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Fundamental Motor Skills

Updated: Mar 2

Fundamental motor skills are common movement patterns which are used as the building blocks for more complex tasks and sport specific skills. These skills are routinely developed in a sequential manner and as a result, children must be given the opportunity to develop them for future acquisition of higher level skills.

Unfortunately, children who don’t master these skills are often less able and willing to persist with the learning process of more complex motor skills and will inevitably avoid social situations that risk public failure and potential embarrassment. This was directly seen in the article “Childhood Motor Skill Proficiency as a Predictor of Adolescent Physical Activity” written by (Barnett et al, 2009). Where they found “Object control proficient children were more likely to become active adolescents” (Barnett et al, 2009). Motor skill development should be a key strategy in childhood interventions aiming to promote long-term physical activity” (Barnett et al, 2009).

When looking at one’s progression of motor skills, you must take into account the activities the child performs most regularly. Obviously the more you practice a skill, the more advanced you will be at that skill and the more likely you are to develop complex and sports specific skills in this area. Conversely, if an activity is foreign, you would naturally find it difficult to master.

Now looking towards those individuals that are lucky enough to be good at all sports. I believe in these situations they have built a solid foundation of motor skills at a young age. This framework allows them to adapt these skills to the game they are playing. Naturally, you would expect a tennis player to be able to modify their skill set to table tennis or squash. However, when looking at a soccer player, you would expect them to find it harder to cross over and kick an Australian rules football. Soccer players are more than capable kicking a ball, but they haven’t developed the skill of guiding the ball from hand to foot as this is not a requirement to their sport (apart from a goalkeeper). Resulting in a variant ball drop which produces variability and reduced accuracy. Likewise, you would expect a netballer to be able to pick up another throwing and catching sport a lot easier than a gymnast, runner or soccer player. This flexibility is simply due to the time spent building the fundamental motor skills which can then be adapted to alternative sport specific skills.

I think the big difference between being sufficient and able to play a sport and mastering it should be noted. We have looked at soccer as an example. When looking deeper into the skills required yes one can learn to dribble the ball, but the progression and control of this skill is endless. This is also true with the art of kicking a ball. It is one thing to kick a ball it is another when looking at the control and accuracy some of the best players in the world possess.

Overall the saying is true “practice makes perfect” the more repetitions you perform a task; the stronger the neural pathway becomes and the better you can adjust to natural variation to that task or the environment. Obviously, we all don’t have the ability to start tennis as a toddler like Djokovic and become number one in the world as there are some natural ability and physical attributes / genetics that influence your potential.

Whether you are recovering from an injury, or simply looking to improve your overall physical performance, the team at Body Fit Physiotherapy has the expertise and experience to help you reach your goals.


Barnett, L, van Beurden, E, Morgan, P, Brooks, L & Beard, J 2009. ‘Childhood Motor Skill Proficiency as a Predictor of Adolescent Physical Activity’ Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 44, no. 3, pp. 252-259.

Department Of Education Victoria 1996, Fundamental Motor Skills: A Manual for Classroom Teachers, Community Information Service, Melbourne, Australia.

Written By:

Tim Delvins

NDIS Physio North Adelaide

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