Training Movement Skills

Training movement skills in young athletes can help set them up for a lifetime of participation and activity in sport and exercise. Research has shown that young people who lack good movement skills, or physical literacy are often more likely to withdraw from physical activity and sport (Kirk,2005). In contrast, developing a range of basic human movements, fundamental skills and foundational sport skills gives young people the tools to engage in healthy and active lifestyles (Ellerton,2018).

Developing fundamental movement skills appears in almost all long-term athlete development models. We must understand for the development of these skills that young athletes and children all mature and develop at different rates, although they follow the same sequences and phases of learning, they should only progress through stages of developing a skill when appropriate.

Including creative, varied, challenging and fun exercise regressions and progressions can help develop these skills appropriately for each individual. Two young athletes of the same age may be at completely different levels of movement competency based on a number of factors. In these situations, exploring the correct level of movement to be performed at that stage for each individual is essential to lay the foundations for progressively more challenging variations of that skill or exercise as they mature

See below some of exercise variations and progressions in the AMAT Performance System Training App for a number of common fundamental movement patterns.



Influence of Maturation on Youth Sport Development Programmes

The majority of talent identification and elite youth sport development programmes often group players based on their chronological age for training and competition (Baxter-Jones, 1995). However, large individual differences exist between chronological age and the biological age of these youth athletes. Each individual’s path to maturity differs, following patterns of non-linear growth and differing in terms of timing, tempo and magnitude. Often around the time of peak height velocity (maximum rate of growth) this creates a disturbance in motor function and co-ordination, and an increased risk of injury as athletes adjust to changes in their bodies.

These inter-individual differences in maturation can have a profound effect on many factors of an athlete’s involvement and progression in elite youth development programmes. Through the research we have been involved in we have identified that peak height velocity (PHV) and maturity substantially effect Functional Movement Screen (FMS) scores in favour of more mature players (Portas et al., 2015), that maturation can cause an unnecessary bias on playing position allocation within youth football with taller heavier players being allocated more defensive roles/positions (Towlson et al., 2017) and that physical attributes and characteristics display distinctly different rates of development based on the individual influences of maturation (Towlson et al., 2018). Finally, our data has displayed a strong relative age effect (RAE) bias in football development programmes, particularly around the time of PHV (Lovell et al., 2015).

The research we have been involved in suggests that development programmes should consider differences in maturation status between individuals and its influences on movement skills, technical competence, positional characteristics, and physical development and their implications, to avoid unnecessary drop-out and de-selection of players within youth development programmes.

For this reason, it is key that these development programmes assess their youth athletes’ maturation status. Budget constraints at the majority of youth development programmes prevent “gold standard” x-ray assessments of skeletal age and so anthropometric variables and sex-specific regression equations (Mirwald et al., 2002, Khamis-Roche, 1994, Moore et al., 2015, Fransen et al., 2017) are a more popular alternative method to predict somatic maturity.

In light of this, as a new feature and addition to our AMAT Performance System we have now developed software that allows us to quickly, accurately and reliably collect anthropometric variables through 3D motion tracking technology. This information can automatically provide individual maturation assessments for each athlete, negating the need for you or your staff to do time-consuming manual measurements on a regular basis.

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