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Article from Coaching Edge Magazine Autumn 2011: Chain Reaction
Throwing, catching, running, jumping and striking – basic skills that are essential for any sport.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the popularity of Multi-skills, which aims to give youngsters a sound grounding in physical iteracy, has shot through the roof over the past decade.
Virtually every local authority in the land has grasped the notion and – if you pardon the pun – ran with it. The web is also packed with session plans and tips for Multi-skills delivery, and bodies like the Rugby Football League (RFL) are strong supporters of the concept.
The main aim is for youngsters to acquire and build on their basic motor skills, while also improving their fitness and having fun.
During Multi-skills sessions, young people take part in a range of non-sport-specific activities to improve their basic FUNdamental movement ‘ABC’ skills – Agility, Balance and Coordination – in a challenging and enjoyable environment.
The values associated with Multi-skills have replaced the traditional notions of competition and winning in some quarters.
There has also been a sea change in recent years, encouraging youngsters to participate in as many activities as possible and ensuring they experience a wide range of sports and do not specialise too early.
This is part of the long-term athlete development (LTAD) plan, which suggests that for many young people, the FUNdamentals stage will act as the launch pad for a future in specific fields.
One Multi-skills specialist, Stacey Brewin, has over six years’ experience as a school sports coordinator and Multi-skills coach for a School Sport Partnership in Leicestershire. She is more than aware of the concept’s benefits. ‘What is the point of trying to teach a five year old how to dribble a ball when they have not yet mastered throwing, catching and basic movement skills?’ said Brewin.
‘Multi-skills gives kids a great base to expand their talents in a particular sport when they become that little bit older.’
Another Multi-skills proponent is Chris Riley, who has been working for Stockport Sports
Trust as a community sports coach since 2008.
He said: ‘Multi-skills has significant benefits in educating young people into how their body works and how to adopt certain positions and use different movements in a wide range of sport and physical activity. ‘I don’t think there is a sport where using the
ABCs of Multi-skills isn’t relevant. ‘Many of the movements learnt can quite easily
crossover between sports. For example, agility and the need to change direction is as important in football as it is in basketball, netball, hockey and racket sports.
‘Remaining perfectly balanced is as vital to the execution of a perfect cricket shot as it is in striking a golf ball.’
Chris Wright recently established his own business, Wright Sport Services, which offers physical development via Multi-skills coaching and rugby coaching in schools and a private holiday programme.
He is another big fan: ‘A Multi-skills approach is of huge benefit to every young person regardless of ability,’ said the Cumbria-based coach.
‘Ensuring children at their early ages of physical development become technically sound within Agility, Balance and Coordination ultimately means no person should be excluded from lifelong participation due to physical ability.
‘Multi-skills ensures all children are able to access a physical education programme at all ages, and allows talented pupils to access a programme of all-round physical development. It also helps talent ID ability and identifies appropriate sport-specific pathways and ensures transition across a whole range of sports, which is key to retaining people in sport.’
So what activities does Multi-skills encompass and what are some of the coaches’ favourites? ‘Most of my sessions are skill-based,’ said Brewin. ‘However, I do like to end each session with a very simple and fun game that everyone knows and loves – dodgeball.
‘This might sound easy, but it incorporates most fundamental skills – Agility, Balance and Coordination, along with throwing, catching, spatial awareness and keeping fit. It’s also great fun.’
Riley takes a similar approach. ‘When working with younger children I think it is important to keep the main emphasis of the session fun, while discreetly introducing coaching points,’ he explained.
‘With my year one and year two pupils, I like to use the objects we are working with as animals; for example, we play the ‘shark’ game – the aim being for children to avoid stepping on the cone (shark) to stop it waking up.
‘Games like these engage the children, give them a fun element, but they also teach them to move on the balls of their feet.
‘Working with older children I still like to include a fun element along with a competitive edge.’ Wright also described one of his recent sessions.
‘Currently, my favourite is the ‘clear my garden’ game, which allows for many skills to be developed in a fun environment. ‘The most difficult but essential skill to try and deliver is Balance, and specifically the core strength in young people which is lacking when you work with older children.
'As a specific rugby player/coach I have a lot of learning in the world of gymnastics to help in this area of delivery.’
Multi-skills activities and classes are mainly applied to young people between the ages of two and 12 (principally Key Stage 2), although there is no reason why older age groups cannot reap the benefits of partaking.
Many sessions take part within Multi-skill clubs, which usually form part of a school’s out-of-hours learning programme.
This supports the key stage attainment targets in primary school education and can act as a stepping stone from physical education classes to high-quality club environments.
The staging of Multi-skill clubs can be flexible and dependent upon local need; for example, a club could be situated on a school site, at a local secondary school hub site, or based in a leisure centre.
1st4sport has recently introduced a Level 2 Award in Multi-skills Development in Sport qualification, which was devised in partnership with sports coach UK and other experts within the sector, including the RFL.
The qualification is relevant to coaches delivering physical activity sessions to primary and secondary school children, as well as school sports coaches.
Steve Hargreaves, qualifications development manager at 1st4sport, said: ‘The original aim was to develop a consistent message for Multi-skills qualifications, as there are multiple non-accredited versions available from a number of different agencies that varied in their content.
‘So the concept was fairly simple – bring together some key personnel to agree the content for a nationally accredited Multi-skills qualification that provides the industry recognised standard for coaches.
'There should now be increased confidence in Multi-skills coaching, as this is the first-ever industry developed and recognised qualification of its type in the UK.’
And 1st4sport has had a lot of enquiries from many different areas about the qualification.
‘There are a number of sports interested in Multi-skills,’ Hargreaves added.
‘Although this is a relatively new development, the RFL, which was involved in the development group for this new award, is playing a big part and showing interest.’
The Level 2 qualification is made up of three units – understanding how to support child development through Multi-skills, developing fundamental movement skills (FMS) through Multi-skills coaching, and developing fundamental sport skills (FSS) through Multi-skills coaching.The course consists of two days of training followed by a one-day assessment.
So what will coaches get out of the course? ‘The learner will gain a nationally recognised qualification that supports specialism in coaching Multi-skills, which could lead to future employment – paid and/or voluntary – within a variety of settings (eg within a sports club or school environment),’ Hargreaves explained.
‘Plus, the course contains a series of assessment tasks designed to challenge and improve both the knowledge and practical coaching skills of learners.’
Brewin started a new job in September, based in a primary school, delivering PE and other health/sport/competition-related initiatives, and, along with Riley and Wright, is one of the coaches who have so far completed the course.
And her verdict? ‘The Level 2 course was excellent and easily feeds into the PE curriculum.’
Meanwhile, Riley added: ‘I think the qualification was very informative and has helped me significantly within my sessions.
Apart from the obvious benefits of gaining some new ideas, it also gave me a better understanding of at what stages a Multi-skills coach should introduce things.
‘The course also gives the coach a better understanding of the five Cs – confidence; competence; connection; character and caring; and creativity.’ Wright summarised: ‘The Level 2 course was an excellent qualification which allowed me to consolidate all the information and processes I had learnt in the previous five years of Multi-skills delivery.
This qualification ensurescoaches have the ability to plan and deliver an age-appropriate development programme which will have huge benefits on the physical literacy of young people.
‘Also in the environment we work in, it was crucial to have a nationally recognised qualification which allowed you to work as a Multi-skills coach.
‘For me, professionally, this was what I required to ensure successful delivery of my new coaching business.’
*To apply to become a recognised centre for the 1st4sport Level 2 Award in Multi-skills Development in Sport, call 1st4sport Qualifications on 0113-290 7610.
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