Many physiological changes related to growth and maturation occur at a rapid rate during childhood and adolescence (Malina et al., 2004). Healthy youths show noticeable gains in stature, mass and measures of physical and physiological fitness during the developmental years, regardless of the inclusion of a structured conditioning programme. For example, muscular strength normally increases during childhood, and subsequently accelerates through adolescence (Malina et al., 2004). Childhood is also a time where regions of the human brain, mainly the sensorimotor cortex, naturally develop at an accelerated rate (Casey et al., 2005). Therefore, it is generally accepted that childhood offers a key time frame in which to learn and improve fundamental movement patterns and develop neuromuscular coordination; which, when combined with increased muscular force production, will lead to overall motor skill proficiency. Of concern, a growing number of children are now presenting with insufficient levels of motor skill competency (Malina, 2008). For the general population this is typically due to the increasing sedentariness of youth, which, if not reversed, will ultimately lead to severe reductions in moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA), poor weight status and an increased likelihood of lifelong pathological processes, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease (Faigenbaum and Myer, 2012; Lubans et al., 2010; Stodden et al., 2008). However, for young athletes, a leading antecedent of low motor skill proficiency is likely to be caused by early sport specialization, where a bias is directed towards sport-specific activity at the expense of global motor skill training developed via age-appropriate strength and conditioning programmes. Consequently, the implementation of integrative neuromuscular training (INT) programmes that incorporate a variety of essential motor skills (locomotion, stabilization and manipulation) and concomitant opportunities to develop strength and power, are deemed an essential strategy

from which children can enrich their motor learning experience and maximize motor skill proficiency (Faigenbaum et al., 2011; Myer et al., 2011b). Targeting motor skill training during a child’s developmental journey will enable them to take full advantage of the promoted natural windows for learning, and with the correct educational processes, help them progress and develop appropriate motor skill foundations (Myer et al., 2011a). Environments enriched with this type of integrative training may not only assist youths in overcoming any genetic limitations (Cooper and Zubek, 1958), but may also help to achieve a level of motor performance that is beyond their expected adult potential (Myer et al., 2011b). Of note for the strength and conditioning coach, previous research has also identified that the holistic mastery of fundamental movement skills (FMS) has injury-reducing potential for young athletes (Faigenbaum et al., 2009; Granacher et al., 2011). Effective motor skill execution is governed by the efficient combination of cognitive processing, correct fundamental movement patterns and muscular force production. The development of muscular strength is covered in depth in Chapter 5; therefore, while reference will be made to the importance of muscular strength for motor skill function throughout, the primary focus of this chapter is the development of FMS in youth athletes, inclusive of locomotion, stabilization and manipulative skills.