year in health care costs.

Three quarters of children aged between five and 15 are failing to meet the UK Chief Medical Officers’ recommendations on physical activity.

As a direct consequence, children are depriving themselves of the opportunity to learn FMS outside of a school or club setting.

The new UK Coaching workshop will furnish coaches with the ammunition to combat the detrimental effect sedentary lifestyles are having on our children’s physical, psychological and social development.

Crawl

Model does not discriminate over age

The painstaking research undertaken by Jon and Rhodri has given rise to a model that allows athlete-centred and developmentally appropriate coaching.

‘With the popular model that existed, nobody had really looked at the supporting evidence to see how children responded to exercise and training,’ says Jon.

‘That older model was suggesting there were very specific windows of time when you should train different types of fitness in children. Actually, through mine and Rhodri’s work, it told us that, while different types of training might be beneficial at different times of their development, actually, children are responsive to all types of training all throughout childhood and adolescence.’

So, while the expression ‘the younger, the better’ does bear scrutiny in the teaching of FMS, evidence shows that balance, agility and coordination training should form an important part of adult coaching sessions too.

Let’s examine the impact on young children first, and why organisations like UK Coaching are pushing the agenda of trying to embed movement skills in children at as early an age as possible.

The central nervous system develops rapidly early in life, making it the ideal time to build new motor pathways. And coaches are able to reinforce the learning of motor skills through the medium of exercise.

‘It’s easier for children to learn movements and learn coordination if we can try and give them appropriate physical activity and exercise training when they are young,’ explains Jon.

‘That will then allow them to have the skills to go on and be more active and take part in a wider variety of sports and activities when they are older.

‘But equally, the model could still apply to someone a bit older who hasn’t been through that process. It gets more difficult, but you could go back to the start of the process and get them to learn movement skills so they can perform exercises that will help them with physical activity.’

David is a javelin coach on the England Athletics National Coach Development Programme. He makes a point of allocating time for core movement skills, regardless of the age or ability of the athletes he is working with.

‘It can be adapted to be used in any coach’s warm-up,’ he says. ‘I use this with athletes who are in their 20s. It’s not just something that’s for children, it’s also about movements that are going to be useful for an adult as they move through the pathway – whether that’s just maintenance or catching up on something they practically didn’t get in their primary school years.’

YPDM image

The male and female versions of the YPDM reflect the fact that boys usually develop into adolescence later than their female counterparts.

In the male model (shown above), the lighter shading refers to pre-adolescence and the darker shading adolescence, while the larger text sizes indicate a period in which that aspect of training should be prioritised over other types of training in smaller text. However, the key point is that all aspects can be developed, to some extent, throughout a child’s development. 

A strong argument

Another myth that still pervades the coaching of children is the concept that strength training is developmentally inappropriate. 

In fact, Jon and Rhodri’s research suggests that strength development remains key throughout all phases of development and could lead to a 50% reduction in overuse injuries within youth sport. 

Their findings were based on a systematic review of an inordinately large body of research.

Rather than trying to make judgements on theory and single studies, they looked, for example, at a review article on strength training in children, which itself reviewed 42 different studies.

‘The studies were surprisingly consistent in showing that young children as well as older children could all benefit from strength training,’ says Jon.

‘People might get a bit wary, thinking of strength training with children, but there is a large emphasis on developing the skills of children to use and handle their own body weight. You can then progress, in time, from learning very simple skills to more complex and demanding exercises, where there will be more force going through your body.’

Strength training in children also helps with bone health, pouring more cold water on the misconception that strength training can have a negative impact on the growth and development of children.

‘Physical activity guidelines from the World Health Organisation and NHS, and similar bodies all around the world, all make the same suggestion that children and adults should be physically active throughout the week, but also that there should be regular strength training,’ adds Jon.

As David points out, strength training in children does not mean squatting 200kg in the gym.

‘What we mean by strength is the ability to control body weight.

‘And strength is important from early years all the way through to adulthood. Jon and Rhodri’s work is the first time somebody has really gone out on paper and said that.’

All fun and games

Whether coaching or performing FMS, the emphasis should always be on creating a fun and stimulating environment where learning can prosper.

It really isn’t that difficult to inject some entertainment into proceedings. A bit of laughing and joking will not lessen the exercise’s impact, and remember, enthusiasm is infectious.

You can be serious about sport without having to take every training drill too seriously. The important thing is that participants are engaged. You can be engrossed in a session without having a steely-faced look of deep concentration etched on to your face.

Challenged to pick a favourite exercise that combines the fun factor with the development of movement competency, David says animal shapes are always a great ice-breaker.

‘You give people a set of animals, and there are movement patterns you have to replicate for each animal. There is a direct link there to a fundamental movement skill.

‘So one might be an alligator crawl, where you try to keep your body as low to the ground as possible while you move along the floor. The idea is that you’ve got body weight management there, and you’ve also got some shoulder conditioning and some hip mobility within that.

‘In my sport of javelin, I call that the Spiderman crawl, and it’s something the athletes are expected to do three, four, possibly even five times a week as part of their warm-up for every session. So that is an exercise that is useful across the board.’

Releasing your animal instinct, then, can have major benefits to your posture, balance, agility, coordination and strength.

Do you really get adults crawling around pretending to be alligators, or hopping about mimicking the actions of their child’s pet bunny?, I ask. ‘Absolutely,’ says David.

‘There’s the creativity element too. So you’re asking coaches to think up their own variations and ideas. It doesn’t have to be animals at this point, it could be superheroes. If coaches are being creative in what they do, then it helps the kids be creative.’

Tasks like these are easily digestible, ensuring both coaches and participants grasp, not only how, but why they are doing the movements.

‘You wouldn’t want to lecture a four-year-old boy on why,’ says David, ‘but as they become a little bit older, say eight or nine, then you can question them on why they are landing, jumping or throwing in this way. You can tell them to experiment with movements so they can feel the difference in their balance and body weight distribution, and get a feel for how to perform the movement correctly.’

Moving forward

There is a greater need than ever before for children to have access to fundamentals of movement coaching.

The sea change that is taking place in the industry’s attitude is refreshing. With the education sector also on board, and with a pioneering coaching model available as an effective framework, the hope is that this will help counteract the two-pronged menace posed by the rise in sedentary behaviour and craving for short-term success – reflected in the trend for early specialisation.

Fundamentals of movement is in itself a growing movement, and fundamental to children’s enjoyment, lifelong participation and improved performance in sport or physical activity.

Please leave a comment below

Organisations: Find out more about how to organise the UK Coaching ‘How to Coach the Fundamentals of Movement’ workshop.

Coaches: To find a ‘How to Coach the Fundamentals of Movement’ workshop running near you, visit the UK Coaching Workshop Finder.

UK Coaching and sportscotland have developed a short animation detailing the 'Youth Physical Development Model' and what this means for the development of 'Fundamental Movement Skills' which you can watch here.

You might also be interested to know that sportscotland has developed an app that includes some physical literacy videos.

Mairi McLaughlin, Partnership Manager at sportscotland said “The importance of understanding the basics of physical literacy is paramount for coaches of all levels to know.  The videos and podcasts introduce keystone movements in athletes and how coaches can support the development of these.  We have developed the app to give coaches information about their coaching practice on the go.  We know that coaches have less and less time to attend full day CPD workshops so we hope that by providing an app on their phones and tablets that they can access vital information and learning easily and fit it in to their busy lives. It’s really simple to register once you download the app and we will keep you up to date on new content and relevant events in your area."

You can download the app for free from the App Store and Google Play

This blog is also available as a podcast on a number of platforms including iTunes. Listen here.

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Comments (13)

   
pippaglen

I became really excited when reading this article, excellent job to all involved. In the nearly 9 years that I have been involved in coaching I have seen young athletes under pressure to train and compete by both parents and coaches to train until there bodies can no longer continue, over trained,becoming ill and sustaining many injuries all this at the age of 10 and 11 and into early teens and having virgorous training regimes. This day and age coaches have come on leaps and bounds. We have gained more knowledge, attend courses, use more sophisticated equipment. Are we the coaches to blames for the over training of young athletes ?. Look at the Olympic games, there isn't an age limit to compete yet we still allow athletes at a young age to compete, to train for years to then compete at a very high level against older more advanced athletes. 13 year old Nepalese swimmer Gaurika Singh. How many years must this athlete have been training for to get her place in the the games. Why isn't there an age limit to compete at the Olympic games? Coaches are asked to take the child protection course are we really protecting our athletes or are we placing them under pressure at young ages to develop and compete. Isn't this classed as a form of child abuse subjecting our young athletes to perform from such a young age putting there bodies and body structures under so much pressure not including the mental health implications, lack of sleep and no life outside training and no child hood, children with eating disorders due to heavy training regimes and lack of nutritional information, the over developed bodies at a young age. Why are we putting our young athletes under so much pressure where did the FUN element to sports go? Let them develop naturally! let them try many sports not just compete in one sport. Most of all give them there childhood back.

28/10/16
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cheetham

This has been a really significant influence to practice design and coach education workshops. I attended the new fundamentals course and tutor orientation session which was invaluable. It has been well received by so many coaches who I have worked with and the foundations on which it has been built will have such benefits / impact. The 'animal movements' approach to teaching it worked so well and then today in a coaching children workshop delivered with Jon Woodward and Dave Turner showed the importance of embedding it in programmes as well as spending time specifically on the movement skills.

28/10/16
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pippaglen

When I took my level 2 multi skills coaching I thought how on earth would that help me with my coaching, Multi skills has helped me in many different ways the tutor who did the course was absolutely amazing and crazy. what he did made so much sense and helped me to have a more open mind about the way I coach and how incorporate different movements. I use yoga and ti chi movements for seated discus using a nice flowing arm movement this actually works well through out the session and allows athletes keep focused. UKA and the 365 athletics for me was a great way to help me with the fundermentals movements of running,jumping and throwing especially for young athletes it also helped with older athletes that hadn't got very good fundermentals movement like balance, coordination.

29/10/16
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Gordon

Emma was that me Crazy not sure what you mean Gordon

31/10/16
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andrewb62

We use animal shapes and varied movement patterns in warm-ups with our youngest players - no supporting science, just because it is fun.
Running, forwards, sideways & backwards; giant strides, forwards & backwards; polar bear crawl (same as the alligator/spiderman - but we introduced it just before Christmas, so had a wintry theme), again forwards & backwards; ***** (upside down polar bear); rabbits and frogs (short hops or long lily pad leaps).
Then, once they get to 6 years of age, we revert to running and chasing games.
The new Fundamentals of Movement workshop sounds like a must.

30/10/16
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pippaglen

Mr Fearn, welcome nice to see you on Cc. And yes I was referring to you 😂 you know it's all good.

31/10/16
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andrewb62

!?!!
In the list of animal movements, above, for *****, read "decapod crustaceans of the infraorder Brachyura"

Seems like they are on the banned word list...

31/10/16
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oranjesoccerschoolindia

Excellent, really an eye opener... Speechless, what a fantastic article...Here in mumbai- India, I m fully connected with the students from Age u- 4 upto senior..Honestly I would love to implement and impart this valuable methods to my students... I would love to learn this really. How can I get the details about this course?? Books and CDs? Thanking you all for this fantastic topic. Kind regards Sudhir B T, Braveheart Football skool - Mumbai , India
Oranje Soccerschool India.

27/11/16
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wendygorman

Great read. I am a triathlon youth coach and previously a youth worker working in disadvantaged areas. The kids I worked with as a youth worker displayed far better all round FUNdamental skills than the triathlon kids who attended various sports clubs, but perhaps had not spent time playing out in the streets, jumping over walls, running through garden's, climbing trees etc that the kids I came into contact with as a youth worker. I started Saturday afternoon sessions at the tri club to tackle this, where we play games etc around the ABC's. We also let the kids raid our athletics goody bag and make up their own obstacle courses/games which every one then does. Great fun and all FUNdamental skill s covered. Love this article. Must sign up for the course

08/02/17
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FDNYladder111

Revolutionary ?.....Volleyball England or English Volleyball Association as it was back in the early 1990's have been using Movement Fundamentals introduced by RALPH HIPPOLYTE when he appointed GB Men's Coach.
Ralph's video 'Volleyball: A Movement Education'(1993) is something I still refer to.
Good Posture, early preparation, efficient movement and effective teamwork are some the concepts covered underpinning the more volleyball specifics of 'Readiness' ( now commonly referred to by Americans as the Universal Athletic Position),
BallFlight judgement, Right Time/Right Place, Contact Points.

His principles have been built on by outstanding National Team volleyball coaches like Jefferson Williams, Keith Trenam
Both Ralph and Keith are from a martial arts background prior to volleyball I believe.

His book 'Startegies of Team Management Through Volleyball' is still worth a read !
Tom Middleton, England HANDBALL

08/02/17
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David_T

Hi Tomas,
Yes there is certainly some element of going back to basics with this. Something that sadly seems to have been lost in the rush to Sports Specific Skills with children and I feel to their detriment.

But there is no doubting that the Youth Physical Development Model, which underpins the workshop, is revolutionary in terms of the way it identifies the physical qualities a coach should be prioritising(and de-prioritising) with children at each stage of development. The prioritising of strength throughout all stages and the de-prioritisation of endurance through childhood are great messages that will really help coaches, parents and others revaluate what we mean by a high quality children's coaching session.

10/02/17
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andrewb62

I attended the How to Coach Fundamentals workshop yesterday - huge thanks to Kam Raval for presenting.
So many ideas to take away - almost too many, in fact, and I wish I had been a little more disciplined to take brief notes between activities (it would have given me an excuse to catch my breath at the same time!).
A word of warning - the workshop is hugely engaging, and more physical than others I have done. Be prepared, and remember to hydrate...
And don't try sports acro, especially partner boxes, with anyone who isn't approximately the same size as you!

10/03/17
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David_T

Kam is a real character. A great member of our tutor workforce. Delighted you enjoyed it Andrew. When Jon Woodward and I deliver he always makes me do the Demos so I can confirm you will need a drink AND a hot bath afterwards haha

16/03/17
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Vivien

People who have been taught in pre-school gymnastics many years ago, have been using this approach with all their pre-school children. Originally designed by Kate Pearson and which had a strong following for many years. Unfortunately, it would appear that many groups now do not attach the same importance and are putting young children into talent identification groups.

I have coached, tutored and examined preschool for over 25 years and welcome this approach you are taking to enlighten coaches of how young children develop. S.P.L.I.C.E.- social, physical, lingual, intellectual, creative and emotional attitudes and learning formed the basis of what we did with the children in the pre-school gymnastics classes. Many of the children who passed through our groups went into different sports as a result of being sociable, well co-ordinated, willing to learn and to be part of a team. I would be very interested in attending the new workshop and to get all my young coaches there as well. Some were invited to take up diving, pole vaulting, badminton, golf to name but a few.

The Scottish Gymnastics Pre-school Programme was called G.Y.M.T.E.D. which stood for Gymnastics for the Young in Movement, Training and Dance with a teddy bear as the mascot. British Gymnastics had originally created a programme called Gym Joey, all about a Kangaroo, our one was created by myself to complement the BGA one. Unfortunately, today's methods appear to disregard the fundamentals of our programmes - Landing & Shaping, Balance, Rotation, Rebounding, Swinging, Climbing, all taking place within music and song. I have long advocated that such programmes should be part of the Primary School Curriculum and also I am aware of research that proves children, as young as three and when given the opportunity to be physically active in such programmes, can delay any onset of Osteoporosis in later life and this is when the building blocks begin for a healthy skeleton to take a body forward into a healthy old age.

10/03/17
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ps.rhodes1

Great piece, now to convince coaches that they should dedicate a greater emphasis on athlete development than short term competitor success.

14/04/17
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FDNYladder111

Linking to my earlier mention re fundamental movement with Volleyball's Ralph Hippolyte.
An innovative approach to teaching PE and getting children and young people to move and think in a more cohesive way Has been adopted by Education SCOTLAND.
It's called 'Better Movers and Thinkers'. One of its authors is Thomas Dowens, former Scotland and GB VOLLEYBALL Head Coach. As with Raplhs principles I include some of the exercises mainly in my warm ups when delivering 'VolleyGlide (Sitting Volleyball) and HANDBALL.
I also combine this with some team building challenges based on my experience as a former London Firefighter and working with Paralympic Volleyball Players from several countries.

It's amazing what you can learn from observing a quadruple amputee not in a wheelchair or without prosthesis adapting to move to , and intercept a volleyball for the first time
Guaranteed you won't see anything like it in a volleyball coaching manual !

As part of exposing mainstream schools to 'Disability' Volleyball , I will get the students to perform elements of VolleyGlide with lower/upper limb limitations. i e moving (with buttocks in contact with the floor as per rules ) without using arms, then contacting ball with shoulder or forehead.
Conditioned/Adapted games can include for example ,the first player to receive service, or ball from the opposition during transition has to pass using forehead, contact 2 and/or3 can be made as per regular rules.

Regards Tomas

14/04/17
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