Category Archives: Youth Fitness
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The ABCs of movement start with the Athletic Stance. If we can’t set up in the right position, how can we expect to move with proficiency? The athletic stance is the fundamental starting position for athletes in every sport. Not only that, the athletic stance sets the stage for movements in many activities of daily living and exercises in the gym. Check out this quick video for basics of the athletic stance: Athletic Stance
When teaching athletes or beginning exercisers, begin with the athletic stance to help develop:
- positioning of center of gravity (belly button level, generally) over base of support (arches of feet to balls of feet)
- awareness of weight distribution between both feet and on the forefoot, midfoot, and hindfoot
- “soft knees” position to lead to hip hinge pattern
- “proud chest” to maintain postural control and core activation
- how moving hand position for athletic stance in a variety of sports (ball-handling sports like basketball and baseball vs stick-handling sports like field hockey and lacrosse, for example) changes the center of gravity, and how hand position for beginning position for a variety of exercises (goblet squat vs prisoner squat vs zercher squat, for example) changes the center of gravity
This fundamental movement leads us to the letter B.
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?
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.