“Before you run, you have to walk, and before you walk you have to crawl”. “Before you build a house, you must first lay the foundation”. “Movements first, muscles second”. When developing young lacrosse athletes these phrases could not be further from the truth. Youth lacrosse coaches must consider both the specific skills needed for the sport (i.e., cradle, pass, shoot, catch, etc.), and the bio-motor abilities (i.e., balance, speed, agility, flexibility, etc.) that help the young lacrosse athlete physically perform the specific sport skills effectively. All physical development should start with acquiring fundamental motor skills because accomplished fundamental motor ability enables kids to become competent, creative, and efficient movers. It is this movement competence that allows the young athlete to become more confident in their actions and likely to seek more risk, challenge, and enjoyment when learning and executing advanced lacrosse skills.

In short, fundamental motor skills are the “alphabet” of an accomplished athlete. Compare this thought to a young student trying to write a paragraph. Before you can put together sentences, you must first put together words, and we know how difficult it is to put words together if one is not familiar with how spell words with the correct sequence of letters. Sport skills are similar in that the best athletes are capable of putting together various fundamental movements and constructing movement patterns that will enable them to perform athletic tasks. One example of this sequence with lacrosse could include catching a ball on the run, cradling, performing a dodge, and then taking a shot on goal. Imagine how difficult it would be to create this “movement sentence” without knowledge of the “movement alphabet”?

Fundamental Motor Skills

Locomotor Manipulative Stabilizing
Walk Throw Balance
Run Catch Twist
Jump Kick Turn
Hop Strike Bend
Skip Trap Stretch
Roll Bounce  

Mastery of the fundamental motor skills is a primary pillar of physical literacy. The physically literate person will demonstrate the motivation, confidence, physical competence, and knowledge to value and take responsibility for maintaining purposeful physical activity throughout the lifespan. Lacrosse coaches should embrace this philosophy because young athletes that possess a strong movement foundation while learning specific lacrosse skills are more likely to learn, play, compete, and enjoy lacrosse from childhood into adulthood. It is this confidence and positive attitude that is a key component for youth to start and maintain a physically active lifestyle throughout the lifespan.

As new kids are introduced to the sport of lacrosse, coaches will probably recognize that movement ability will vary from player to player. Coaches may also realize that due to time limitations, too much emphasis on learning motor skills may take away from valuable practice time. To address this problem, youth coaches should incorporate many of these fundamental motor skills and their variations into their dynamic warm-up routine. This strategy enables coaches at the start of a practice to address proper warm up, performance enhancement, and injury prevention without taking too much time from specific lacrosse skills and tactics. Further, including fundamental motor skills as part of a quality dynamic warm up will contribute to the development of the physically literate lacrosse athlete and will serve to ultimately enrich their movement vocabulary, confidence, and overall youth lacrosse experience.

Tony Moreno PhD CSCS is a Professor of Kinesiology at Eastern Michigan University and a longtime Coaching Educator for the Michigan High School Athletic Association. For more information contact Tony Moreno at [email protected]