J Miller's picture

In my first year as a PE teacher I went straight to the most complex skills and activities for my lessons.  Overtime, through my experience and watching student teachers rush into complex manipulative games as their first lesson, I have learned to slow down, focus on skill development, and keep the lessons developmentally appropriate.  

Locomotor skills are fundamental to every sport, so teaching these movements should happen at every level and during every class. In the NFL, 1st round scrambling Quarterbacks (gifted runners that can throw compared to gifted passers that can’t run) usually have a major flaw that Coaches and General Managers hope they can fix. What is that major flaw?  The correct answer is... Footwork when dropping back to pass. If college and pro coaches continue to improve their athletes locomotor skills, then you can see the importance in making sure your students are skipping correctly. If it’s been a few months or years since you’ve added locomotor instruction into your lessons, you may be surprised how many older students have difficulty skipping, galloping, sliding, or jumping correctly.  The trend of teaching a locomotor unit for 1 week at the beginning of the year can have an adverse long-term effect on student confidence and performance once sport tactics and gameplay are introduced.  All high performing athletes are as proficient at moving without the ball as they are with the ball. The foundation of every sport skill starts with a solid base and proper positioning.  Teaching your students how to get in position is therefore just as important as what they do once they are in position.  

Let’s examine a few sports and the locomotor skills necessary for proper positioning.  In volleyball every ball contact happens in under a second. 99.99% of the game is court and body positioning.  Court positioning falls under strategy and tactics which developmentally should happen around 5th grade and above.  It’s getting in the proper position in order to create a successful contact that we are interested in examining here.  Slides and gallops are the two most critical locomotor skills for Volleyball.  Slides provide lateral quickness and the gallop is essential for forward and backward movements while remaining square to the ball.   When you're competing against gravity in volleyball there is no time to get tripped up.  Volleyball players have to modify the slide and gallop a step further by adding in various levels based on the flight of the ball.  Players start off low and either stay low or must adjust through medium and high levels in order to successfully contact the ball.   

Every sport skill begins with some type of locomotor skill. Planting your supporting leg for a soccer kick or pass is a modified gallop. Crow hops in a baseball throw is also a modified gallop.  Defensive coverage in sports where an athlete transitions from back peddle to forward run is a karaoke movement.  Basketball layups?  You got it... Skip!

When planning your manipulative units and sports units make sure to include instruction on how to get in position.  Showing the students the hidden locomotor movements necessary to get in position motivates them to improve and refine their locomotor movement skills as they become older and more proficient.