Study claims half of Irish kids can’t kick a ball properly

27 Jan 2020

Image: © nateejindakum/

One of the largest studies of its kind in Ireland has claimed that the basic movement of kids in the country stalls at the age of 10.

Researchers from Dublin City University (DCU) have published findings of a study involving more than 2,000 primary school children (47pc girls and 53pc boys) across the island of Ireland, which showed a lack of core skills when it comes to movement.

The data suggested that only 25pc of primary school children can run correctly, while half cannot kick a ball properly. This is because skills development in children with regard to running, jumping catching, and kicking – categorised as fundamental movement skills (FMS) – seems to plateau at the age of 10, according to the study. Previous studies have shown that mastery of FMS is achievable by the age of eight.

The research was conducted as part of the Moving Well-Being Well project, which claims the lack of FMS in children has a significant impact on a child’s willingness to take part in physical activities and sports. The findings have been published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, with collaboration from the SFI Insight Centre for Data Analytics at DCU, the GAA and Dublin GAA.

Dr Stephen Behan of Insight and the DCU School of Health and Human Performance said: “These results are the most comprehensive of its kind ever produced in Ireland and highlight the poor levels of basic skills in Irish children.

“If children don’t have a solid foundation of basic movement skills, how can we expect them to do more complex skills as part of organised sport?”

‘We are failing our kids badly’

As part of the study, children were tested using the Test of Gross Motor Development model. This includes locomotor (run, skip, gallop, slide, hop and horizontal jump) and object-control (catch, overhand throw, underhand roll, kick, two-handed strike, one-handed strike and stationary dribble) skill subtests.

The children were also tested on their balance by being asked to walk forward in a straight line and to stand on one leg on a balance beam with their eyes open.

DCU’s Dr Sarahjane Belton said that with these findings it is “time now for action” to improve physical activity participation among kids.

“We need to focus our attention nationally on developing physical literacy capacities and capabilities in our children and young people,” she said.

“We need to help them develop the tools needed to enable them to live long, healthy and active lives. At the moment we are failing our kids badly, and that is a very sad situation.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic