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Sport Skills are Life Skills

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 Posted by Travis Saunders
I came across several wonderful videos last week that I needed to share with everyone here. They are from a Kidsport advertising campaign, and nicely capture the many ways that sport can help children develop into adults who are healthy physically and socially.

The videos are very funny, but they also outline some very real truths. Children who lack fundamental movement skills (e.g. throwing, jumping, swimming or kicking) are extremely unlikely to participate in sports as adults, even if they would otherwise be interested. That can really narrow down the number of opportunities that they have for physical activity. Would you join an ultimate frisbee game if you can't catch, or go snorkeling if you can't swim? Of course not, and neither would many children. In contrast, kids who develop a wide range of fundamental movement skills have the ability to adapt those skills to a variety of sports throughout their lifespan. Since sports are inherently social, lacking fundamental movement skills can also result in social isolation. This is borne out by the research - children with poor motor skills not only engage in less physical activity, but they also suffer from increased psychosocial problems such as lower feelings of self-worth and poorer social support.

Not surprisingly, research also suggests that children who lack fundamental movement skills are at increased risk of overweight and obesity. For example, a study by John Cairney and colleages at Brock University compared the risk of overweight/obesity in children whose motor skills are substantially lower than would be expected for their age, to that of children with normal motor skills. They report that the prevalence of overweight/obesity was 3 times higher in boys with low motor skills than in boys with normal motor skills. Interestingly, there was no relationship between motor skills and weight status in girls. These findings are limited - only 44 children were classified as having low movement skills, and since the study was cross-sectional, we obviously can't conclude that poor movement skills caused these children to become overweight or obese. And I have no idea what to make of the gender difference. But the findings are interesting to say the least, and suggest that boys who lack fundamental movement skills may be at increased health risk when compared to boys with normal movement skills.  It has been suggested that somewhere between 5 and 10% of children exhibit poor movement skills, so it is important to find out if they are at increased risk health risk, and if so, how to improve their skills at a young enough age to reduce their risk.

Enjoy the videos! A reminder to our email subscribers - to see the videos you will need to visit our website by clicking on the title of this post.


Cairney, J., Hay, J., Faught, B., & Hawes, R. (2005). Developmental coordination disorder and overweight and obesity in children aged 9–14 y International Journal of Obesity, 29 (4), 369-372 DOI: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0802893

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5 Response to "Sport Skills are Life Skills"

  1. Anonymous Said,

    Thanks for presenting this issue; you have raised a valid point, but presented inappropriate videos. I must say, your stance was more clinical and objective, but I found the videos provided by “Kid Sport” to be insensitive and offensive to the nature of children with slight motor deficits. In fact, their images propagate the stereotypes used against children with motor deficits.

    The first study that you referenced examined the psychosocial effects of Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). In the “good ‘ol ‘days” we used to call these individuals “motor morons” and cast off their condition. This IS a clinically documented motor deficit disorder that affects approximately 5% of children (interestingly, more males than females). Most literature will state that the neurological cause is still undetermined, but the mainstream hypothesis is that it is tied to cerebellum development issues. Therefore, it is very likely to be a genuine neurological issue that has yet to be clearly recognized by the common public because its symptoms are not as noticeable as other conditions such as cerebral palsy. Furthermore, it is beyond the simple rehabilitation concept of just throwing a DCD child onto a soccer field and hoping they will learn to run and kick more efficiently. DCD is known to last throughout adolescence and into childhood even after these individuals have undergone various forms the recreational therapy.

    Back to the point, I think Kid Sport missed the mark in their videos (the first two at least). Their intention was to show how sports can help our children to become socially integrated adults. This was effectively shown in the last video, when the actor did not know what to do when a “High 5” was presented to him – very well done. However, the first two videos were extremely insensitive and uncomfortable to watch as they used individuals, who look to potentially have a condition such as DCD, to show how lack of sport involvement leads to lack of ability to save a life or swoon a female. In reality, involvement in sport would not significantly benefit these particular demonstrated skills. The basic ability to catch and throw can easily be learned by children who do not suffer DCD and have no involvement in sport. However, main stream sport involvement may not be the best solution for DCD individuals. In fact, mainstream sport involvement may demoralize them, just as these Kid Sport videos have done.

    I hope that Kid Sport realizes that if other children see these videos, it will provide bullies with the much needed fuel for their fire against children with conditions such as DCD. Shame.

    Travis, you are absolutely right. Something has to be done to keep these individuals active. It may actually present greater challenges than working with children who suffer cerebral palsy or severe cognitive disabilities, simply because these children “aren’t different enough” to be recognized. I have worked in programs such as Special Olympics that are extremely successful because individuals are matched in their likeness with other individuals. However, conditions such as DCD leave us with a social challenge – which cannot be overcome with society’s current perceptions, especially after seeing such videos.

    - Ian (faithful blog reader :o)

    Posted on August 26, 2009 at 3:46 PM

  2. Travis Saunders, MSc Said,

    Thanks for the great comment Ian, you raise some valid points. From my limited background in motor skills, I am under the impression that there are 2 groups of people with poor motor skills - those who have the capacity, but have not developed their motor skills, and those with actual deficits such as DCD. Rather than poking fun at people with DCD, I would interpret these videos to be focusing on people who have the capacity which has gone undeveloped.

    I may have reached a bit by trying to combine these videos into a post on DCD, so thanks for bringing up these points.

    Posted on August 26, 2009 at 3:54 PM

  3. Anonymous Said,

    I am shocked and appalled that they continue to run these ads, and especially the radio ads as they are highly offensive and just plain mean.

    Not everyone enjoys sports- I certainly never did and still don't and I am not any of the following: "failure at life", "have no social skills", "live at home with my mom", "don't wear deoderant" etc. I am educated, fully functioning, healthy and by no means overweight. The ads as they stand right now are propogating negative stereotypes about those who do not enjoy sports and/or are not athletically inclined. The ads are mean, hurtful and completely uncalled for. If these ads had been running when I was young I would have been devastated and would have felt even worse about myself than I already did. No child (or adult) deserves to feel ridiculed and humiliated for something they have no control over. I liked books and science and shopping, not sports and shouldn't be made to feel like an outcast because of it.

    As a nutritionist, I am all for helping kids eat healthier and be more active; but all activity does not only involve sports. These ads just create bullies and belitle people who probably already don't feel great about themselves. Why not promote kids being more active in ways that appeal to them, rather than making them feel like failures because they do not excel at or enjoy sports? This is just a sick excuse for adult bullies to again pick on their chosen targets.

    Posted on December 4, 2009 at 12:26 AM

  4. Anonymous Said,

    These commercials are extremely offensive. The comments made by the other two anonymous people are exactly correct. I did sports as a child and I hated every minute of it. I happen to be one many people who are unco-ordinated. Playing sports just got me hurt. I am not a social reject or live at home with my mom either. I am a fully functioning adult that contributes to society in meaningful ways.

    I just find the commercials the work of a bully. A mean kid who taunts people and makes them feel bad about who they are. What a way to have our children gain self confidence!! You might as well have a super skinny super model on there telling the girls of the world that that is how they should look!! I thought that we were trying to get away from these extreme images kids are subjected to all the time.

    Shame on you and your organization for putting out ads such as these. Shame.

    Posted on January 1, 2010 at 4:03 PM

  5. Travis Saunders Said,

    I've got to be honest, I didn't really consider these ads to be problematic before I put them up, but these comments are making me think that maybe I should have.

    Since these commercials strike many of our readers as inappropriate, what do you think would be more effective? I know that organizations are often aiming for videos that will go viral, but that usually means funny, and it is very tough to do a funny ad on a topic like this without offending people.

    Any thoughts on more appropriate ways to spread the message?

    Posted on January 5, 2010 at 9:56 AM


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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