Playing Sports and Using Large Muscles

To dance well, play sports, or succeed at other activities that use large muscles, a student needs to develop his or her gross motor skills. Gross motor skills involve sending messages from the brain to large muscles such as the arms and legs. To use large muscles effectively and efficiently, a student needs to be able to regulate the speed that at which muscles move, picture how they are going to move, do some movements automatically, and coordinate body movements with what is going on around them.

Different gross motor activities make multiple demands beyond muscle movements. For example, when a student plays baseball, in addition to coordinating muscles, she needs to: remember a series of steps to hit the ball, recall and understand the rules of the game, wait for her turn to bat or play in the field, communicate with her teammates and coach, and attend to the details of the game. As with other gross motor activities, there are also social demands related to performing well in front of peers.

It is important to match an individual's gross motor skills to the demands of a particular sport, perhaps allowing students with gross motor difficulties to substitute non-athletic motor activities (e.g., music, art, crafts). It is not necessary to require every student to master a particular gross motor activity. By taking advantage of a student's strengths or affinities in other motor areas, a teacher is more likely to facilitate success.

Necessary SubSkillsCommon ObstaclesHelpful Tips
Student knows when to speed up and when to slow down while playing sports. Student has difficulty knowing when to speed up and when to slow down while playing sports. view
Student is able to imagine a mental picture of muscle movements and actions described by a coach or gym teacher. Student is unable to imagine a mental picture of the muscle movements and actions described by a coach or gym teacher. view
Student does sports movements automatically. Student is not able to do movements in sports automatically. view
Student can coordinate the different movements in sports, athletic activities, and/or dance. Student is not able to coordinate the different movements in sports or dance. view