Sean Fyfe’s days as a tennis coach inspired him to his latest initiative.
A former pro tennis player, coach and physiotherapist, Sean says that as he visited schools he realised he was seeing kids who didn’t have basic skills.
“Some of them didn’t know how to move their body and their feet to catch a ball, let alone hold a tennis racquet in their hand and move to hit a ball. The fact that they didn’t know this meant it took them a while to get to the ‘fun’ bit of tennis and many lose interest.”
He thinks the same scenario may well play out in other sports too.
“By the time children start school at age five, they should have some basic skills already,” says Sean. These include the ability to:
- judge speed and height by being able to catch a large ball in both hands
- hop, jump, skip and change direction
- balance on one leg
- throw and strike a ball with a bat or racquet, and
- kick a ball with both feet.
He says these are “fundamental perceptual motor skills” that every child should develop and which are the cornerstone of every sport.
“But they don’t just happen,” he says. “They have to be developed and worked at, and that is where parents can have a big impact.”
To help, Sean has enlisted other experts including psychologists, recognised sports coaches, school counsellors and others, and developed a web-based platform known as Skill for Kids as well as three practical playtime Apps for children 0-2 years, 2-4 years and 4-6 years.
“You can encourage children to develop these skills and to learn to play from the beginning of their life,” says Sean. “For example, when they start reaching, encourage them to stretch by leaving things a little bit further out of reach. There are crawling games which can be loads of fun and good for them.”
He recommends at least 30 minutes a day of basic physical skill development for children.
“Every parent wants to do the best for their kids but there’s very often conflicting information or no information at all.
“The idea behind these Apps is to give parents short, age-appropriate videos that they can watch anywhere. They demonstrate practical and fun games and exercises that parents can do with their children.”
The Apps also include a timeline to help parents know what physical milestones their kids should be reaching by what age.
Sean, who has also been a strength and conditioning coach to tennis player Bernard Tomic, says that if children are not given the opportunity to develop these skills, it’s not fair to expect them to enjoy sport or to reach their potential in sport.
“The fact is, if you see a teenager or an adult who appears uncoordinated it's because they probably didn’t have the opportunity to learn fundamental perceptual motor skills when they were young.
“Not everyone’s going to play cricket, soccer, rugby or swim for Australia, but being physically active throughout life and learning to enjoy sport is something all children should have. It's good for their mental health as well as their physical health. If these Apps can help, that’s fantastic.”
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The Apps sell for 99c each on iTunes. See Skill for Kids for further information.