Author Archives: Rick Howard

We may know what we are looking FOR but do we understand what we are looking AT?

A blog definitely worth following!


it is nothing joined; it flows…..

Streams of consciousness around complexity of youth development, myths, fake fundamentals, coaching, coach education and the talent arms race.

The elimination of England and the success of Iceland at Euro 2016 has awakened many discussions on social media. Both Sweden and Ireland are wondering about the next generation. Holland are absent. Coaches, pundits and journalists are having the usual international “talent arms race” discussion.  Twitter is a constant source of analysis, myths, knowledge, debate, rumors, lies, damned lies and statistics, and of course humor.

iceland shirtIceland

There have been so many articles written in the media about player development in Iceland. On the Second Captains podcast, football writer and historian Anton Ingi Sveinbjörnsson gave us an interesting and alternative insight in to what lessons we can take from Iceland.

“I think that the main point is that the investment and the infrastructure and the coaching…

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Focus on the Athleticism End of the Continuum, not the Sickness End — Rick Howard

Protectives Reduce the Need for Correctives

Have you noticed lately that fitness has gotten caught up in the same sickness paradigm as our “healthcare” system? Rather than focusing on developing the 22 fundamental motor skills for all kids, we wait until there are movement deficiencies and rate their inability to move on a pain-to-proficient scale. According to the Illness-Wellness Continuum, we have become fixated on the treatment paradigm instead of the wellness paradigm. I suggest we get back to basics and focus on developing health and wellness for all kids, starting as early as possible (LTAD Pillar #5-

Illness Wellness Continuum

Why not ensure that all kids have the opportunity to master the 22 fundamental motor skills so that kids can focus on the opportunities that movement competence provides? These opportunities include developing and improving athleticism by participating in a variety of sports and physical activities across the lifespan, aka physical literacy. Movement competence leads to lifetime physical activity. Protectives will reduce the need for correctives!

These Skills Must be Taught

Who will teach kids these skills? It will take those with great courage to be the outliers willing to focus on the fundamentals. It will take those that can actually move competently and also have the ability to teach kids at their level. It will take those that are willing to focus on an early start for all kids to reduce the number of movement proficiency later in life. This is where I focus for kids of all ages!

Let’s look at the teaching aspect. Coaches, physical educators, and trainers should look to bring “learning to life” by walking with the kids in your care, and working with them, alongside them (see Mark K Smith’s great article on pedagogy  Can you as teacher inspire the kids in your care to progress through the 22 fundamental motor skills while having fun and contextually experiencing how those skills can be applied in various movements, skills, and games? A key point to remember is that fundamental motor skills are age-related, not age-determined. This means that while most 7-year-olds may be able to jump rope (age-related), a 7-year-old is not necessarily able to jump rope just because he/she is 7 (age-determined). It is critical that we provide age-appropriate instruction and then encourage time for free play, semi-structured play, and structured play in order for kids to learn, explore, and reinforce their skills.

How to Get Started

So, how do you do it? First recognize and improve your own 22 motor skills from the three categories:

  • Object Control- Throwing, Catching, Kicking, Striking, Bouncing, Dribbling
  • Locomotor– Walking, Running, Skipping, Dodging, Jumping, Crawling, Hopping
  • Body Awareness- Balance (Static and Dynamic), Stopping, Landing, Bending, Turning, Rolling, Climbing, Stretching, Twisting


I like the way Larry Meadors lined them up for practical use (


 Meadors FMS.jpg

If you need guidance on explaining and evaluating fundamental movement skills, I recommend this manual from the Australian government


Now we are ready to improve fundamental motor skills for our athletes/clients. Next we will look at how to program fundamental motor skills into activities for athletes of all ages.

My blog suggests solutions for successfully implementing LTAD. The blogs are based on evidence, experience, and scholarly discussions with colleagues.

This blog reflects my personal opinion— I also welcome yours!



Investigating the Complexity of Youth Athlete Development and the IOC Consensus Statement-

Excellent blog by Mark O’Sullivan!



“Without our context we are not what we are. We are not a list of attributes. My aim is not to fracture and break apart what should be together, not to de-contextualise. And that’s the oldest approach on earth”. (Juanma Lillo)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) in an effort to advance a more unified and evidence informed approach to youth athlete development organised a consensus meeting of experts in the field in November 2014.They critically evaluated the current state of science and practice of youth athlete development. In a research paper published May 2015 the IOC presented recommendations for an approach that is sensitive to the conditions required to aid the evolution and emergence of healthy, resilient and capable youth athletes/people, while providing opportunities for all levels of sport participation and success.

Various systems interacting over time to influence development

“While sports science and research tends to focus upon the…

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FMS before FMS

Solutions for Implementing Long-Term Athletic Development (LTAD)

FMS before FMS

We should be focusing on FMS (fundamental motor skills) before FMS (functional movement screens)! There, I said it. With all the research supporting the benefits of fundamental motor skills on

  • Overall health and fitness
  • Perceived motor competence
  • Self esteem
  • Likelihood of being physically active
  • Likelihood to continue to be physically active
  • Athleticism

it would seem that our FIRST assessment would be to determine the level of perceived and actual motor competence in a series of fundamental movement skills, such as walking, skipping, catching, striking, and jumping.


If we truly are adopting a long term approach to athletic development (LTAD), we need to agree that “long-term” is across the lifespan, consistent with physical literacy, and is not merely for the season, or until the athlete can no longer keep up with the level of competition. This tells us, then, that these same measures of perceived and actual motor competence are applicable to all athletes (defined as “anyone who has a body” by The Aspen Institute’s Sport for All, Play for Life) across the life span to determine the general patterns of movement that are essential for all other movements and combinations of motor skills. As part of my initial evaluation with athletes of all ages, the first assessment is for them to walk (first forward, then backward). You would be amazed at what your “coach’s eye” can observe with this simple motor skill. Uneven gait, tight T-spine, knee valgus, and shoulder issues are often apparent. Most athletes do not often move backwards so it is important to check and include movements in this direction in the program design.

Similarly, motor skill patterns in all three planes of movement need to be observed before programs can be designed. I am surprised at how many athletes have difficulty keeping their center of gravity over their base of support during simple movements in the sagittal plane, let alone frontally or horizontally! Something to think about before prescribing lunges, band walks, and other movements for which some athletes do not possess the fundamental movement pattern unloaded.


FMS (Functional Movement Screen) certainly has its place in the coach’s toolbox. For many, having a quantitative measure of specific movements that includes prescriptive exercises to help improve those movements, is invaluable. Yet, without also looking at the big picture FMS (fundamental movement skills) the evidence suggests that we might not be focusing on the fundamental pathways of movement that are essential across all sports and activities, including structured play, semi-structured play, and free play. Fundamental motor skills (along with muscle strength) is the cornerstone of successful implementation of LTAD—why not provide all athletes with an assessment of these skills and the tools they need to be successful movers across their life span?

Note from Rick

Beginning with this article, my blog will suggest solutions for successfully implementing LTAD. The blogs will be based on evidence, experience, and scholarly discussion with colleagues.

This blog reflects my personal opinion— I also welcome yours!

Where Have All the Skills Gone?

Great post. Also consider how are we developing motor fitness to support health fitness and skill acquisition? Are PE programs teaching students the fundamentals of developmentally-appropriate movement in all three planes and on a variety of surfaces, in a variety of settings and circumstances, and remembering that fun is the balance of success and challenge!

Artie Kamiya's Wonderful & Random PE Blog

An Open Letter to #PhysEd & #PEGeeks on Twitter:

I’ll get straight to the point: Lately, I have noticed a bunch of posts on Twitter by #Physed Ts and #PEGeeks who I know have skill-based programs (i.e., they are actually teaching students to learn how to throw, kick, catch, etc.) but who are posting pictures and videos that make it appear that they are just doing high interest stuff for fun.

While each of you have the freedom to share what you’d like, I would like us to consider how these posts may contribute to a “Diet of Fun Games” with little or no real skill-building taking place. In other words, the skill levels that the students had when they entered the gym are the same ones they will have when they leave. Or to put it bluntly, students have not learned to be more skillful by your lesson.


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A bluffers guide to non-linear pedagogy

Another thought-provoking blog from Drowning in the Shallow!

Learning within PE can be seen as a non-linear process. Skill Acquisition development, which should be at the heart of PE to help improve children’s technical competency, along with thei…

Source: A bluffers guide to non-linear pedagogy

An Enlightened Decision

A step in the right direction


photo essinge lek

In the province of Västergötland in Sweden major steps have been taken to ensure that children’s and young people’s perspective are central to how youth sport will be organised and carried out. The Västgotlands Football, Ice hockey and Handball federations have come together to create a project called “Consenus Västgötland” to set up common guidelines for child and youth sport.

Consensus Vastergotland” has been developed to encourage multi-sport participation. Through this partnership the three federations are taking joint responsibility for young people to engage in more sports at the same time.

The consensus calls for parents, leaders and clubs to engage with each other and talk about how different sports are competing with each other in a negative way. The system should NOT force children to choose between sports.

“We work and take joint responsibility for children and adolescents up to 16 years to be able to participate in more…

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The Relationship Between Motor Competence and Physical Activity


Stodden and colleagues (2008) created a model that investigated the relationship between motor skill competence, physical activity participation, and perceived motor skill competence.

Motor skill competence plays an important role in the initiation, maintenance, and decline of physical activity. The perceptions a child has of his or her competence in physical activity will influence whether or not a child will maintain participation in physical activity as development continues (Stodden et al. 2008). Also playing an important role in this relationship is health-related physical fitness and obesity.

Important to the relationship between competence and physical activity is the development of fundamental motor skills (FMS). FMS are learned early in childhood and include movements like walking and running. These movements form the foundation that all other movements are built off of. It’s vital for children to master a variety of FMS to participate in different physical activities. If children are unable to…

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The flaw of linearity within PE

Source: The flaw of linearity within PE

Toward LTAD Being Universally Implemented

Nobody is filling the talent pool! Youth sports coaches are overtraining youngsters and exploiting the relative age effect and PE is imposing an adult-centric model of “lifetime” fitness. How are we going to move toward physical literacy before, during, and after school when we can’t get many coaches and PE teachers on the same page for motor skill competence through integrated neuromuscular training? Part of the challenge is that some coaches overuse young athletes and some physical educators relegate them to afterschool so that there is no attention being paid to motor skill development and muscular strength, in alignment with the Composite Youth Development Model. What if we all were athletes?!

So, why the problem with us all being athletes?
In our adult-focused quest to display our kids as “the greatest athlete that ever lived” at Age 10 we have inadvertently turned many kids off from sport, led others to injury and burnout, and created champion 10-year-olds that can’t compete at Age 16. Overzealous parents and coaches are contributing to an alarming downturn in youth sports participation in our most popular sports. Youngsters are not being developed for athleticism so many are either not interested, burned out, injured, or are limiting their potential.
Conversely, in physical education’s quest to be recognized as a core subject, i.e., a subject every bit as important as any other subject like Math and English (a very worthwhile cause), they minimized the value of sports in their mission. This is akin to eliminating recess in order to drive test scores, i.e., neither makes sense or helps kids achieve on any level. Sports were relegated to the select few after school. Who is teaching the motor skills and sports skills needed? They forgot that kids want to learn, improve, and make us proud. That is, kids just want to have fun. Fun has been described as just the right mix of challenge and success. How many 3rd graders want to focus on reducing their risk of cardiovascular disease?

Let’s agree:
1. With the American Academy of Pediatrics’ definition of athletic readiness as adequate preparation of the physical, biological, social and psychological domains for sport and competition
2. With Margaret Whitehead’s distinction that each of us is an athlete within our given level of endowment, i.e., we may not all be elite athletes but we can and should pursue athletic endeavors throughout the lifecourse
3. Therefore, with the Aspen Institute, that everyone is an athlete

Step 1 to Universal Implementation of LTAD
All kids are athletes and deserve every opportunity to participate in unstructured play, semistructured play, and structured play in order to develop the movement skills and psychosocial balance to always be physical active, whether in recreational, competitive, or elite pursuits.

I am committed to contribute more regularly to my Youth Centered Sports and Fitness blog and focus my efforts on highlighting solutions to implementing long-term athletic development (LTAD). Through sharing my views in articles, presentations, invited reviews, position statements, etc. and learning from many other experts in the field I am excited to facilitate ongoing dialogue on LTAD and provide solutions to implementing LTAD universally.


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