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

Excellent blog by Mark O’Sullivan!

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“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.

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!

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.

Now…

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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

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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

katehuyser

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.

Building Gross Motor Skills in Early Years

Great primer on gross motor skills and why thy are so important to develop in infancy and early childhood!

Early Years

What is Gross motor skills and why is it so important you ask?

Gross motor skills are the abilities usually acquired during infancy and early childhood as part of a child’s motor development. By the time they reach two years of age, almost all children are able to stand up, walk and run, walk up stairs, etc. These skills are built upon, improved and better controlled throughout early childhood, and continue in refinement throughout most of the individual’s years of development into adulthood. 

In the early years children love to try new things as parents we always want to protect our children. However experimenting in a safe, controlled environment is when they learn their boundaries. If a child is taught boundaries through safe experiments for example climbing a frame/ safe tree (if available/allowed) with a guardian present then the child learns its boundaries at a young age. Balancing on one leg similar to yoga poses is a great…

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Great Blog from Changing the Game Project!

We’re all working hard to change the culture of youth sports, fitness, and physical activity. One of my favorite blogs that I follow is Changing the Game Project by John O Sullivan http://changingthegameproject.com/.

Here is one of his most popular posts.

The 4 Biggest Problems in Youth Sports Today

When you run an organization such as the Changing the Game Project, you hear many youth sports stories from parents, coaches, and players. Some stories are absolutely heartbreaking, others inspiring.

Recently I encountered the absurd.

Many of us have seen the news about a volleyball player from Washington DC who was taking her playing time issues off the court, and into the courts. The article, which originally appeared in the Washington Post and can be read here, detailed the story of Audrey Dimitrew, a 16 year-old from Virginia whose family sued the Chesapeake Region Volleyball Association (CHRVA) to force them to let her move to another team in the league. It seems she was not getting the “promised” playing time at her club and she wanted a change, but the league would not allow it.

The article has elicited all kinds of opinions on parenting, spoiled children, bad coaching, and ridiculous rules and regulations in youth sports leagues. It brought up talk of the Philadelphia dad who was suing for $40 million because his son got cut from the track team, and the Dallas father who brought a racketeering suit against a lacrosse camp. They are a reflection of so much of what is wrong in youth sports today.

But can all these wrongs finally make it right, and encourage the sensible people stand up and be heard?

This situation in Virginia brings to light four major problems that are destroying youth sports and must be dealt with. They are:

Problem #1: Parents who won’t let the game belong to kids

Why did mom and dad bring a lawsuit? Because they wanted to get their daughter noticed by college coaches. Well, mission accomplished, every college volleyball coach in the country now knows who your daughter is…and I bet the majority just crossed her name off their recruiting list.

You don’t sue and waste precious taxpayer time and money because your child is not getting playing time. Your daughter says she isn’t even sure she wants to play college volleyball! Mom also wrote to the coach, “It is important that she plays, and plays the position you offered her of setter as that is the position she plays in high school.” Really? You don’t get to tell a coach where your kid plays. Just be a parent, let the coach be the coach, and let the game belong to your child. The parents in this case have taken a teachable moment and ruined it. As Bruce Brown of Proactive Coaching says, “Release your child to the game!”

Problem #2: Athletes need to OWN their decisions, both good and bad

We need to put an end to the helicopter and lawnmower parents, those who mow down all the obstacles for their kids, and give ownership to the athletes. This is a case where a player made a poor decision on team selection. Many athletes make bad decisions or face trying circumstances, but then choose to live with their decision and get better because of it. While I believe every athlete picked should have the opportunity to play, that does not mean an athlete cannot ask himself “what is good about this?”

When players quit a team solely over playing time or position issues, they lose an opportunity to learn. Even without getting playing time, a player working with a great coach should be improving every day in practice. She could be pushing herself to get better, and earn playing time instead of expecting it. She could find other ways to contribute. Don’t just walk away because the going got tough.

Great athletes love the game, work hard and improve everyday, and the rest takes care of itself.College coaches recruit players because they are good players, good people, good students and good teammates, not because they happened to see you in 10th grade.

Problem #3: Coaches who fail to respect the kids and the sport, and ignore the massive impact they have on athletes’ lives

Sadly there are many coaches who do not belong working with children. I am not saying that is the case here, but it is the case in many places. Winning does not make for a great coach. Being a great role model and leader for your young athletes, teaching character and life lessons, caring about your athletes, and coaching a child not a sport, those things make for a great coach.

sad basketball kid in locker room croppedOne of the most destructive forces in youth sports are coaches that take huge rosters of players for financial reasons, and then don’t give kids playing time. I firmly believe if you pick them, you play them! When we take people’s money and then sit them on the bench, it destroys love of a sport, and drives out the late bloomers. I don’t care that this is competitive volleyball; if the coach cannot find playing time then she should not have been picked. Far too many teams fill their rosters NOT for the benefit of the players (who get less playing time or none at all) but for the bottom line of the club.

To be fair to this coach, it seems he did try to make amends. I know firsthand that honest mistakes can be made in tryouts. You have limited tryout time, tons of players to choose from, and multiple teams offering a kid a spot. You are forced to offer spots with no opportunity for additional evaluation or to get to know a kid. I have been in that situation as a coach, and I have made mistakes in player selection. Clearly in this case, the coach made a mistake in selecting the player, and was willing to fix it and let her transfer to another team, so kudos is due for that. But this was not allowed to happen because of our final issue…

Problem #4: Youth Sports Organizations that Serve Adults, Not Kids

There are far too many clubs and sports leagues that are putting their own needs, values and priorities above those of the kids. Youth sports has become a business that serves them, and thus creates barriers to play for too many children.

“Should CHRVA allow players the ability to move teams when they are unhappy with the amount of playtime they are receiving, we would be overwhelmed with requests to change teams,” a CHRVA official wrote to the Dimitrew family.

This could be said another way: “We don’t want to put in the time or energy to make rules or run a league that serves the needs of the players, even in situations where all parties agree that a change in team is in the best interests of the child.” They had a coach willing to let a player leave, a player who wanted to try another team, a team willing and able to take her, and a policy that would have allowed it to happen. What they didn’t have was a dose of common sense.

If they think this will open a floodgate of player transfers due to playing time issues, why not make a rule that allows a player to transfer midseason only once in her career? Do not allow teams who release players to add new ones, to prevent continuous roster shuffling. Why not have guidelines over playing time so there are no playing time issues? There are so many solutions here.

What are we to do?

These are four of the biggest issues I see in youth sports. In this particular situation, I think every party involved can shoulder some blame. The athlete should have toughed it out, the parents should have found a better venue to deal with this, the coach should have known better, and the league could have done more. I am sure there are many sides to this story, and I have only read the one article. I am also sure there are many good people involved here who are getting dragged through the mud, which is sad.

But that is not why I wrote this article.

There is something much bigger at play here.

We all are to blame for this mess, including me, and every one of us who is reading this. Why?

Because we have stood by and allowed youth sports to become professionalized, adultified, and stolen from our kids. This is not a sin of commission; it is a sin of omission, a failure to act.

Too many of us coach from the sidelines and make the car ride home the most miserable part of the youth sports experience.

Too many of us treat youth sports as an investment in a future scholarship, and thus push for more and more at younger and younger ages.

Too many of us have our children specialize early in spite of the preponderance of evidence that it is physically and psychologically harmful, and has a detrimental effect upon their long-term chances of athletic success.

Too many of us allow our kids to participate in sports clubs that make cuts and form “elite” teams at 7 years old.

Too many of us ask our kids after a game “Did you win?” instead of “Did you have fun and learn a lot today?”

Too many of us have deemphasized free play and replaced it with organized activities governed by adult values, needs and priorities.

The list could go on and on.

We are to blame because as a collective we have done nothing about this, even though the great parents and coaches are the majority.

There is a huge majority of parents and coaches whom do not like the current situation, the toxic sidelines, the over the top parents, the bully coaches, the politics, the specialization, and the fact that college coaches are recruiting middle school athletes these days. We don’t like the costs, the travel requirements, or crazy commitments that make us choose between the 7th tournament of the summer or grandma’s 90th birthday celebration. If you are reading this, you are likely one of the great parents and coaches.

Yet we do nothing. We say nothing. We do not demand change. We simply complain. And then we watch our kids burnout, dropout, and quit.

It is high time that the sensible people, the silent majority, take over this conversation. We must stand up to the parents, coaches, clubs and leagues that are failing our children. If 70% of kids quit school in 7th grade, we would make radical changes, yet when they quit sports, we just shrug. No more!

If your sideline has an over the top mom or dad who yells at referees, coaches players, and creates a toxic environment, don’t just complain about it. Please get together with the coach or club directors and fellow parents and confront the behavior.

If your school or sports club does not have core values, or a proper ongoing parent and coach education program, demand that they be implemented.

If you can get great competition for your team within a 1 hour drive, sure, go to an out of town tournament once in a while, but not every weekend!

If your child is trying out for a team, look beyond the wins and losses and look for coaches of positive significance, and organizations that value human beings, not simply athletes.

Maybe the absurdity of this lawsuit is what will wake enough of us up. Maybe all these wrongs will be the spring board for making sports right again.

We don’t need the judicial system to fix our youth sports problems. We need every one of you who has read this far to share this article, to join our project to reform youth sports, and to read about reform initiatives promoted by Project Play and others that are trying to change youth sports.

We need you to stand up and be heard, so that the next time there is a youth sports dispute, it can be settled by the athletes on the court, instead of the adults in one.

Let’s Change the Game!

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