One type of skill that is important for both social interaction on the playground and performance in physical education is ball-handling skills. These skills typically include throwing, catching, and kicking. Many physical educators consider ball-handling skills to be the most important motor skills taught in physical education because they are the cornerstones of many games1.
So what type of skills are we looking at for some of the ball activities?
Kicking works our ability to rotate our trunk, something we need to do for proper walking posture. By kicking a ball we are working on our balance. We must stand on one leg while the other leg contacts the ball and with luck not fall. This skill also helps children when it comes time to step up on a curb or step over an object we must stand on one leg and balance. Coordination is needed in almost all ball activities and kicking is no exception. Our bodies must move, rotate, balance and move again very quickly making coordination an important skill and a functional one too.
Rolling works our bilateral motor control of the upper extremity. To sit and roll a ball calls for both sides of our body to work together. If one side of our body is slower to receive the message from the brain the ball will not roll straight but most likely veer off to one side or the other. We use trunk flexion and extension to roll a ball two motions with several important muscles that help us with posture. Upper body strength is also needed to roll a ball the amount of strength will depend on the weight and size of the ball.
Catching a ball requires hand-eye coordination and reaction time or speed of the process. Many of the benefits we get from the kicking and rolling cross over into this action as well. The more we perform each task the better our bodies will become at executing the required actions. We can then use this memory in other functional activities throughout our daily living.
1 – Williams N. Throwing and catching: a steady diet. Journal of Physical Education Recreation and Dance.1992 ;64:14.Effects of Testing Context on Ball Skill Performance in 5-Year-Old Children With and Without Developmental Delay, Journal of Physical Therapy Association September 1999 vol. 79 no. 9 818-826