In today’s blog, we will take a deep dive into exploring the very first steps in a player’s development, coining the ‘Foundation’ age range.

Compounding on our previous blog, this blog will highlight the critical elements that are vitally important not just for physical development but to maintain high levels of engagement and enjoyment at these early stages.

Every athlete’s journey has a starting point – the moment when they first pick up a racket or kick a ball. Before we dive into the more advanced aspects of an athlete’s progression, we must establish the fundamentals, which essentially means laying a strong groundwork for physical and movement skills.

To provide some context, you can refer to the LTAD model for sporting performance, which we explained in our last blog. Today, we’re placing our focus on the highlighted box that pertains to ‘FUNdamentals’ and ‘Learning to Train.

FUNdamentals – Mastering the big rocks of Physical Literacy through Play

FUNdamentals emphasise the development of physical literacy, which includes basic movement skills (Table 1 – ABC of Physical Literacy) like running, jumping, throwing, and catching. It’s a critical phase where youth players learn to move with coordination and competence. 

ABCs Agility, Balance, Coordination and Speed
RJT Run, Jump, Throw
KGBs Kineasthesia, Gliding, Buoyancy, Striking with objects
CPKs Catching, Passing, kicking, striking with body

Through this age range, both self-discovery and self-organisation are key for a child’s development – these are simply just fancy phrases to explain how children at this age will develop through play within session – also known as ‘gamification’ of exercises.  

Training at this stage is often introduced in a loosely structured and fun manner to engage and encourage young athletes. The development goal is to instill a love for physical activity whilst develop a strong base for future athletic growth – something that we very much adhere to at Move4Sport.

Learning to Train (Foundation) – Introducing Structure and the Development of Movement patterns

As we transition up the LTAD model for sporting performance, we move into the ‘Learning to Train’ section which encompasses both foundation movement skills alongside the gradual development of fundamental movement patterns. 

This occurs from what’s referred to as middle childhood to just approaching adolescence – so around 8-11 and 9-12 for female and males, respectively. However, this isn’t always the case as maturation status and training age may differ from individual to individual, something we will discuss in our next December blog!

In the Foundation stage, the development of movement pattern is categorized through the bodyweight movement progressing towards low resistance loading – such as medballs, wooden dowels, technical (Safety) bars.  Athletes at this age start to practice slightly under more structure than they previously experienced – devised through a light session plan whilst still utilizing engagement through gamification of chasing activity and sport-based scenarios– keeping physical intent high but most importantly fun!

The combination of two critical elements, namely the engagement in dynamic, chaos-based activities such as games and chasing, alongside improvement of physical competency through the practice of varied movement patterns, play a pivotal role in fostering not only physical competence but also start a cognitive understanding of their chosen sport. This dual approach is particularly vital as young athletes progress into the ‘Developmental’ (Link to December blog) phase of adolescence.

Moreover, it’s essential to highlight that this approach is designed to be enjoyable. The aim is to instill a love for physical activity and sports, making the learning process more engaging and sustainable. By combining chaos-based activities with the development of fundamental movement patterns, young athletes not only build a strong physical foundation but also promote a mental dexterity that will serve them well as they continue to mature in their athletic journey.

Summary
We have showcased the importance of the Foundation stage of the LTAD model – with ‘FUNdamentals’ focusing on physical literacy through play, honing basic skills while fostering self-discovery and organization. Then athletes move into ‘Learning to Train,’ involving structure and development of basic movement patterns. Combining dynamic play with skill development cultivates both physical competence and sports understanding, vital for young athletes progressing into adolescence.

Enjoyment is key, ensuring a lasting passion for sports and building a strong physical and mental foundation – which is key at Move4Sport in aspiration to creating educated and resilient athletes, aiming for a lifelong career within their sport and physical activity.

In the Pipeline:

Next month, we will be moving upwards on the LTAD model where we take a close look at an athlete training as they approach adolescence. This will showcase some of the elements of ‘Training to Train’ that are prioritised within a youth athletes’ early careers. We also touch on how growth and maturation can affect males and females and what this could mean to their training and performance.

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Move4Sport Team