The Art of Movement Part 2 – Tony Strudwick Manchester United F.C 0

The Art of Movement Part 2 – Tony Strudwick Manchester United F.C

Every young player should be given appropriate information about the importance of movement skills and beyond that should be given abundant opportunities for the practice of such movements. Moreover, they should be given knowledge of and practice in the skills of body movement so that they can handle their bodies effectively during the changing demands of the game. Such education and practice calls for training in those skills that are fundamental to all sports. The most fundamental of fundamentals is movement skill. Therefore, training in the fundamentals of movement skill should be a recurring theme of the multi-sport programme at all age levels.

For the most part, the fundamentals of movement skill can be acquired under circumstances that require inexpensive facilities and call for the type of activities experienced in expressive play and self discovery. As coaches, we can all learn something from a child’s expressive play. In the past, movement skills were learned through expressive free play and reinforced within the Physical Education curriculum. However, in our society expressive play has virtually diminished. The reduced activity levels of children both during and after school has led to an alarming situation where the prevalence of tag type games has almost disappeared. It is not surprising to see the Africans and Brazilians dominate running events and fast paced sports since movement is part of their lifestyle. The only time our children do play is during an organised game or practice session. The net result is a limited time for self expression in an environment that mimics the chaos found in fast paced sports.

To ensure that all players receive movement education within a multi-sport programme, it is important that, in addition to structured soccer training, a form of activity be included in which movement fundamentals can be administered. The ideal would be to include gymnastics in the form of rhythmical training. However, this is probably not realistic given the current coaching climate with time restrictions and individual coaching philosophies. In the short term, coaches must incorporate fundamental movement skills as a routine portion of the training session. A structured warm-up that places demands on fundamental movements should take the form of:

I)    Learn movements without any regard to speed.
II)    Increase the speed of the movement.
III)    Do the movements under different conditions.
IV)    Follow with fundamental sports skills based on the movement skill.

Instructions and Feedback
Coaches also need to be aware that players do not imitate or copy exactly a demonstration movement pattern. Rather, individuals may take different cues from the demonstration and use different values for key control parameters (joint range of motion, movement speed). Players need to approximate the demonstration and then scale the movement to their own physical characteristics. There is a need to give players space and time to find out what works for them in specific situations. This dimension to exploiting space and time could lead to a more creative and exploratory outlook by players. After players have established a useful pattern of coordination, they can engage in discovery practice without demonstrations. In this way, coaches allow learners to play around with the most important control variables such as speed, force and effort. This may allow players to discover flexible solutions for a given task problem that could be used in different situations according to their own individual constraints. It is also worth noting that evidence shows that the coaching strategy of providing space and time for discovery learning seems to result in players coming up with movement solutions that are more resistant to the effects of competitive stress, compared to players who are directed too much.

To ensure that all players receive movement education within the multi-sport programme, it is important that movement exploration activities are included to build a rich repertoire of motor skills. Coaches must incorporate fundamental movement skills as a routine part of the training session. This should occur not only at junior level, but also at every level to reinforce movement skills as a basis for sports skills and as a means of injury prevention and performance enhancement. The process of exploration and the pleasure of enhanced awareness during play should be the rewards of movement activity. It is here that movement can then be translated into an art.

A.J. Strudwick, Ph.D.
Head of Science and Conditioning, Manchester United F.C.