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
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.
FMS and LTAD
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 and FMS
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!