Physical Literacy - a journey, outcome, ideal? / by Grace Dafoe

I've mulled over this question in my mind quite a few times over the last few months. In university (and every conference you go to), we hear the International Physical Literacy definition. 

"Physical LiteracyPhysical literacy is the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life."

-International Physical Literacy Association, May 2014

With that being said, it is widely debated as to whether this definition truly encapsulates physical literacy, because well, physical literacy is not just physical (crazy, right?). I am talking from a multi-disciplinary approach, relating to all aspects of a Childs life - parents, teachers, coaches, themselves. Not just from one point of view. We all have to work together to make a difference! 

Now, with some bias, as most blogs are, I will say I am all for physical literacy. I've seen kids who are not motivated to move or try new sports, can't properly throw a ball or even run. Without these basic skills, it limits the activity they can feel comfortable participating in. 

I've also lived it. My experience comes from the last few years, going from a burned out former athlete, to a high performance athlete in a different sport. How?


Once I fell in love with the sport of skeleton, I started honing those sport specific skills, but also found that my fundamental skills were also seriously lacking. I had to re-learn to run and sprint in order to make a National testing standard for a 30m sprint, but I also had to learn how to mentally love training and be excited to try new exercises. So when we talk physical literacy and fundamental movement skills, I can tell you, learning them as a 20 year old is less than ideal, but possible. 

A few years ago, I blogged for PHE Canada about my physical literacy journey, and looking back, the field has evolved so much since then. I had just started majoring in Physical Literacy at Mount Royal, and really had a simple understanding of the concept. This was before the consensus statement, before people widely debated as to whether physical literacy was attainable, when people simply believed we needed it as we saw our kids become more sedentary and less skilled.

I'm not ashamed to share this blog, in my early days of university, exuberant and excited to be following a growing field every single day. Now, physical literacy is shown in numerous activities - even in daily life! 

In my last year of university, Mount Royal approached me to be a part of the "Breaking Inactivity" article showing our program. In that moment, things changed.  

I found my own physical literacy

I look back and think of my statements and definitely still stand by them, especially where I was at in the journey, but now, I think of it as a stepping stone. When I say I found my own physical literacy, I really mean I found my niche. A place where activity makes me happy and I get excited to be active every day. While I may have presented it as an outcome, really, I meant that I found my place. 

Now is it an ideal?  I'm going to say yes and no. 

It is something to strive for and the tools for fundamental movement skills can lead someone to discover where their skills lack and bring them up to an age appropriate level (in youth). Most of us are not going to be perfect at everything, thats just life. 

I would also say no, it isn't an ideal, as I have seen the positive effects since I took my development back a few steps (far from high performance) to build the blocks, in order to reach the high performance level on and off the ice. 


If I hadn't taken three steps back, I wouldn't have taken ten steps forward. 

I know I will be an active adult, even after sport ends, because of the way my journey has unfolded.