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Give kids free time and space, and you will see them either chasing each other playing tag or wrestling each other to the ground. From a coaching perspective, games are easy to teach and obviously fun and motivating for the young athlete. It is also easy to manipulate the rules, environment, and participants of games to get different desired outcomes. Different outcomes develop different skills and abilities.

For example, a coach can manipulate the size of the playing field in a game of tag to allow the players to have to cover more distance. This can increase the conditioning effect or shorten the distance to allow for more decision-making and change of direction development. Ultimately, games serve as a vehicle for kids to practice and expand their overall movement skill set.

Before the invention of training facilities and travel teams, children played all kinds of games after school in backyards and sandlots across America.

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These random pick-up games loosely based around sports, with their own set of rules and guidelines that the participants themselves made up, were a perfect environment for children to try and practice a variety of skills. These games were fun because kids were among friends and free of any adult involvement. There were no coaches there telling the kids how to do one particular skill; rather, children would come up with a variety of ways to accomplish a task. This autonomy and development of diverse skills armed kids with the ability to problem-solve in different situations.

They would then take these skills with them into more complex forms of organized sports later on. Video 1.

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Adding a Swiss or stability ball into tagging or dodging activities is a lot of fun and overclocks the reaction skills of youth athletes. In my facility, we practice a variety of fundamental movements like sprinting, jumping, catching, and throwing.

From there, we take those skills and try to put them into use in a more open and chaotic environment. This where we use games to further develop our movement skills. In the following part of this article, I list my favorite games that work in my facility along with the specific training goals that I look to develop. It is by no means an exhaustive list of games. The idea here is to simply offer some ideas that coaches can use to develop all-around athleticism.

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Some of these games are very simple; others are a bit more complex. I have found all of them to be valuable and fun for the young athletes I work with. In its essence, Tag may be the simplest but most athletically beneficial of all games.

When it comes to developing a wide range of athletic skills, the game of Tag is unmatched.

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First, kids intuitively understand how to play Tag without any formal instruction. They love that rush of implied danger from being tagged, and the game requires nothing more than open space. Here is a list of some of the other skills developed during Tag: decision-making skills, tracking, evasion, tactics and strategy, acceleration, deceleration and change of direction, reaching, and changing body position.

Video 2. Flags bring more demanding and better skill to tagging games. If used right, they can teach good tackling habits later, but are not progressions into actual collision mechanics.

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The flag version of Tag simply adds football flags to the equation. The last one with a flag still on wins.

What I love about Flag Tag is that, instead of tagging an opponent anywhere, the flag pull is specific to one spot on the body: the hips. If any football coaches are reading this, they know this is a very important concept. This is because in tracking for tackling an offensive player with the ball, the defender always tracks near the hip. This version of Tag uses time to determine the winner.

Sports activities & games for kids

One team is the taggers, and the other team is the runners. We typically play this game inside a yard x yard square, but we may go bigger or smaller depending on the of players involved. In Team Relay Tag, each player on the tagger team will have a turn trying to tag a person on the runner team. If a person on the runner team is tagged, they are not out; they stay in the game until all taggers have had their turn.

9 (fun!) games to develop movement skills and athleticism

We simply time how long it takes for the taggers to get a runner. Then the teams switch roles. The team that has the fastest time tagging wins the game. Some of the key skills developed are quick changes of direction, efficient movement in tight spaces, and the ability to process a lot of visual input quickly.

Video 3. Group chaos overlo the brain in a beneficial way. Adding team tag to sessions with youth athletes is perfect as it removes the skill demands of sports and gets to the heart of learning to move properly. Time helps build urgency, as most sports use time periods to determine outcomes. True, games like baseball and golf are not time-based, but nearly all other games in team sports use the clock to determine the winner in addition to the score.

Points and time seem to improve efficient movement development if done right. Yes, you guessed it.

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I stole this game directly from the old American Gladiators show. The game is simple: The offensive player on each team has 30 seconds to score three separate balls into a bucket. The player can only hold one ball at a time. If that player gets tagged by a defender before they score, that ball is out for the remainder of the 30 seconds.

Video 4. Change of direction with a purpose is the name of the game with Powerball.

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The setup is key in this game. There will always be one more bucket to score than the of defenders. For example, if there are three players to a team, they will have to defend four buckets.

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This forces the defenders to really work together and hustle to cover all the buckets. We can develop usable skills in a competitive situation. Move the Mountain is a relay race on steroids. Instead of the classic version of a relay race where the participants simply run back and forth, Move the Mountain involves running, carrying, and traversing an obstacle course. I am a huge fan of relay races with young athletes because of their many positive benefits:. Team races are awesome because we can divide teams evenly to make a competitive race.

A fast stud can be paired with a slower kid and race against a couple of average speed athletes. Add in the obstacle course, and the athletes having to carry weighted objects turns the race from pure speed to something entirely different.

Pickle was one of my favorite games as a. In the version of Runners and Gunners, we use gator skin balls and runners can be gunned down either by being tagged or being hit with the ball. In the older version, we played with just a few kids in the middle as runners.

In the Runners and Gunners version, we play with many players in the middle, and the winner is the last one standing. Video 5.

Athlete speed will never be faster than ball speed, so pickle is a natural way to train velocity and reaction. Simple games are seen as boring only when they are not organized well, but they are timeless fun if employed properly. Anecdotally, I have seen kids run back and forth for upward of — yards in a game. They do this without realizing they are actually conditioning because they are engaged and having fun.

Therefore, a competitive event like Pickle is a game-changer. This game also develops other skills, including change of direction, acceleration, evasion, dodging, tracking, and throwing. Of all the games we play at my facility, this is by far the most popular. Kings and Pawns combines elements of both wrestling and football.

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