JT's Blog will be a weekly addition to the US Youth Soccer Blog. John Thomas "JT" is the Assistant Director of Coaching Education for US Youth Soccer.
Learning Fundamental Movement Skills (build overall motor skills)
Fundamental movement skills should be practiced and mastered before sport-specific skills are introduced. The development of these skills, using a positive and fun approach, will contribute significantly to future athletic achievements. Participation in a wide range of sports is also encouraged. This emphasis on motor development will produce players/athletes who have a better trainability for long-term, sport-specific development.
Fundamental movement skills are observable as locomotors, manipulative and stability skills. There are three stages of fundamental movement skill development: initial (2-3 years), elementary (4–5 years) and mature (6–7 years).
The “FUNdamental” phase should be well structured and fun! The emphasis is on the overall development of the player/athlete’s physical capacities and fundamental movement skills, and the ABC's of athleticism - Agility, Balance, Coordination and Speed. Participation in as many sports as possible is encouraged. Speed, power and endurance are developed using FUN games. Appropriate and correct running, jumping and throwing techniques are taught using the ABC's of athletics.
Linear, lateral and multi-directional speed should be developed and the duration of the repetitions should be less than 5 seconds. This is often called the ‘agility, quickness, changes of direction’ window. Again, fun and games should be used for speed training and the volume of training should be lower.
Strength training during this phase should include exercises using the child’s own body weight. Children should be introduced to the simple rules and ethics of sports. All programs are be structured and monitored with the emphasis on age appropriate activities. Activities will revolve around the school year and during summer and winter holidays, allow time off for the family and fun. Multi-sport camps are recommended rather than a preferred sport. Participation once or twice per week is recommended, but participation in other sports will be a plus and will be essential for future excellence. If the children later decide to leave the competitive stream, the skills they have acquired during the fundamental phase will still benefit them when they engage in recreational activities, which will enhance their quality of life and health.