Physical Development

Be a better youPhysical developmentSkill development

Children progress from birth to adulthood going through growth, maturation and development.


‘A lot of information exists on the development of talented athletes from a range of disciplines within coaching and sport science. Coaches are expected to understand, plan, deliver and reflect upon their practices within an increasing range of areas including technical, tactical, physical, psychological and social development. However, all these things make the coach’s job challenging, often resulting in coaches potentially ‘missing’ some important aspects of the athlete development journey... Continue to read Dr Kevin Till’s blog highlighting the importance of physical development…

Carl Foulstone’s blog ‘To stretch or not to stretch? That is the question.’ highlights the importance of an effective warm up. Continue reading to see Carl’s recommendation of a RAMP warm up.


Physical development involves providing opportunities for young children to be active and interactive; the development of fundamental movement skills of locomotion, manipulation and stabilisation provide a solid foundation. These have been extended in the Youth Physical Development Model developed by Lloyd and Oliver to include pushing, pulling, jumping, core development, unilateral and bilateral movement of the lower body, speed and agility.

Through the use of foundation shapes and movements a child’s physical literacy can be developed as the coach manipulates the complexity of the task, speed of movement, complexity of the movement, number of repetitions, resistance given and the stimulus (prescribed, planned, reactive). 

As children develop their physical literacy the need to increase their Physical Movement Cornerstones becomes greater to ensure they have the physical capacity to meet the technical, tactical and cognitive demands of their sport. The progression to the cornerstones provides further challenge as young people develop the ability to adopt an athletic stance, brace, push, pull, hinge, lunge and squat. The cards below provide coaches with resources to support the key movements with cues and prompts (click on the pictures to open a downloadable PDF of the resource). 

Key movement cue cards

Athletic StanceBracePush








The movement progression (please see Useful Resources to open a downloadable PDF of the resource) provides coaches with a number of physical challenges to increase the complexity for movements in a handy format with images. The Z-card is an easy to print and fold for your pocket as a coach reminder. 


Z-card (page 1)Z-card (page 2)







Interested in reading more? Read Kelvin Giles’ two part blog ‘The journey so far’ where he shares his journey to enhance the physical development of young people to provide them with a better skills set for life long participation and potential pathway progression.


We are not all born equal…

James is born in August and Callum is born in September; they are in the same school year and football team but there are 362 days difference in their age.  As 10 year olds, Callum has been on the planet 10% longer.  This gives him more experience, more opportunities and he is biologically more developed.  We acknowledge how much a child alters one month to the next but when we compare two children we often group them under an age group or even in some sports a two year age band.


Callum is almost a year older and is taller, quicker and stronger (because he is 10% older); when a coach arrives to watch them is he selecting on technical development or physical development?  Due to his athletic prowess Callum is deemed to have the potential to progress and is given the opportunity to enter the development programme.

Callum is now coached in a smaller group, with more experienced coaches and has an additional two practice sessions per week!  Guess what?  His development accelerates and he progresses further because of the environment he is in, an environment that he was able to access because of his birthday!

But the journey continues, James is more likely to be discouraged and stop playing as he believes he has not ‘got what it takes’ and is smaller than many of the other performers.  Callum gains in confidence and begins to believe in the ‘hype’ around his potential.  Callum continues to be selected because of the coaching and ‘hype’ around his ability.  This provides him with more coaching time (practice time), often better facilities and coaches and exposure to more challenging environments and opponents.  This can affect his mindset (but that’s another story!) but as he progresses and gets older other performers begin to catch him up.  He hasn’t developed the technical skills because he believed that he was selected because he was faster and bigger than everyone else, and consequently he doesn’t have an answer for the new challenges

There are performers like James who do achieve and gain from the challenges and ‘rocky road’ that they journeyed, but these ‘outliers’ (as Malcolm Gladwell calls them) are the extreme.

In other sports being young for your age and physically immature can also be an advantage, just think about ice skating, gymnastics and diving.

James and Callum are extremes, but their story happens every year across many sports.  What are you doing Coach to make sure it doesn’t happen in your practice sesion, your coaching environment and your club?



Talking Talent: Relative Age Effect


Dr Jean Côté of Queen's University, Ontario, provides of the relative age effect in sport and the interplay of social effects on this.




Useful Resources

Please click on the images below for a PDF version of the resource:

A useful guide looking at the implcations of Relative Age Effects on Performer Participation and Development






Physical Development Movement ProgressionsA useful guide looking at physical development movement progressions.  

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