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Friday, 19 March 2010


“Children who possess inadequate motor skills are often relegated to a life of exclusion from organised and free play experiences of their peers, and subsequently, to a lifetime of inactivity because of their frustration in early movement behaviour.” (Seefeldt, Haubensricke and Reuchslein)

Sports skills involve a dazzling array of specialist movements and actions. Yet, many sports coaches are encouraging their athletes/players to develop a broad foundation of ‘basic’ or “fundamental” movements and actions that are not only common to all sports but also underpin these specialist and more sport specific skills. So, fundamental movement skills (FMS) programmes are increasingly common in sports clubs and at schools. This trend is apparent from the proliferation of a wide range of “Fundamental” and “Multi-Skill” type programmes in school and community settings in recent years.

What does Research Tell Us?

There have been few long-term studies of the relationship between basic and specific movement skills in sport, and this is probably due to the difficulty of carrying out this type of research. However, there is a consensus among researchers that FMS are of great significance in terms of both early and later participation in sport and other activities. FMS are generally characterised in terms of movement, object manipulation and stability. It has been suggested that these skills make up the common actions of almost all later sports skills, and that a failure to develop a sound foundation will prevent young athlete/players from benefitting from physical play activities, and will leave weaknesses in their repertoire of movement skills throughout their sporting careers. In other words, FMS are the building blocks of sports participation and performance. This might explain why early specialisation is rarely an effective preparation for lifelong participation in sport. Early specialisation taken to the extreme has been shown to lead to what has been termed as “one-sided development” (i.e. mastery of only narrow base of skills) that in turn tends to lead to several negative consequences (see Section 2 – ‘Early Specialisation has its Dangers’).

What does it mean for coaching?

1. FMS should form a central part of all coaching programmes for young people, whatever their sport.

2. Coaches from different sports could profitably come together to share movement skill ideas in order to offer rich, varied and stimulating experiences for all young players.

3. Even within a particular sport, coaches should encourage the development of a wide range of skills as possible especially in the early years of participation. For example, in team games playing and learning the skills associated with different positions and in sports such as Swimming, Gymnastics, and Athletics children being exposed to a range of skills (e.g., variety of aquatic skills and all Swimming strokes; variety of Gymnastics disciplines/apparatus; variety of running, jumping the throwing skills).

Useful source of further information

Haywood, K and Gretchell, N. (2001) Life Span Motor Development, 3rd Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

1 comment:

Trent said...

I think Richard Bailey has done an excellent job covering this topic. However I would like to add a few additional comments:

1. FMS can become narrowly construed. In Victoria, Australia, FMS became the teaching and coaching of 11 skill related movements primarily related to sport. A critique of FMS is that it can be gendered and does not cater more widely for those that want to pursue other physical activities, such as kayaking, canoeing, gymnastics or dance.
2. It has been critiqued by researchers and academics as being de-contextualised. Both David Kirk (2009) and Richard Tinning (2010) have written excellent critiques on a certain form of FMS pedagogy. Whilst partly true, the intention of the authors of the FMS study in Victoria (Walkley et al 1993) was not intended to be a check the box type of teaching arrangement.
3. FMS teaching should be 'generic' and use generalised patterns of movement as opposed to created checklists. The rationale for this is that teaching should encompass individual differences. Recently there has been an increase in Australian freestyle swimmers that use a straight arm recovery (biomechanist, skill acquisition experts and teachers would say that it should be 'bent' arm) but these individuals still swim and have meaningful movement experiences. In other words we should not get so hung up on the 'perfect' form of movement; a generalised pattern should suffice.
4. Isolated teaching of FMS (see dot point above) still persists in Australia and other proponents of FMS teaching need to be aware that this should not enacted in this way (see below).
5. One helpful approach would be to teach FMS via thematics (locomotion, propulsion, reception and striking). Thematics focusses on the development of skills within game and sport specific skills. Game concepts are developed from a simple to a complex situations with the teaching for the application of skills in a progressively “game sense” continuum.

Walkley, J., Holland, B. V., Treloar, R., & Probyn-Smith, H. (1993). Fundamental Motor Skill Proficiency of Children. The ACHPER National Journal, Spring, 11-14.
Department of Education Victoria, Fundamental Motor Skills: A Classroom Manual for Teachers, Community Information Service, Department of Education, Victoria, Melbourne (1996).
Kirk (2009) Physical Education Futures, London: Routledge
Tinning (2010) Pedagogy and Human Movement, London: Routledge