'Learn to exercise better, by learning to move better!


"The Sportsinspirator Community is a way to peek at the neighbors, learn and get inspired by each other"

In the spring of 2018 Paris-Roubaix was ridden (one of the toughest one-day cycling races of the year) and after the race Nikki Terpstra (3rd) you saw the winner Peter Sagan 'peeking' at his tyre pressure. He felt the tyres on Sagan's bike to know what the winning tyre pressure was, he said later. Nikki is curious about others and thinks he can learn something from them! 
Peeping happens a lot in top sport, watching each other to get better from it. This examples resambles top-class sport, but this principle also applies to the development trajectories of children in sports. Looking at each other provides valuable information that the child can benefit from, for example: which form of exercise is good for training 'footwork'.
Fast and agile 'footwork' can be found in many sports. So why not learn from each other and use it to make your own training sessions better, in other words; go peeking at the ‘neighbors’! 
 
Usually in sports we have to deal with situations where the 'neighbors' are not directly close, this makes it difficult to 'watch'. The fields and halls are far away from each other and there is little time to visit each other, let alone time to learn from each other.
In addition, people do not always see the need to engage in conversation with each other. "I play handball, what can I learn from the table tennis players?" And "tennis is a completely different sport, not comparable".
If one is motivated to peek at the neighbors, then there is the question, where do you look at? Most practitioners are good willing volunteers who keep the club running and give training occasionally and they lack thorough knowledge about training physiology and motor learning. Watching or gaining inspiration is limited to copying activities that are related to the target sport. This does not have to be wrong, of course, but in order to organize a sustainable and all-round development environment for children within the club, we still need knowledge and experience that goes beyond tomorrow's training.
Is this all-round development environment the dot on the horizon, and what does it mean?
 
An all-round development environment for the child
An all-round development environment for a child is an environment in which; 
1) the child is centered (Bronfenbrenner, 2009) in the development process (development phase targeted training),
2) there is a pedagogically safe climate,
3) in which learning to move and experiencing sports is paramount.
In other words, there is room for the child to achieve a high level of participation in the sport and/or performance in a specific target sport and personal development (Cote & Hackford, 2014). In this environment, children are allowed to make mistakes, to create their own solutions to exercise challenges, to learn in a playful way and only start specializing at a later age (Cote et al., 2007), and within which the child itself is motivated to move (Aelterman et al., 2017). In the Netherlands there are some great initiatives, the AKT in Almere and the SportQube in Nijmegen.
One of the spearheads of these initiatives is a programme in which the child is offered multiple sports and/or fundamental movement skills. It seems that the route of broad development nowadays is preferred by scientists and prominent trainers, over the route of early specialization in a sport. But why? 
 
Roughly speaking, two routes can be distinguished within development programmes; early and late specialisation in sport (Developmental Model of Sport Participation, figure 1.; Cote et al., 2007).
What are the advantages and disadvantages of early and late specialisation in a sport?
In an overview article by Malina (2010), a number of disadvantages of early specialisation are listed.
For example, children who specialise in a sport early and work many hours ;
1) have a greater chance of social isolation of their peers (especially in puberty). 
2) it limits their experience in other sports,
3) have a greater chance of a burnout,
4) have a greater chance of overuse injuries due to the one-sided nature of the training sessions.

There are also advantages to early specialization.
The level of sports performance is higher at a young age by making many hours at a young age in the sport, which are of course necessary to eventually achieve a top performance.
However, in addition to the route of early specialization, there is also a route of late specialization (early diversification route). Trying / practicing multiple sports and game activities is central to this. It is also possible with this route to reach the top in a sport such as Roger Federer (article) is an example.

What are the advantages of this route?
1) Children learn by early diversification; developing emotional, cognitive and motor skills (Cote et al., 2009),
2) Childern seems to be more creative in finding innovative game solutions (Memmert, 2011)
3) Childern are less sensitive to overload injuries
4) Childern are more effective in developing skills in top-level target sport (DiFiori et al., 2014).
Now that we have weighed up the pros and cons, the question arises as to how we should design an optimal development trajectory.
 
As discussed above, the trend today is to shape a rich development environment by means of broad development programmes for children. This is based on an ecological approach to the development of potential, or rather a holistic view of development, in which the priority is to put the development of the individual potential of the child first. This means that the individual and capricious nature of children's development is taken into account, including growth, maturity, motivation, ambition, etc. (Chow et al., 2016). The dynamic systems theory can be used for this purpose and also serves as a basis for a development model that is currently frequently used in sports and movement education practice, the Athletic Skills Model (Wormhoudt et al., 2017). 
 
Fundamental movement skills as a basis for motor development
The ASM is a holistic and individual-oriented development model, in which the broad development of motor skills is paramount, specifically for movement. Variation in exercise material, and the adaptability of the individual is a focus point in the ASM. This approach is supported by the motor learning theory about implicit learning, roughly speaking; with less explicit instructions to bring the individual to learning. 
 
The development programmes for a broad motor development of the child are based on the basic forms of movement. These basic forms are fundamental movements for sports (Barnett et al., 2016) that are taught as a skill 'concentric' and are differentiated for the age phase. For example, the basic form 'beating'.
This form is found in several sports (tennis, badminton, squash, golf, hockey, baseball and table tennis) and therefore has a 'leading' role in learning the basics for several related sports (Robertson et al., 2018). If this basic form is deep-rooted (offered in several ways) in the child's system, then the chance is greater that the child will;
1) have a greater chance of playing several related sports (life long active),
2) learn other related sports more quickly,
3) be more creative in finding specific solutions within the target sport. Furthermore, we can argue that given the broad character of this development model, the advantages of late specialisation may apply. 
 
Implementation
Creating an all-round development environment for children and implementing a broad motor development program is no easy task and requires vision, knowledge and experience on, and of the moving child in relation to the environment. This vision has to be formed together, what do we want the child to learn? Why do we want the child to learn this? And how are we going to shape it? What is the purpose of the development processes (participation, personal development and/or performance)? Experience shows that there is no clear solution to these questions.
 
A broad discussion should first be held with parties where the moving child moves. The association/union, the school, the parents with the question what do they want and what is known about children's developmental trajectories.
What is the school already doing in the field of movement education and can be connected to this? Within many organizations I see the same patterns; clubs are very willing to continue to develop, but not knowing in which direction (divergent club vision, all options are open) and how to streamline this divergent process into a clear line and further shape.
It remains a process of long haul, but it's worth fighting for it with each other. It concerns our children and for them the most optimal development routes so that they can get the most out of their potential. 
 
In conclusion
My wish is that we look more closely at each other and that knowledge and experiences are discussed with each other, so that the child finally gets the best development opportunities, which do justice to the potential of the individual.
The Sports Inspirator Community is a way to 'peek' at each other, to learn from each other. 
 
When peeked at the "neighbors" what did you see?
  • That the child is centered to developmental processes (development-focused training).
  • That if children practice multiple sports, this has advantages over; smaller risk of overload injuries, being more creative in finding solutions for movement problems, certainly also being able to reach the top in their target sports and a greater chance that they will be active for a lifetime. 
  • A rich development environment can/must be created for this.
  • That a broad motor development programme can be designed on the basis of the basic forms of movement, based on the developmental phases of the child. 
 
Jan Willem Teunissen 
 
Inspired to know more about Talent Development?
Also have a look at the article: “I’m a football player” (Lebron James)
 
This article has been published in an edited version in VISION 78-79 (2018) "Peeping at the Neighbours". 
  • Name: Jan Willem Teunissen
  • Affiliation: HAN-University of applied sciences (expert team Talent Development & Identification) – Ghent University (Department of Movement & Sport Sciences
     
  • Profession & Expertise: Researcher and lecturer in the field of talent development and talent transfer. With special interest in all-round development of young athletes. Ph.D (c) – finding similarities and differences between sports in order to construct development pathways for athletes. Author of two books on talent development and international speaker. 
     
  • Short resume: Jan Willem has B. in PE and a MSc. in talent development & exercise physiology from VU University Amsterdam. In the past he worked for elite soccer club Ajax Amsterdam and implemented an all-round development program and maturity related individual training program (Bio-banding) into the youth academy. Furthermore, Jan Willem was head of the performance staff at elite soccer club FC Twente. Currently working at two educational institutes; HAN-University and Ghent University. 
     
  • What has inspired you? People who have exceptional skills inspire me the most. Especially when athletes find creative solutions to extremely difficult challenges within the game. Such as NFL player Jerome Simpson in this video: