I just finished reading an interesting post from Canadian researcher, Dr. Megahann Loyd, in which she discusses some of the underlying causes of the inactivity so prevelenet in Canadian kids.
Because US researchers are finding our children in exactly the same boat, it was interesting to read her follow-up post in which she discusses a research indicating that children who are taught a new, movement-based skill (she uses the example of teaching a child with Downs Syndrome to ride a bike) increases their activity even a year after the skill is taught.
She accurately points out “those who don’t know how to ride a bike don’t ride bikes, and the same goes for swimming – if you don’t know how to swim you generally don’t go swimming “. These types of skills are not usually thought of when you think of athletes. However, when you consider that team sports and athleticism is the way many of us got started on the path to being active adults, perhaps barriers to participation in sport may be something to consider.
Besides the obvious “(e.g. cost, space, time, accessibility)”, Dr. Lloyd says “motor skills can also be an important barrier worthy of our attention.”
If a kid don’t have the basic movement patterns to feel even moderately successful in a pick up game on the playground, how could a child be expected to take the leap in a more formal arena of competition (at any level)?
I was talking to Jen about this and she said she has worked with a number of D1 full scholarship athletes who were highly skilled at their sport but couldn’t skip or would move the same arm and leg together (left arm/left leg or right arm/right leg) motion when running. Obviously, these athletes needed to be taught correct (meaning efficient) skipping or running movment patterns. And, she assures me, this wasn’t just one or two kids across her career — this was a number of student/athletes at the collegiate level!!
So, I think it’s worth mentioning here, especially with the cuts schools are going through, again, this year, that basic age appropriate motor skill development is crucial. Developing appropriate and productive movement patterns is key to helping not only athletes, but all of us in becoming life long activity oriented individuals.