I have referenced the “pirate game” several times in the past in the context of utilizing a fun game to provide several aspects of fitness to young athletes 6-9 years old. As a backdrop, we must remember that our programming for this age group must be rooted in body awareness/movement exploration, coordination, object manipulation, and game play/cooperation. By extension, when programming for young athletes, you need to approach things from a systemic standpoint while maximizing neural or bio-motor development.
Taking advantage of outcome-based and part-whole methods of coaching, here is an extremely fun and effective way to give your young athletes a variety of developmentally appropriate activities within the realm of one single game.
Any of the following components can be substituted for activities that are practical for your particular situation taking into consideration available space, equipment, desired theme or purpose and, of course, the young athletes in your program. For example, the pirate theme can be replaced by aliens, police, sports, army, etc. Be creative! Fitness for Kids has to be fun, or else it won’t stick.
The Pirate Game
1. Swab the Deck – All pirates are assembled in a designated area and asked to assume a push up hold position with a single Valslide under one hand. The hand with the Valslide under it “swabs the deck” in a circular motion. Layer in as many boundaries or cues as you deem appropriate such as “no twisting hips on deck” or “wide feet.”
2. Ship Wreck – On the command of “ship wreck!” all pirates must find their way onto one of our UCS plyo boxes. They need to work together and all must be on top of the box to complete the task. We progress them to placing a single Airex pad under the plyo box if they are having success without it. This throws an element of dynamic stabilization into the game. Fitness for kids can still be challenging, but above all it must be fun!
3. Sea Monster – On command and as a pirate team, the pirates must lift our 28-pound battle rope above their heads to defeat the sea monster.
4. Walk the Plank – Upon instruction, all pirates must successfully stand on a balance beam on one foot. They must work together as I will only put enough beams down to barely fit all the participants.
5. Hoist the Main Sail – In this drill, all the pirates must attempt to climb our 10 ft. x 10 ft. cargo net. The task is not complete until the last pirate is standing on at least the bottom row of the net. Then they are instructed by name to carefully climb down.
You can add or take out elements of this game. You can change the implements or instructions. Use this as is or as a template to create your own fun game that includes several aspects of kids fitness for this age group.
Teach just one element. Have the kids practice it so they have a good working understand, and then move on to the next part of the game. In the end, they will put all of the elements together into one game.
Playing the Game
Once all the young athletes in your session have experienced each element of the game, you can begin. On your command, they complete each task to the best of their ability. Start slow and predictable (in the same order you taught them the game) and progress to random commands at varied timing intervals.
Play It Up
In this game, you are the captain of the pirates, so get your best pirate voice out and have as much fun as humanly possible! Your young pirates will mirror your enthusiasm.
While playing these games and advancing fitness for kids, remember: Keep up the great work; you are making a difference!
Get hundreds of games that you can add to your programs from two of the very best in the industry, Dave Gleason and Dave Jack, in the IYCA’s Game Play Performance. Help your athletes get better and have fun doing it with Game Plan Performance.
Dave Gleason is the owner and head coach of Athletic Revolution in Pembroke, MA. Dave’s career passions are training young athletes 6-18 years old as well as playing an integral role in the development of Athletic Revolution International. Dave was the 2010 IYCA Member of Year, columnist and presenter. A proud member of the IYCA, Dave is honored to be named to the IYCA Board of Experts.