Going the Right Speed While Playing Sports

In many sports, it can be important to know when to speed up movements and when to slow them down. This muscle control requires a student to make many different judgments. For example, when catching a ball, a student needs to process information that is largely visual and spatial, e.g., judging the angle at which the ball is coming, its speed, and its estimated arrival time. The student then uses this spatial information to coordinate running at the appropriate speed and positioning his hands to catch the ball.

Other activities, such as running or swimming focus on spatial information that relates more to where the student is in space.

While engaged in a sport, a student is constantly receiving feedback about his position in space and whether he needs to slow down or speed up his movements. By responding to this feedback, for example, by adjusting speed to catch a ball or turning at the right time at the end of a swimming lane, a student can often increase his success in a sports activity.

Helpful Hints

  • Allow a student to say the required steps aloud while doing a motor activity, if it aids his ability to remember or perform. You may encourage the student to move from vocalizations to whispers to sub-vocalizations when comfortable.  
  • Use teacher and peers to model the pace of a sports activity.  
  • Practice the smaller steps or components of a motor activity to build automatization of motor sub-skills, e.g., breathing, stroking and kicking when swimming.  
  • Play games that focus on gross motor movement, for example, Freeze, in which students move and dance to music, freezing in position when the music stops, moving when the music starts again.  
  • Consider whether the student might benefit more from self-paced activities in which the student initiates the activity (e.g., swimming or running), or from externally-paced activities where the student responds to motor demands (e.g., tennis or soccer).