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10U: The Key to Physical Literacy and Athletic Excellence

06/28/2020, 3:15pm MDT
By Dave Pond

The gateway to lifelong physical activity and developing healthy, resilient, active children

As young children progress in their hockey development, there’s one critical and often overlooked component that can unlock their full potential, both on and off the ice.

Physical literacy: the gateway to lifelong physical activity and the key to developing healthy, resilient, active children.

“Physical literacy is about developing people who can move competently and confidently in many different settings,” Dr. Kriellaars said. “It’s growing young movers who are confident. So many people have looked at physical literacy and said, ‘Hey, it is a way to help people be active for life.’ 

“Physical literacy is a precursor to physical activity, but that’s not why we do it. Our goal with physical literacy is not simply to make people active – it’s much bigger than that.”

Dr. Kriellaars and USA Hockey ADM Manager of Female Hockey Heather Mannix recently hosted a two-part presentation for the USA Hockey Webinar Series, sponsored by Pure Hockey and BioSteel. 

Watch: Part 1: Sport Powered by Physical Literacy: Excellence in Performance and Participation

Watch: Part 2: How to Create the Most Effective Environment to Enhance Player Development

What Is Physical Literacy?

Is physical literacy unfamiliar to you? If so, you’re not alone. The term actually dates back to 1885, but has become drastically de-prioritized over time, Dr. Kriellaars said.

“In most of the world 100 years ago, everyone was talking about reading and writing as really important – the first literacy,” he said. “We said everyone should be able to read and write – otherwise, you’re toast. Of course, we were right, but it never made us healthy. 

“We want to have physical literacy on an equal footing with literacy and numeracy,” Dr. Kriellaars continued. “I’m certainly not discounting any other literacy out there, but I’d argue in school systems, recreation systems, and in sport systems, we need to value movement at the same level that we value literacy and numeracy.”

Diversity Leads to Lifelong Participation

Physical literacy fosters lifelong participation in sports, including hockey. We want kids to play hockey long after they enter the workforce, have children, and eventually watch or coach their own kids on the ice.

“If you think about the value of sport in society, it’s not to create a billion spectators for a few thousand participants who are excellent – it’s to create participants as well as people who are spectators of that excellence,” Dr. Kriellaars said. “That’s really what great hockey is – everybody can play hockey independent of their age, sex or ability level – they just play at different levels.”

That’s why it’s important to nurture the passion, emphasize the experience and encourage diversity in activities rather than focus on immediate results. 

Dr. Kriellaars said research shows it’s almost impossible to identify elite talent before the age of 13 or 14. So, as a parent, it’s vitally important that you help your children diversify in terms of their movement experience – on land, ice, snow, air and water – to help them find what they love.

“Find ways to diversify their movement experiences in every possible way,” Dr. Kriellaars said. “If your children do get into a high-performance sport component, make sure that they’re not singularly focused on that element – that there’s something else that props them up.”

“That’s why I say physical literacy is not about making ‘sweaty mess’ kids, it’s about making people who are holistically robust and who can withstand adversity and things.”

Competency Progression

Incorporating physical literacy into your child’s daily life can be as simple as taking different things they know, combining them, and rearranging their order.

“Physical literacy creates people who can adapt to changing circumstances, while physical activity alone is about creating a sweaty mess – it’s completely different thinking.” Dr. Kriellaars said. “This is about competency progression, so what we want to do is to find something that your kids love, and then ‘plus-one’ them.”

Dr. Kriellaars recommends using the Performance Core Routine, which every kid can do. It’s a great example of physical literacy-enriched exercise. 

The Right Environment

One of the easiest ways to make immediate improvements is simply evaluating coaching sessions through the lens of physical literacy.

“For example, the traditional horseshoe drill,” Dr. Kriellaars continued. “It violates every principle of motor development and psychological well-being there is – yet coaches continue to do it all the time. Physical literacy is very protective against circumstances like this.”

Part 2 of Dr. Kriellaars and Mannix’s presentation delves into how coaches can create an environment that avoids things like the mundane horseshoe drill and prioritizes physical literacy-enriched practice plans that are essential to developing players.

“Physical literacy is not just about movement skills. It’s mostly psychology, motivation, and competence,” Dr. Kriellaars said. “So if you can put those together with movement, you get a holistic development of a person, and you get a magical athlete at the same time.”

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Tag(s): ADM Features