SportStart workshop: Teaching Athletics in a developmentally appropriate way

15 October 2019

Teachers from across the Wellington region came together, in the Johnsonville Community Centre, to learn about teaching athletics using the SportStart resource. The focus of the workshop was how fundamental movement skills (FMS) are vital to a child’s progression in the three key areas of athletics: throwing, running and jumping. Those who attended looked at how to teach athletic skills within a developmentally-appropriate way.

The workshop began with everyone participating in a warm-up from the SportStart resource. The aim of the warm-up was to work in pairs to practice a sequence of jumping movements. This non-competitive activity allowed those involved to practice the skills needed for athletic events.

Once the understanding of FMS and their impact on sport specific practice had been established, the workshop turned its attention to what a developmentally appropriate approach looked like throughout the different year levels. For a skill to be learnt in a developmentally-appropriate way there must be explore, learn, apply and refine stages. From each stage of learning, the teachers paired up and modelled to the rest of the group how that specific year group fit into their stage of learning.

The explore stage takes place in Year 1 and 2, where children are encouraged to investigate a wide range of FMS. This is followed by the learning portion (taking place between Years 3 and 4) that continues to emphasize the importance of exploring FMS and experimenting what they may look like before developing techniques. The apply stage comes between the Years 5 and 6. This stage focuses on the development of skills already learnt and the application of combining them i.e. running and jumping.

It is not until years 7-8 that children begin to refine their skills; ready for application within a specific sport. This explore, learn, apply and refine approach is based on the Long Term Development in Sport and Physical Activity report from Sport Canada. These stages allow for physical literacy (cognitive, physical, spiritual and social skills) to develop ensuring that we are physically and mentally ready to apply their sport specific skills to an athletic setting.

Mapping out what a lesson will look like within each year group allowed the teachers to see the clear progression from exploring, learning, to applying, to refining. Several teachers commented on how great it was to see the simple progression through the years. Each year group could see how the skills they taught led to the physical development of a child’s more refined skills in the following years, they said.

Find more information on the Long Term Development in Sport and Physical Activity

school athlete