Athletic Competence

14 12 2009

Efficiency of movement should develop progressively throughout childhood and into early adolescence but is highly dependent on the development environment (Birrer and Levine, 1987). Successive reductions in the emphasis on school competitive sport have resulted in significantly decreased exposure from an early age to physical development skills learnt in outdoor play and sport (Boyle et al., 2008). The reduction in organised sport at a primary and secondary level results in lower anaerobic and aerobic capacity, reducing performance in the child and adolescent (Balyi and Hamilton, 2004).

Pressure on young athletes to succeed is at an all time high.(Davison and Lawson, 2006, Nicholls et al., 2009) The pathway from child participant to 1st team player is often accelerated based on physical size. There is excellent evidence that being born in 1st quarter (Baker and Logan, 2007) correlates well with selection for sport and that little thought is made on the long term development and safety of the athlete.

All movements, as part of rugby specific skills, i.e. jumping, catching, tackling all require that the athlete demonstrate force production, reduction and stabilisation. These require multi-dimensional movement efficiency.

Commonly used tests in assessing ‘talent’ use tests designed for senior athletes i.e. Multi stage fitness test (MSFT), Vertical Jump, 10m/40m Sprint times. Younger athletes focus on the results, not the technique required and what level of physical competency is required to achieve this.(Balyi, 2002, Balyi et al., 2005)

If the aim of age group representation is, in part, to develop the long-term athletic ability, to enhance the National talent pool, then the focus should be on enhancing these competencies or ‘building blocks’

Movement Dynamics use a test battery of 60 movement tests to produce a progressive assessment-training tool. The aim of which is to allow balanced development of key skills including stability, flexibility and movement technique.(Giles, 2009) It has been demonstrated that whilst considered fundamental, many of these skills are not mastered even by international athletes.(Balyi et al., 2005)

We are planning a study aims to assess the athletic competencies of those trialling for U16 England Rugby Union selection and identify if there is a trend between physical competency score and selection. It will additionally provide invaluable insight into movement skills of development rugby athletes, strengthen collaborative links between Roehampton University and National Sports Governing Bodies and contribute strongly to a key growth area of academic research.

It may well highlight any association between deficiencies in competencies and injury patterns in the future

We will update with the results as soon as possible