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Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018
Confidence at the core of physical literacy
2018-08-11
by Randy Pascal

Allie Chown has stood in the shoes of the children she is now assessing. And the perspective she brings to the table is an insightful one, on so many levels.

Preparing to enter her third year of Neuroscience in Concurrent Education at Laurentian University, Chown is spending this summer working with the various sports camps that are hosted on campus.

One of the city's top female basketball talents, in her age bracket, before the effects of post-concussion syndrome derailed any post-secondary varsity dreams that she may have had, the 20 year old has merged her sports-related interest with trying to understand more regarding the very core of athletic development in children.

"We started talking with Active Sudbury in May, had our staff trained on Physical Literacy, learning about it and how we could teach these kids about it," said Chown. In order to add a quantitative measure to the equation, Chown and some co-workers expanded the scope to include an assessment component for camp participants.

"We are assessing five fundamental movement skills: hopping, running throwing, walking backwards and kicking, just to see at what level they are at." Though the process is still on-going, Chown has already taken note of some interesting feedback.

"I've noticed that confidence is a big key, and it is part of the assessment," she said. "I am not sure if that's a new, emerging thing with kids, but it is something I have noticed. And the gender difference - that really surprised me, even at very young ages."

"The boys are generally better at throwing, the girls are better at balancing and hopping. I don't know if that just goes with the sports that these kids have played so far." In fact, studies that have been conducted would suggest that prior to puberty, there should be very little differentiation between the ability of boys and girls to complete near identical fundamental movement skills.

In this particular instance, the children being canvassed range in age from four to twelve or thirteen. Eight year old Mila Kolar provides a very typical example of the observations that Chown has made.

The product of a sport supportive family environment, Kolar can already rhyme off a whole slew of activities to which she has been introduced as she prepares to enter grade two at MacLeod Public School. Soccer, hockey, karate, swimming, lots of running are all part of the mix, not to mention much more unstructred activities during recess at school with her friends.

Though benefitting from an athletic background that should allow her to feel comfortable in pretty much every single setting, Kolar differentiates in discussing the comfort level she feels in various activities.

"Kicking the soccer ball was my favourite, I am really good at soccer," she said. "You had to kick the ball as far as you can, and you had to kick it as fast as can." Throwing, by contrast, was not nearly as natural.

"Baseball is a little harder than soccer," said Kolar. "It's only once a week with baseball. Soccer is easier for me, because I have been doing it for two, close to three years." Understandably, the confidence factor noted above will play directly off the amount of exposure kids receive to a variety of athletic endeavours.

"There's been a lot of research done on that lately, the idea of sport specialization," said Chown. "It all seems to point to the idea of having kids take part in a variety of different activites, even if it's just that they go outside and do a bit of everything."

Looking back, the athlete turned assessor can absolutely understand the reluctance to fully embrace the core notion of a wide scope of physical literacy forming the basis of future sports excellence. In fact, her own story falls somewhere in the middle.

"I played basketball, volleyball and did a lot of track and field," recalled Chown. Through it all, however, basketball was emerging as the pathway of greatest potential, and, in fairness, was where she would focus her greatest efforts.

"I kind of wish I had done soccer, flag football in high school." And now, she is encouraging others to do the same.

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It should be noted that the assessments being conducted are aimed to provide a starting point, largely for parents, and that anyone looking to access further information regarding their child's development within the Physical Literacy pathway can visit the Active Sudbury website at "www.activesudbury.ca".

The work of Active Sudbury is being supported, as well, by both the Ontario Trillium Foundation, through their funding stream, as well as by the resource assistance of Sport for Life (www.sportforlife.ca).

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