Motor Skills and Physical Contact Training for children 6 to 12 years old

Motor Skills and Physical Contact Training for children 6 to 12 years old


Reading the work of professors Ioannis Barba, Fotini Venetasanou and Antonis Kamba on “Body Contact Games” – Playful activities for all contact sports aimed at children from 6 to 12 years old (ISBN: 978-618-5040-59-8 – February 2014) I decided to create this article.

Its content is addressed to coaches of young ages in basketball and concerns the development of motor skills in relation to the physical contact of the sport of basketball.

scientific approach
The most important scientific evidence from the work of the above professors in relation to the coaching of young people:
The training of young people.
This article presents a report on physical contact games and activities involving children aged 6 to 12 years. Therefore, it is considered appropriate to define a theoretical framework concerning the development of movements and their learning.
This framework, in terms of motor development, is the theoretical model of the “hourglass” developed by Gallahue & Ozmun (1998) and foresees four phases of movement development: reflexive, elementary, fundamental and athletic-motor phase. Of these phases, the last two are important for the age period of reference of this article.

Fundamental Movements Phase (2 to 7 years)
The characteristic of this phase is the mastery of fundamental movement patterns and the general improvement of motor control, the consequence of which is greater activity and ultimately, greater motor experience and the enrichment of motor options.
The development of fundamental movement patterns occurs in three stages: early, basic, and mature. The early stage (2 to 3 years), is characterized by purposeful movements, limited motor control, general, uncoordinated movements and several “co-kinesis”. In the basic stage (3 to 4 years) a steady but not very significant improvement in motor control is observed and at the same time, a gradually appearing specialization of the muscle groups. As a consequence, their participation in motor activities is more effective.

In the mature stage (4 to 7 years old) which we are interested in for this article (since we are talking about basketball training starting from 6 years old), motor control is now noticeably better, which ensures stability during execution.

At this stage, the importance of activity and practice, with as many and multifaceted motor experiences as possible, is decisive for motor development. We could argue that from this stage the foundations are laid for a naturally active profile of a small basketball player.

Sports movements (8-10 years old)
Mastery of fundamental movements results in the performance of complex motor skills. Characteristic of this period are the prioritization of known movements and stable motor performance. This phase develops into 3 stages: transitional, sports motor skills stage and specialization stage.

In the transitional stage (8 to 10 years), fundamental movement patterns are applied to complex movements, with precision and control as the main characteristic.
The child’s conscious engagement with basketball in the second stage, marks the participation in an organized form of practice, which results in the progress of sports motor skills-techniques for the next age period (11 to 13 years).
In the specialization stage (14 to 18 years old), the coaches specialize more in their basketball choices and by extension the practice and training of the children.

Kinetic assembly
Motor coordination in basketball skills together with physical condition are the two parameters of children’s performance and have been the subject of study for many decades.
Hirtz (1978) refers to adaptive abilities which are based on 5 main sub-factors:
1. Orientation performance differentiation (space-time)
2. Accuracy of reactions and movements in space and time
3. Degree of preservation of the quality of motor control with increasing speed of execution
4. Precision and speed in fine movements
5. Mobility readiness
Gaertner (1979) confirmed Hirtz’s results and refers to 6 “abilities”:
1. Complex reaction capacity
2. Kinesthetic ability to differentiate
3. Spatial orientation ability
4. Balance ability
5. Rhythmic ability
6. Ability to assemble under time pressure

Coaches must pay attention to the relationship between children’s biological and actual coaching age in terms of the physiological bases that determine the development of motor coordination.

The development of the brain follows a rapid course and already by the age of 6 years 90-95% of its final mass has been reached, while correspondingly the percentage of physical development has not been completed even by half of the final

(Hellbruegge, Rutenfranz & Graf, 1966).

Training planning requires a thorough knowledge of all the factors that affect joint motor development. A critical point of reference in the development of assembly kinetics is the existence of sensitive phases. During sensitive phases, the body shows better “trainability” than at other times.

It has been found that between 6 and 10 years of age the body is particularly sensitive to motor coordination stimuli, which has a direct impact on improving performance in this area (Starosta & Hirtz, 1989). Training in this phase further enhances motor assembly performance (Wolanski & Parizkova, 1976). Starosta and Hirtz (1989) consider that, if this phase is left unexploited, later on the process of motor joint development will be significantly more difficult. Thus, motor coordination training during childhood is not only recommended but also mandatory. It is noteworthy that the body is receptive to motor coordination stimuli even earlier than the age mentioned above, that is, during preschool age, which reinforces the view of the early practice of motor coordination and before its sensitive phase (Kambas et al., 2001).

In club sports, the failure of skillful execution in basketball and the small performances in the execution of the technique, should be treated with particular composure by the coaches and not lead, as is often the case, to the exclusion of these children from the process of training with long-term players high performance goals.

The patience and persistence of the coach, as well as his special ability to communicate with young athletes, are needed more than ever. After all, through this patience, in the next stage (after 10 years and up to 13 years) the greatest improvement is shown.

Roth and Winter (1994) argue that on matching exercises performed under time pressure, boys perform better than girls, while the opposite is true for matching-accuracy exercises.

Orientation in space
Spatial orientation improves significantly between 6 and 10 years, continues its development in early school age and shows another boost between 13 and 16 years while differences between boys and girls are significant throughout development, for the benefit of the boys.
According to Martin, Carl & Lehnertz (1991), this ability is developed with exercises that aim to make the trainees aware of the posture and position of the body as well as the positions of teammates, opponents and instruments in space.

And in pre-school, but especially in school age, the constant change of situations in the game is a challenge for maintaining spatial orientation. In addition to mastering the position of the body in space (spatial perception), important for the game is the recognition of the position of teammates and opponents as well as the discovery of free space for action. For this purpose, the most suitable organizational forms of games are “mini-basketball games”, where there is great potential for variations in terms of space, objects, teammates and opponents.

At this point, it should be emphasized the simultaneous effect that training contents of this format have on both orienting ability and differentiation. Another organizational form for improving orientation skills, proposed by Kosel (1998), is turns around the body’s axes (rolls, rolls, etc.).

Balance ability is developed to a satisfactory level in preschool children, shows a significant improvement during the early school age, while its development is completed by the end of the late school age and no differences are observed between the two sexes (Martin, 1988).
Exercises to improve balance aim to practice maintaining or regaining balance (Martin, Carl & Lehnertz, 1991). To improve this ability, training contents are chosen that include practice on stable and unstable balance surfaces.
A basic condition for carrying out balance exercises is to ensure conditions for safe execution in the practice area. The profit from a well-chosen exercise can be lost when any accident occurs due to organizational weakness. Because the escalating difficulty, on the one hand in relation to the width of the balance surface and on the other in relation to the distance of the balance surface from the ground, is a decisive element in the organization of the training contents and the methodical practice of balance, it is not possible to avoid the balance losses and falls.

But when the organization of the practice area ensures the avoidance of injuries, the positive results of the training are expected, which does not happen otherwise. Another determining factor when organizing the training contents is the small groups for each station in order to achieve a long duration of practice (Kosel, 1998).

Complex reaction
The ability to react is, according to Martin (1988), quite developed in the preschool age, shows its greatest improvement in the early school age, develops to a small extent during the late school age, and finally, improves again from the age of 16 years.
Significant differences in performance between the sexes are observed after the age of 14 years. Children aged 6 to 10 years take twice as long as adults to react to the same stimulus (Cratty & Gibson, 1985).

Martin, Carl & Lehnertz (1991) suggest exercises aimed at teaching children to react to visual or auditory stimuli or to moving objects.

An important element in the organization of training contents to improve reaction ability is the variation of stimuli with respect to time. Much of the training content that improves reaction also develops orientation at the same time. Such are road games. Kosel (1998) reports that during this type of play, children learn to start quickly and cover short distances at high speed, to vary the running pace (fast-slow-stop-change direction), to observe children who chase them and react quickly to avoid them.

They are also taught to run in such a way as to avoid collisions, to watch their teammates and, if necessary, help them, as well as to perceive and avoid obstacles.

The high intensity that characterizes running games is not a problem, since recovery occurs at this age after a short break, which is not the case in adults (Kosel, 1998).
The gradually increasing degree of difficulty is achieved by increasing e.g. of the number of “hunters” in a game or reduction e.g. of the distance between two children exchanging passes in another game.

Rhythm ability develops relatively satisfactorily in preschool children, shows significant improvement in early school age and develops until the end of late school age, and significant differences between the two sexes are reported (Martin, 1988).

This ability is improved with training contents that emphasize the temporal dynamic separation of predetermined execution rates. Thus, any kind of rhythmic source, such as claps, tambourine, cymbals, vocal effects, music, etc., can be used to connect the motor performance with the rhythm.

Another useful instrument for improving rhythm skills is the skipping rope.

Finally, all kinds of running exercises with obstacles or cones that mark points of rhythmic emphasis are valuable options for organizing the training process.

The teaching of rhythm basically includes two elements: the kinetic investment of the rhythm and the rhythmic investment of the movement. In the first case the practitioners move trying to follow or respond to a given rhythm, originating either from percussion or from a musical source and in the second, the practitioners try to accompany with percussion or movements a given kinetic form performed by third parties . One last element that should not be overlooked is the individual rhythm that each of our movements has.

Walking is a prime example. A complete gait cycle starts with the heel landing of the right foot until the next heel landing of the same foot and is divided into main phases: a) stance (initial double stance-single stance, second double stance) and b) swing (initial phase swing-mid-swing phase-end swing phase). This model of normal walking does not differ in any person and the only differences that exist are due to somatometric differences.

Regarding the rhythm of the movements, Kosel (1998) states that mastering the rhythm of a movement is directly related to the improvement of the quality of its execution and determines the confidence with which the movement is performed.

Elements of motor learning
The relatively permanent changes caused by learning, whether they concern the morphology of the central nervous system, or the function within the system itself, or finally concern the elements of the movement produced, are those that are sought from the beginning in the context of practice.
Consequently, it is of great importance to know how and under what conditions trainees should learn a new movement or what learning or error correction methodology is applied.

The coach he/she is called upon to increase his/her effectiveness and that of his/her children, by creating favorable learning conditions and utilizing the appropriate tools in the appropriate circumstances.
In this direction, three methods provided important solutions to the problem of ensuring the best learning conditions (Christina & Bjork, 1991):
1) Content plotting is about providing training content with multiple techniques (skills) so as to create condition-independent solution strategies that can be utilized in other conditions. Although highly effective, content plotting is not the best method for children.
2) Varying the type of practice prompts coaches to provide training content with a variety of conditions of a skill so that training includes practicing many variations of the same technique. This method is perfectly suitable especially for childhood.
3) Reducing the frequency of feedback refers to the strategy of reducing feedback that coaches should implement so that trainees become dependent on it and seek solutions based on individual internal sources of information.
All of the above, as well as any theoretical knowledge that the coaches accept and try to apply, presupposes the clarification of the goal of the training, the type of technique that will be taught as well as the individual characteristics of the trainees.

Thus, methodological choices that in some practitioners or in some techniques prove to be effective, in some other conditions seem to work less effectively.


Physical contact basketball games and their pedagogical-training value
The “magical” properties of physical contact games were “discovered” by educators around the 1980s, and since that time their value to pedagogy has been well documented (Gerr, 1980; 1982).
In recent years, in fact, physical contact games have attracted the interest even of therapists, as a result of which they are increasingly being used to treat children with aggressive behavior tendencies.
Physical contact activities through basketball drills are excellent material for developing the 5 “morphologies” of motor coordination: kinesthetic differentiation, orientation, complex reaction, balance and rhythm.
On the kinetic side, contact games mainly involve pressure and resistance. In the fight with the opponent, in claiming the basketball, the athlete is never completely sure whether he has the advantage or whether he is following a feint of his opponent.
In this context, offensive and defensive actions alternate quickly and therefore, children are required to be serious, focused, Coaches plan the teaching or training unit respectively, following the following structure: introductory phase (contact activities) , intensity phase (games and contact activities in pairs and groups) and finally relaxation phase (relaxation activities in pairs).
The games presented in this manual are divided into three categories: games for children 6 to 8, 8 to 10, and 10 to 12 years old.

Games for children aged 6 to 8 years

“pull the scarf”
A. Development of reflexes
B. Improved defense
C. Development of speed
D. Embedding the handles and grips
DESCRIPTION: The children are divided into pairs, each having a scarf attached to the back of their pants. The goal of each player is to steal their opponent’s scarf without allowing them to do the same. Whoever pulls the scarf first wins.
RULES: Pushing and pulling are prohibited
DURATION: 30” active action and 10” break.
There will be two repetitions.
VARIATIONS: The scarf can also be tied: – on the sides of the children’s waist – on their knee – on their leg.

A. Developing physical contact with the fellow practitioner
B. Development of balance
C. Orientation to space
DESCRIPTION: The children are divided into pairs. The members of each pair meet as they move along a line of the field. Their goal is to manage to cross and continue their course without losing their balance.
POINTS OF EMPHASIS: We do not push our fellow practitioner.
DURATION: 15” active action and 15” break. There will be three repetitions.

“The Caterpillars”
A. Support check
B. Development of muscle strength
DESCRIPTION: The children are gradually divided into small groups of three, four or more people and are supported with a ball touching the back of their front. The group moves around the space without breaking up.
RULES: If a player leaves contact with the ball or the ball falls to him, their team loses a point.
DURATION: 40” of active action and 30” break. There will be three repetitions.
VARIATIONS: A) The exercise can be performed with one hand holding the ball. B) They can place various objects in the space, so that the movement of the group is done through obstacles.

“The Devil”
A. Sense of distance between teammates
B. Reaction development
DESCRIPTION: A “devil” is trapped in a basketball court circle. He has a scarf attached to the back of his pants. Four or six players stand around the circle and try to get into it by dribbling a ball, with the aim of stealing the handkerchief, thus neutralizing the “devil”. The “devil”, in turn, must not allow their entry.
POINTS OF EMPHASIS: Only one child can enter the circle, at a time.
RULES: Whoever the devil touches is out of the game.
DURATION: 40” of active action and 30” break. There will be three repetitions.
VARIATIONS: 3-5 minute matches are organized. Which devil stayed in the circle the longest? Which player stole the scarf more times by doing the dribbling technique correctly?

“The magician”
A. Building endurance
B. Development of reflexes
DESCRIPTION: Children move freely on the field dribbling their balls. One of them is a wizard. The magician chases the children and anyone he touches freezes and holds his ball high above his head. It becomes a statue that stands still with its legs open. The statues can be released when someone passes their own ball under their feet. The more children participate, the more space is used.
POINTS OF EMPHASIS: We try to stay within the field designated by the coach (depending on the number of children – full or half).
RULES: Any statue child that is moved will be out of the game.
DURATION: 20” active action and 20” break. There will be three repetitions.
VARIATIONS: A. Wizards become more numerous. B. The children who stand still, circle the ball around their body.

“The Defenders”
A. Sense of distance between teammates
B. Reaction development
DESCRIPTION: In the center circle of the field, we have placed two or three small cones. The children are scattered in the space, while one or two of them are inside the circle, having the role of guardian. The goal of the children around the circle is to “steal” the cones protected by the guards. The child who manages to get a cone from the circle becomes the guardian by changing one of the previous guardians.
RULES: Anyone touched by the goalkeeper is out of the game.
DURATION: 50” active action, 15” break. There will be five repetitions.
VARIATIONS: Children outside the circle (a) move only clockwise, (b) jump on one leg, changing it periodically.

“Battle for the ball”
A) Speed development
B) Improvement of the reaction to motor stimuli
DESCRIPTION: The children are divided into pairs with their backs turned to each other. Between them is a ball. With the cue, the children try to grab the ball. The winner is the one who grabs the ball first.
DURATION: 10” active action and 10” break. There will be 10 repetitions
VARIATION: The size of the ball decreases and thus the degree of difficulty of the game increases (a tennis ball).

“Get possession of the ball”
A. Sense of distance
B. Muscle strengthening
C. Neuromuscular junction
DESCRIPTION: The children are divided into pairs and hold a ball with both hands. On cue, each child tries to pick up the ball and lift it over their head.
HIGHLIGHTS: The game ends when the ball is dropped.
DURATION: 1′ of active action, 40” break. There will be five repetitions.

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Ioannis Barbas is a EDIP in Wrestling at the School of Science of Physical Education and Sports of the Democritus University of Thrace. He was an athlete of Dimocritos Xanthi in the wrestling department, where he distinguished himself in pan-Hellenic and international competitions. He graduated from T.E.F.A.A. of D.P.Th. and continued his graduate studies at NSA, where he studied as a scholar and earned his Doctorate in Physical Education. He is a member of the scientific committee of the International Wrestling Federation (FILA) and deputy director Fellow at the International Network of Wrestling Researchers (INWR). He is also an active member of the FILA Coaches Association and holds an international FILA Coaching Diploma. He has collaborated as a scientific collaborator with the Hellenic Wrestling Federation (EOFP) and with the Cyprus Wrestling Federation (KOPAL) as a scientific consultant. His articles have been published in foreign and Greek scientific journals, while he has written and translated two other books.
Fotini Venetsanou is a Lecturer at the School of Science of Physical Education and Sports of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She received her PhD in Physical Education from the Interdepartmental Postgraduate Program of the collaborating Departments of Physical Education and Sports Science of the Democritus University of Thrace and the University of Thessaly in “Exercise and Quality of Life”, in October 2007. She has completed her undergraduate studies at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She published and published her works in foreign and domestic magazines with a high impact index.
Antonis Kampas is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Science of Physical Education and Sports of the Democritus University of Thrace. He received his Diploma in Physical Education in 1986 from the University of Saarbruecken and in 1996 he obtained his Master’s Degree in Coaching from T.E.F.A.A. of D.P.Th. In 1998, he was awarded a doctorate by the D.P.Th. in Physical Education. In the period 2000-2003 he carried out post-doctoral research, with a scholarship from the State Scholarship Foundation and the topic “Evaluation of Motor Development”. He has worked for several years in primary and private preschool education, while he has taught and is still teaching at the Department of Preschool Education Sciences of D.P.Th. as well as in graduate programs. He has published and publishes in journals with a high impact index in the scientific community.