Back to School, Back To Basics – Part 1

Back to schoolOr in the case of my daughter Emily, 1st day at school.  She took it all in her stride, as did all her friends at the gate. It’s us parents who get all worked up about it.

As far as young athletes are concerned, this is massive for them. It’s their New Year. A time for a clean slate and new beginnings.

Whatever their goal, making the school or representative team, last season is forgotten. Some kids come back from the summer holidays looking, sounding and moving completely differently. Like some one stuck them in a grow bag and fed them steroids for 6 weeks. With some, the transformation is huge. Others may appear to have been left behind.

In a time of new beginnings, there’s a tendency for coaches to introduce all the new stuff they learned over the summer. Big mistake. They’re too fixated on what they want rather than what their athletes need.

This is the perfect opportunity to strip things right back to basics.

Ensure the foundations are solid so that when you introduce the sexy new drills in later, it’s easier to coach.

Let’s step into the kid’s shoes for a minute, you’ve been given a new body that’s bigger, stronger and more powerful than the previous one. Chances are it’ll take a while to get the hang of it. Going back to basics is a chance for the coach to see where everyone is at and for the athletes to get to grips with their longer limbs.

The athletes may also find that they struggle with certain things that would have been simple for them a few months ago. This isn’t a time to panic, but it IS an opportunity for the coach to earn their stripes.

No matter what the age of the athlete or the sport they play, the basics of movement are this:


You could call this the alphabet of movement literacy. Personally I also think that single leg stance should be in there as a movement quality despite it not actually being a movement. An inability to carry out any one of these movements correctly will have a knock on effect with all movements related to this pattern. In a sporting setting, compensations will arise in order to carry out a task. Uncorrected this will lead to impaired performance and chronic injury thus affecting enjoyment of their sport.


Just like limited vocabulary affects ones ability to communicate effectively and hence the way they perform in a group, the same can be said for movement literacy and performance/confidence in sports.

Movement vocabulary encompasses (among other things) walking, running, accelerating, decelerating, changing direction, catching, throwing, hopping, skipping, crawling, striking, manipulating objects,  spatial awareness, jumping and landing. If you work with adolescent or pre-adolescent  athletes and you want them to be the best they can be, you need to be covering all of these areas in training. Not every session, but in phases.

Today’s society doesn’t expose children to these stimulus like it used to. If something’s missing, movement doesn’t flow. Try to imagine Jonathan Ross  saying “three free throws”?

Without mastering the basics, movement will not flow, nor will it be in control. If a player/athlete isn’t in control of their own body, they are going to really struggle with a ball and reactivity to situations will always be slow.

If you want to quickly get up to speed, then I suggest you go straight back to the fundamentals of movement. The knock on effect of mastering these is everything else starts to fall into place and coaching new skills becomes so much easier.

Master the basics and the rest comes easy!

In part 2 I’ll take a deeper look at the basic movements.

Yours in speed


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