The Motor Skill Development Window for Goalies
The Motor Skill Development Window – no, this is not like a picture window or a stained glass window; I am referring to a window of development for young goalies.
Are you familiar with the saying, ‘it’s just like riding a bike?’ We never forget how to ride a bike, do we?
I remember being terrified when my Grama hopped on my brand new BMX bike that I got in 1982. I was terrified she would take a wipe out (and that my bike would be destroyed in the process). Much to my delight and surprise, Grama overcame a bit of a shaky start and then tore up and down the lane way at our cottage like no body’s business!
She probably had not ridden a bike in 50 years or more at the time, but she still knew how to do it. She still had that muscle memory because, like the rest of us, she probably learned to ride a bike when she was 6 years old or so.
So what is this phenomenon that imprints a skill for life, and how can we use it to our advantage as goalies?
This is where the motor skill development window comes into the conversation.
Our nervous systems become “hard wired” when we get older (like after 16 years of age), but at a young age they are very plastic, so we can lay down lots of new patterns with very little effort.
The best time for developing coordinated movement is between the ages of 7 and 14. Youth conditioning expert Brian Grasso reports that the most crucial time for young athletes to develop movement skill is between 10 to 13 years of age.
After the age of 16 it becomes harder for us to lay down new movement patterns. That’s not to say that we cannot do it. It just becomes harder and requires more deliberate practice.
So what does this mean for young goalies?
Many parents ask about strength training exercises their young goalie should be doing to get the advantage. I think they should be asking about movement skills to give them an advantage.
I would love to see a young goalie get involved in gymnastics or martial arts to develop a broad vocabulary of movement.
Although I personally do not feel that a young goalie needs to be working with a strength and conditioning coach, I do feel that they should be working with a technical goalie coach to learn proper execution of their movement patterns.
This will not only reduce wear and tear, but improve the quality of execution. I agree with the comments by Coach Dusan Sidor in the InGoal article earlier this week – rather than let the goalie figure out a way that feels right to him or her, but is biomechanically inefficient, teach the proper movement to start with.
Even though your youngster is a goalie, I think they should have a good grasp on all the basic movement patterns such as:
Take advantage of that motor skill development window.