More on the ABCs: Useful in All Sports

Developing the ABCs – agility, balance, coordination and speed – is an important part of physical literacy. A number of activities can help teach and refine them.

  • Gymnastics allows young children to learn and develop their agility, balance, and coordination.
  • Athletics (track and field) is builds speed and coordination.
  • Skating and skiing provide opportunities for the development of balance, coordination and speed.
  • Soccer helps with speed, agility, and coordination.
  • In addition to developing confidence and safety in the water, swimming or Synchro (Aquasquirts) develops balance and coordination.
  • Cycling (or skateboarding or horse riding) develops balance and the judgment of speed.

What this means for parents

Parents and care-givers should help ensure their children have the opportunity to take part in all of these activities during the critical physical literacy years.

In communities with limited recreational opportunities, and for parents with limited financial resources, this may be difficult to achieve. This makes school physical education programs critically important, since they provide the only opportunities for the development of physical literacy for EVERY Canadian child.

Community recreation programs for pre-pubescent children could be organized to ensure that children are enrolled in single programs that cover a range of physical literacy skills, rather than single sport programs.

Sport programs offered by minor sport organizations are obviously going to focus on their own sport, but could do a much better job of teaching broad physical literacy skills, particularly in warm-ups and small-game activities, rather than teaching over-specialized sport-specific skills in isolation.

A national move is underway for sports to collaborate and introduce children to “clusters” of sports.


Finding the sport that is right for your child

A child’s desire to play a particular sport should always be the most important consideration when deciding to enrol them in a program. However, there are also ways to find out what sports your child might excel in. SportFit® is one such way.

Some other skills to develop

A couple of less obvious skills help round out physical literacy requirements – prediction and interception.

Think for a moment about what it takes to catch a softball hit high into the air. The child needs to see the ball leave the bat, predict where it will land and get to that spot for when the ball arrives. This ability to intercept the ball is a physical literacy skill that needs to be learned.

In stick, bat and racquet sports, the child needs to predict where the ball or puck is going and then swing their equipment so it makes solid contact with the moving object.

Learning these kinds of complicated skills require:

  • Sufficient maturation of the brain and vision – which usually happens between the ages of four and seven.
  • Lots of opportunity to try to catch, intercept and hit objects of different shapes and sizes moving in various directions at changing speeds.
  • Good instruction, particularly about body position and what to look for, can dramatically help children master this critical physical literacy skill.

>> Learn more about physical literacy: A New Approach.