Category Archives: Youth Centered Sports

The ABCs of Movement: Body Management

The ABCs of movement begin with the Athletic Stance. The athletic stance helps us establish our starting position. But, it does more than that—it helps us understand and recognize where our body segments are in relation to other body parts and where our body is in space, which is body management.

Starting from the athletic stance, raise your right hand. How did that change your center of gravity? How did you adjust? Move your feet farther apart. How did that affect your center of gravity? How much effort does it take to sit and stand? How do you swing your arms without coming in contact with anyone else in the room? These are examples of body awareness.

Many movement professionals advise young athletes and those beginning an exercise program to begin with body weight exercises. My recommendation is to be sure they first can understand how their bodies move before instructing an exercise. Once body management is achieved, movement fundamentals are more developmentally appropriate. For some, moving an external object may be more appropriate than trying to move body weight, especially for those that are overweight.

Body management is one of the three categories of fundamental movement skills (locomotor and object control being the other two). There are three types of movement awareness:

  1. Effort awareness: how much muscular effort is needed to initiate, sustain, and stop movement. Examples include climbing, lifting relative (your body) and absolute (external load) weight, stopping, and balancing.
  2. Space awareness: how much personal or shared space is needed for successful movement. Examples include how turning, spinning, and moving with others in a confined space without making contact.
  3. Body awareness: how your body movements relate to other movements around you. Examples include following the leader, raising your arms overhead, and dodging.

Body management skills can be promoted by applying balance, postural control, and equilibrium in a variety of settings using a variety of implements under a variety of conditions, matching the tenets of physical literacy. Physical Literacy is the “mastering of fundamental movement skills and fundamental sport skills that permits us to read our environment and make appropriate decisions, allowing us to move confidently and with control in a wide range of physical activity situations.”

The application of all three categories of fundamental movement skills will be further discussed in the next segment, The ABCs of Movement: Cardinal Planes.

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.

Toward a Youth Strength and Conditioning Specialist Certification to Fill the Talent Pool (Defining Quality Instruction) By: Rick Howard, M.Ed, CSCS, *D, USAW

The most popular blog to date. Still a huge topic of writing and conversation.

youth centered sports and fitness

The cornerstone for teaching and coaching youth properly designed, developmentally-appropriate strength and conditioning programming is quality instruction. Quality instruction is referred to in leading position statements and guidelines as a key component to safe and effective youth fitness, sports participation, and strength and conditioning programs. What defines quality instruction?

Top 10 Outcomes for Quality Instruction for Youth to Fill the Talent Pool

  1. Demonstrate a solid understanding of pediatric exercise science concepts and principles
  2.  Integrate factors along the developmental continuum, physically as well as psychosocially
  3. Appreciate the significance of simultaneously developing, refining, and mastering motor skills and muscle strength, as well as other contributory fitness attributes
  4. Recognize the important role of a long-term approach to talent development to fill the talent pool with as many youth as possible
  5. Implement key strategies for safety and practice design efficiency and effectiveness
  6. Apply the concept of periodization to program design
  7. Infuse coaching methods…

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The Impending Crisis in Youth Sports

My most recent article for Breaking Muscle http://breakingmuscle.com/family-kids/the-impending-crisis-in-youth-sports talks about what many of us now know— unless we do something soon to fix youth sports, the downward spiral will continue. The downward spiral includes a too early focus on sports specialization, too much pressure on kids to win at all cost, and underdevelopment of athleticism, all of which disenfranchise too many kids from not only sports but from meaningful physical activity across the life span.

What Sports Experience Should We Provide?

All of the ingredients necessary to Fill the Talent Pool already exist! We know, as the figure below illustrates, that all positive youth development programs should include positive physical, social, emotional, and cognitive components, which are often referred to as developmental assets.  The physical assets that helps kids improve all physical capacities have not been adequately developed in most sports programs.

 

It is the role of all youth sports parents, coaches, teachers, scientists, officials, and participants to take what we know about positive youth development and apply it to youth sports. To do that we must

  • give kids developmentally-appropriate instruction in motor skill acquisition
  • include proper strength and conditioning
  • make it fun
  • ask the kids for their input
  • establish a youth sports model that includes all developmental assets, with emphasis on the elementary years

The importance of  developing a long-term model that includes integration of skills across all sport platforms is crucial. Think of it like a terrific combination of physical education, sports, and play. Let’s give kids every opportunity to learn about movement, sports, and the social, cognitive, and emotional benefits that follow (if we purposefully include them in our programming). Only then can we truly Fill the Talent Pool.

Toward a Youth Strength and Conditioning Specialist Certification to Fill the Talent Pool (Defining Quality Instruction) By: Rick Howard, M.Ed, CSCS, *D, USAW

The cornerstone for teaching and coaching youth properly designed, developmentally-appropriate strength and conditioning programming is quality instruction. Quality instruction is referred to in leading position statements and guidelines as a key component to safe and effective youth fitness, sports participation, and strength and conditioning programs. What defines quality instruction?

Top 10 Outcomes for Quality Instruction for Youth to Fill the Talent Pool

  1. Demonstrate a solid understanding of pediatric exercise science concepts and principles
  2.  Integrate factors along the developmental continuum, physically as well as psychosocially
  3. Appreciate the significance of simultaneously developing, refining, and mastering motor skills and muscle strength, as well as other contributory fitness attributes
  4. Recognize the important role of a long-term approach to talent development to fill the talent pool with as many youth as possible
  5. Implement key strategies for safety and practice design efficiency and effectiveness
  6. Apply the concept of periodization to program design
  7. Infuse coaching methods and techniques that use relevant cueing and feedback mechanisms for each level
  8. Use testing and assessment as a snapshot to identify areas in need of improvement and to further develop areas toward mastery
  9. Provide opportunities for preadolescents and adolescents to enjoy a variety of sports, physical activities, and strength and conditioning in a positive nurturing environment
  10. Establish a positive youth-centered shared vision, philosophy and goals for the program and the participants

There is a need for a nationally accredited youth certification. Pre-qualification should include a basic understanding of exercise science, growth and development, and strength and conditioning. Unfortunately, there is no nationally accredited certification available that properly addresses all 10 outcomes.  Steps toward the development of such a credential may include

  • Curriculum development and implementation for undergraduate physical education and exercise science majors
  • Youth-serving organizations that design accredited certifications to unite to provide a recognized, valid, and credible certification that can be the gold standard
  • Professional development and community outreach to educate all stakeholders in youth positive development through physical activity, sport, physical education, and strength and conditioning, including coaches, parents, and community-based youth organizations

Our kids deserve to have knowledgeable, caring, certified coaches and teachers leading them in strength and conditioning exercises and activities. More details on the 10 outcomes for Quality Instruction for youth to fill the talent pool coming soon. Stay tuned!

Beware of Youth Sports Camps! by: Rick Howard

Unfortunately, regular participation in organized youth sports does not ensure adequate exposure to skill- and health-related fitness activities, and sport training without preparatory conditioning does not appear to reduce the risk of injury in youngsters (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21623307). With disturbing trends of eliminating or greatly reducing physical education, ill-advised focus on early sport specialization, not giving kids time for free play and the lack of emphasis on developing fundamental fitness skills before engaging in sports, does it make sense to send preadolescents to a sports camp? Many of these camps do not support physical literacy and long term athlete development.

Quality sports camps for preadolescents should teach ALL attendees the progressions and developmental combinations for fundamentals of:

  • health-fitness and skills-fitness activities integrated into the practice design
  • the game and how to play a variety of positions
  • the fundamentals of playing a variety of games and a variety of positions.
  • AND all that needs to be balanced with continued development of fundamental movements:
  • Body Management Skills
    1. Rolling
    2. Stopping
    3. Bending
    4. Twisting
    5. Landing
    6. Stretching
    7. Climbing

8. Static and Dynamic Balancing
9. Turning

  • Locomotor Skills
    1. Crawling
    2. Running
    3. Galloping
    4. Walking
    5. Hopping
    6. Skipping
    7. Dodging

8. Jumping

9.Leaping

  • Object Control Skills
    1. Throwing
    2. Catching
    3. Striking
    4. Bouncing
    5. Dribbling
    6. Kicking

Ignoring teaching the fundamentals of movement skills for lifelong movement and sports is like expecting kids to take algebra without mastering numbers, place values, operations, fractions and decimals, and problem solving.

Noteworthy findings from a recent study, Risks of Specialized Training and Growth in Young Athletes: a Prospective Clinical Cohort Study (http://www.newswise.com/articles/intense-specialized-training-in-young-athletes-linked-to-serious-overuse-injuries ) include:

  • young athletes who spent more hours per week than their age playing one sport – such as a 12-year-old who plays tennis 13 or more hours a week – were 70 percent more likely to experience serious overuse injuries than other injuries
  • young athletes were more likely to be injured if they spent more than twice as much time playing organized sports as they spent in unorganized free play — for example, playing 11 hours of organized soccer each week, and only 5 hours of free play such as pick-up games
  • athletes who suffered serious injuries spent an average of 21 hours per week in total physical activity (organized sports, gym and unorganized free play), including 13 hours in organized sports. By comparison, athletes who were not injured, participated in less activity – 17.6 hours per week in total physical activity, including only 9.4 hours in organized sports

The authors recommend:

  • do not specialize in one sport before late adolescence. Encourage early diversification in playing a range of sports
  • young athletes should not spend more hours per week in organized sports than their ages. Do not spend more than twice as much time playing organized sports as you spend in gym and unorganized play
  • do not play sports competitively year round. Take a break from competition for one-to-three months each year (not necessarily consecutively).

•    take at least one day off per week from training in sports.

Additional recommendations from US Lacrosse’s Position Statement on Youth Participation (http://www.uslacrosse.org/Portals/0/safety/pdf/PositionPaperYouthParticipation.pdf) include:

  • provide 1-2 days off per week from competitive sports.
  • provide 2-3 months away from a specific sport during the year.
  • emphasize fun, safety and sportsmanship as goals of sport.
  • check that training and playing time increase no more than 10 percent each week.
  • allow children to participation on only one team per season.
  • reduce excessive playing time in all day, weekend tournaments.
  • athletes at the U-9, U-11, U-13 and U-15 level should have at least 2-3 months away from sport specific training and competition during the year.
  • athletes at the U-9, U-11, U-13 and U-15 level should play on only one lacrosse team during a season. If an athlete is playing on more than one team in the same season, they should not participate for more than 16-20 hours per week.
  • tournaments should not be played at the U-9 level. The emphasis at this level should remain on skill development and team concepts.
  • All-Star teams should not be created at the U-9 and U-11 levels.

When searching for the best sports camps for preadolescents, consider those that meet the above criteria and develop athleticism, not sport-specificity. Sport-specific camps might not provide the instruction and opportunity for kids to develop their preparatory fitness and skills. Multi-sport camps would be a great idea to allow kids the opportunity to learn and sample many different sports and activities. It is the kids’ proficiency, self-efficacy, and positive exposure that will help them develop to their potential. Use the extra time for free play and family fitness fun!

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