There are windows of time that we can optimally teach coordination and that is in the U6, U8 and U10 age groups. After the age of 10 the effectively of teaching coordination is greatly reduced. Coaches and academies that fail to develop coordination in the early years reduce the athletes’ potential for success later on. In it’s Long Term Athlete Development Plan, Sport Canada states, “The problem is that if a child does not learn how to move properly he/she limits their choices of physical activity at a later stage in their development”. This means decreased potential for talented athletes and shorter involvement in sports for others.
Many coaches at these age groups, specifically in team sports are volunteer parents who are simply not aware of the importance and do not know how to develop it. Other coaches are so focused on winning games that they spend practices running plays and shooting.
There are several coordination relationships: left to right sides of the body, upper to lower body, limb to limb (foot/hand), eye to limb (hand-eye, hand-foot) and front to back of the body.
Training enables athletes to perform more complex movements later on. For example a layup in basketball incorporates movements for running, skipping, pushing, pulling, change of gait and finally leaping. We are continually surprised in training to find that kids cannot skip. If a child cannot skip he cannot switch feet quickly, cannot do a double step, cannot switch weight from one foot to the other easily and is restricted in leaping ability. How can he possibly do a layup effectively?
Coordination exercises start with the very simple and get more intricate. At Atlantic Stars Academy we use cross training (borrowing drills and exercises from other sports) for the most effective coordination training. It’s fun for the kids because it’s different and adds variety.