I was watching my son in basketball camp the other day “running” speed drills. Well over half of the kids could not run with any sort of proper mechanics. I have coached cross country and track from 2nd grade through collegiate. I started thinking about running as a true complex movement skill that must be broken down one step at a time SLOWLY before going all out…so, let’s cover a few important points one at a time about today’s kids and movement then build things back up. This ties into the history of fitness and helping our kids move better which then facilitates them feeling better about moving in hopes that they will move well for life.
- Most kids today have never been exposed to real physical EDUCATION. Simply put–no one has taught them how to move correctly; therefore, we cannot expect them to run cleanly and efficiently–or move well at all.
- ALL sports lead to imbalances and asymmetries. The idea with classic physical education was to restore movement issues and get the person moving efficiently BEFORE they went out to do sports. I don’t care what sport you play–things will get out of whack if that is all you do. My sports have been distance running and ultra endurance cycling–talk about two sports that jack up overall movement! Both these sports create havoc that needs corrective and restorative physical fitness and movement education to go with it–not just more running and more bicycling…you get the point.
- Doing speed drills at full speed does NOT teach speed to someone that does not understand where to put their arms, how to bend their elbows, how to move their shoulders, where to put their feet, etc. 1+1=2. Keep it simple and fundamental. It is fundamentally wrong for adults to be running all these kids today through “speed, agility, and quickness” drills when they have never been taught the fundamental basics that lead to going fast, having control, and being quick in the first place! It’s absurd and completely illogical yet common practice.
- Teaching speed SLOW is a completely different mental mind set. People cover up movement flaws with speed. Slow down–you will “quickly” learn where your issues are so you can begin fixing them. If you don’t know how–get a coach that knows movement–not just a sport. Get it together then be all means GO FAST and HAVE FUN!
So, “Coach Dad” (me) decided to help teach the same SAQ drills I observed the other night during basketball camp–this is quite the story, so I hope you’ll read on…
I began with a “simple” (Ha!) low amplitude skip meaning we did not get very high off the ground…this is what happened and why this post is important when working with youth today that desperately need to be taught good quality movement.
- My son had NO clue how to skip. None. Arms flailing all over the place, legs doing something rather disturbing, hips all over the place…time to re-evaluate.
- We started with relaxing hands like a potato chip position–soft curve. We then worked on elbows bent around 90 degrees. We then worked on moving his arms from the shoulders in a linear “straight up and down” manner. More failure. Time for more regressions.
- I ended up having to physically hold his arm and move it from the shoulder because his shoulders were frozen while he overused his elbows. He could not get it from watching me or trying it. More struggles. More regressions needed.
- I remembered some of my speed coach friends who use a “seated” position to work on arm mechanics. Bingo. We sat down. Forget the legs! Let’s figure out the arms first! Both arms blew him out. More regressions. Now down to just one arm and no legs. Success. Now it was time for a progression.
- We hit the low skip again. Failure. Time to regress again. We started just walking the skip movement. Failure. More regression. Now we were taking ONE step and freezing with knee up and arm forward. OMG! I had missed this, but he was not using contralateral arm to leg meaning that when in gait you should put one leg forward with the OPPOSITE arm. He was trying to skip/walk with the same side leg forward/arm forward. No wonder he was struggling! More regression–SLOWER.
- Mind you during this whole affair I was staying calm and loving to my son, but nevertheless, it ended up being emotional for him to the point where he had to stop. We ended on a positive note as he was able to slowly put some contralateral “walking” skips together because we ended up doing them in a stationary position with any forward movement. He has his homework, and he knows it. He also has a new respect for practicing movement skills before just playing basketball because there are a lot of movement issues that need to be addressed before playing the game.
The moral of the movement story? If we want kids to have speed, we had better teach them now to move slow one step at a time. The ability to do the above takes time, education, experience, and the ability to be creative but also mechanically simple. We cannot and must not expect sports to fix our kids and all their movement problems. History clearly teaches that sports only degrades movement in a population when compared to quality physical EDUCATION that comes first.
The days of throwing out the ball calling some half-ass physical activity actual Physical Education should have been over decades ago. We need REAL physical education teachers and good movement coaches today more than ever. Speak up. Get schools to understand and believe in not just moving more, but more importantly, moving WELL. How? We can start “teaching” physical education and movement skills slowly one step at a time.