Dr Jane Williams 

KindyROO graduates as rising sports stars

Sporting prowess is perhaps the easiest area of development to understand in regard to its link to KindyROO, after all, KindyROO is a movement-based program and one would expect that if you practice motor skills on a regular basis, then you will develop the skills needed to become a talented sports person. We are presently documenting hundreds of stories involving KindyROO graduates doing exactly that and excelling in their chosen sporting fields. Here is one such example. A FIFA qualified soccer coach is a strong advocate of the KindyROO program. He explains: “I see many young soccer players hopeful that they will be scouted to play at league level. At 15 years of age, when trialling for my elite training squad, I can pick out KindyROO graduates as soon as they run onto the field. Of the seven graduates from this squad that have been selected to play European league, six are KindyROO kids.” He explains what he sees in these teenagers that makes them stand out.

  1. KindyROO kids are so well lateralised that they have excellent control of both left and right feet. They are able to automatically and smoothly coordinate movement and this gives them the ability to manipulate the ball expertly while moving in any direction.
  2. KindyROO kids have quick reflexes, enabling them to respond to rapidly changing circumstances and conditions on the field.
  3. KindyROO kids have hand-eye coordination that stands out. This gives them the leading edge on other players, as they are able to manipulate the ball with great skill.
  4. KindyROO kids have excellent spatial awareness – this means they know exactly where they are on the field at any time, exactly how far, in what direction and with what power they need to kick a ball, and how quickly they can move to a new location on the field.
  5. KindyROO kids can visualise – essential for accurate execution of passing/kicking/catching a ball all whilst on the move.
  6. KindyROO kids follow instructions and do not need them repeated.
  7. KindyROO kids are more attentive.
  8. KindyROO kids show more initiative.
  9. KindyROO kids demonstrate leadership skills – a key component for a successful soccer career and which matters most for team sporting careers.

This coach so strongly believes that KindyROO is the essential ingredient for sporting success; he suggests that if we want great future Socceroo or Matilda Olympic teams, then we need to make sure everyone does KindyROO from babyhood!

Why are KindyROO graduates so successful on the sporting field?

There is a very good reason why the GymbaROO journey begins at six weeks and continues until your child is five years old. It is during these earliest years that the foundational neurological processes essential for sporting prowess are ‘wired up’.  This is a step-by-step process. Starting from automatic responses, babies gradually learn to control a movement skill, practice it, refine it and then move on to learning the next level of skill. The activities offered at GymbaROO help babies and children gain the important sensory and motor stimulation required for each step on this ‘ladder of learning’. Skipping or breezing over any of these ‘steps’ will make achieving a high level of proficiency and coordination near impossible.

One of the skills the FIFA coach refers to is a brain process called ‘laterality’. Laterality refers to the ability of the brain to control either side of the body separately, in unison or in opposition. It enables a child to coordinate both sides of the body at the same time, while each side performs a different task.  For example, when kicking a ball, one leg is kicking while the other maintains balance. Good bilateral integration, or coordination, is an indicator that both sides of the brain are communicating effectively and sharing information so that the body can operate in a smooth, coordinated and timely manner.

The foundations of laterality are built gradually over the first three years of life, however the skill is not properly refined until three to five years. A good indication that a child has developed laterality is that they can cross the midline of their body.  Crossing the midline refers to the ability to spontaneously cross over the midline of the body during movement tasks – moving one hand, foot or eye into the space of the other hand, foot or eye without having to turn the body.  Children who are have excellent laterality skills will also have excellent ball control skills, have quick reflexes and ‘stand out’ hand-eye coordination.

Visualisation is also a critical component of any team sport. It enables a player to be able to ‘see in their mind’s eye’ how the game is playing out, what the potential future moves are likely to be and how to respond BEFORE the moves are executed. At KindyROO we start visualisation activities from baby classes. It takes years to be highly competent at visualisation and practice, practice, practice is the key.

Of course, developing ­any of the skills that coach Tony Samaras talks about does not happen overnight. Repetition is important for them all, that’s why we suggest you and your child enjoy some key GymbaROO activities every day at home. If you come along regularly to class and repeat activities at home, then over five years you will see your child gradually but surely develop the skills essential for sporting success and prowess.

Dr Jane Williams (PhD, BMgt, RN(Paeds)) is the Research and Education General Manager for KindyROO. She is one of Australia’s leading experts on baby and child development. More on Dr Williams here.