Children who develop movement skills before puberty have the potential to succeed in new or unfamiliar sports or activities; for example, participation in pick up sports with their peers, intramural sports and eventually adult sport leagues. Once the years spent in minor sport associations or school sports come to an end, children that developed fundamental movement skills early on are more likely to remain active for life, ultimately avoiding health problems associated with inactivity such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Children should master fundamental movement skills first before sport skills, as fundamental skills will build the base for excellence in advanced sport related skills. Sport skills include catching a baseball, sprinting or jumping for a basketball rebound and are more complex movements that require advanced coordination. When children are pushed to improve sport specific skills without first having the foundation of fundamental movement skills, they often will struggle to excel in their sport of choice in their later developmental years which may lead to discouragement that results in quitting, not enjoying sport and ultimately not participating.
Sports specialization is when an athlete focuses intensely on one sport while excluding others. When children become a ‘one sport athlete’ prior to puberty, development of other movement skills becomes limited, and less of a priority, while they focus on their sport of choice. Early specialization can lead to overuse injuries, early burnout and early exit from training and competition. When a child becomes a ‘one sport athlete’ before puberty, they very rarely compete in new sports or movement based activities later on in adolescence or early adulthood and ultimately are not active for life.
How to develop a foundation of fundamental movement skills to ensure children are active for life:
Spend time playing 2-3 sports rather than one sport. Ideally, these sports are not occurring in the same season, although overlap is inevitable. These sports or activities do not all have to be ‘organized sport.’
If engaged in organized sport, the amount of time spent in a sport per week should equal amount of time spent in other activities in the same week if well rounded movement skills are to be developed.
Make time for deliberate and undeliberate play. An example of deliberate play is pick up sport or taking swim lessons, while tag, riding bikes around the neighborhood, playing fetch with the dog in the yard are undeliberate.
Being active for life begins in your child’s early developmental years. Set them up for success by creating opportunities for them to develop fundamental movement skills through a variety of sport and play.
Chloe Aman is a member of the FAME committee