Feb 25

Developing Functional AND Motor Fitness Within the Physical Literacy Model

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Coaches need to decide on that model that is the most ideal and workable although each child should be challenged to attain “general athleticism/physical literacy.” That means, participants acquire a high level of functional and motor fitness. They are fit and skilled to such degree that eventually it is their choice to pursue elite level athletics because “they have what it takes” – rather than being told…“You just don’t have it…Try another sport…Quit wasting my and your time.” “Physical literacy” makes it possible that one can take up any sport activity and be successful (better than average). In other words, we create the “amazingly gifted athlete.” Of course, talent is partially genetic, but it can also be developed if the correct model is in place.

A well-planned model is a systematic, progressive, and sequential step-by-step (ladder) approach to develop, increase, and enhance functional and motor fitness, motor ability, physical and technical sport skills. Cross-developmental activities (from other sports – utilizing methods and skills from other sports), should be implemented as well as enrichment activities such as Yoga, Tai-chi, modified ballet, and progressive relaxation exercises for stress reduction. The program should also include the teaching of cognitive and mental skills,

I believe that sport participants evolve into athletes through a long and continuous process. All conditions should be met so that this becomes possible rather than impossible to do. As we can see from the proposed Model in Figure 1, the approach is to create a progressive stream toward the High- or Elite sports performance. Each step (box) takes into consideration the respective age of the participant, growth and development at that stage, physical capacity and limitations at that stage, cognitive and mental capacity at that stage. Each step becomes more involved for the participant as well as the coach.

So, what components do we have to teach to achieve general athleticism?

Functional Fitness

  1. Body composition
  2. Metabolic components
  3. Cardio-respiratory Fitness
  4. Endurance (aerobic) Fitness
  5. Muscular Fitness

Motor Fitness – Physical Attributes

  1. Agility
  2. Balance
  • Static
  • Dynamic
  1. Body control
  2. Coordination.
  3. Dexterity (hand and feet)
  4. Endurance
  • Cardiovascular
  • Muscular
  1. Flexibility
  2. Hand/Eye coordination
  3. Laterality
  4. Mobility
  5. Power
  • Explosive power
  1. Rhythm
  2. Speed (various types; physical and mental)
  3. Strength


In addition:

Body Kinesthetics

Movement Aesthetics

Peripheral vision

Spatial awareness


It is, however, difficult and unreasonable trying to develop these attributes all at once since there is only a limited number of training sessions per week for younger age groups. Coaches should therefore identify those components that are most essential for the respective sport. These should be developed first such as the ABC’s (agility, balance, coordination, and speed). One or two additional ones are added in selected sequence as needed. It has been determined that ability to run, jump, throw, balance, rotate, and change direction quickly (agility) is essential. These can easily be taught through enrichment- and cross-developmental activities such as gymnastic movement patterns, balance beam or gym bench activities, modern dance, athletics (run/jump/throw), judo, and karate, to name some.

The Six Dominant Movement patterns should be integrated for a better understanding of motor skills: 1) spring (take-off), including height and flight; 2) landing; 3) balance (static and dynamic); 4) locomotion; 5) rotation; and 6) swing. Each can be explained by observing the axes and planes of the body, the specific weight transfer, the coordination of body parts, the balance and control involved in the specific skill or movement

“Get a feel” is a common phrase by coaches at the higher level of sports. However, athletes often lack this skill’ and become easily frustrated. Kinesthetic, i.e., general awareness of the body, the ‘feel’ for isolated body parts or specific body positioning, and action has to be developed, enhanced and refined with a certain degree of imagination by the coach. For that reason some sports incorporate creative tools like long gloves, socks, rubber bands, Popsicle sticks, plastic cups, small buckets on hands and feet, mirrors or windows, glass doors to enhance body awareness. To ‘see it’ (what it looks like) and then ‘feel it’ is important. I correct head action, arm action, timing of breathing and arm action of swimmers with a non-breakable mirror at the pool site or use the same mirror for correcting body posture or sport action of athletes I train in other sports. The ‘do and feel’ approach makes a big difference when young athletes encounter difficulties and the coach is able to ‘manipulate’ body parts for the correct action. Nonetheless, motor coordination and kinesthetics should be integrated as early as possible because they are crucial cornerstones (‘vehicles’) to successful sport performance.

There is however one drawback. The coach in this model needs to be experienced enough in a variety of sports to offer a multi-dimensional approach (it is difficult if the coach is an untrained volunteer, lacks sport education, or is specialized only in one sport). The coach in the fundamental stages of training (first 3-stages of the ‘physical literacy’ model) has to be very enthusiastic and very patient. It takes time to develop and enhance these components and the necessary motor skills in young children. That coach, who wants to progress very fast or too fast, the ‘Pusher-coach’, trying to reach success as quickly as possible is the wrong type for this age group. We need to remind ourselves that the age of elite athletes in most sports (with the exception of female skaters and gymnasts) is in the mid-twenties and extends into the mid-thirties. The road to success and to achieve one’s dream is indeed a long one.


Developmental Stream Toward High-Performance

Developed by Dr. M. E. Schloder, 1998

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