Rolling, crawling, and skipping are on the continuum of locomotion, starting with rolling and ending with running. Sounds fancy, I know, and in the process of developing global movement patterns, locomotion (moving forward, backward, or sideways) is one of the categories. Running- this includes everything from a jog to a sprint- is also part of this continuum and is obviously crucial in athletics.
However, what if you run like a newborn giraffe? How do we fix that?
Why by working on skipping! Skipping is the link between crawling and running. It’s like the peanut butter that holds the sandwich together. I stumbled across a great blog post by Allan Phillips from Pike Athletics and I think this quote sums it up quite tidily:
"If we can’t skip properly, running will require us to cheat in some way. Cheating mechanisms are often unnoticeable by watching someone run but we know the brain must fill in the gaps for running if the basics of crawling and skipping aren’t present."
Think about it: the movement of skipping is very similar to that of running. Both are one-legged hops over distance, the opposite sides have to coordinate together (right leg + left arm and vice versa), the midsection must stay stiff in order to transfer the force applied to the ground to produce that distance-hop, and even the joints go through a similar range of motion- hips, knees, and shoulders all flex/extend in a fluid manner.
Skipping is a fantastic diagnostic tool for a coach. It quickly tells me if an athlete can a) disassociate upper and lower body (remember that from the rolling post?) and b) coordinate left and right sides of the brain/body. If they can’t do these, know where we need to go?
Back to rolling.
Back to crawling.
We go back to the beginning of the continuum to help lay the foundation for the more advanced movements. Once we’ve established and re-developed (or maybe developing for the first time) those basic motor patterns, we can return to the skip (which is really just crawling while standing up).
I have yet to see an athlete who runs well who can’t skip. All of my goofy-looking runners (affectionately called that) can’t skip or at least can’t skip well. I am no expert on running form but by teaching athletes to skip, I can typically improve their running form with little to no extra-fancy knowledge. (Granted, if I have an athlete who needs to run very well- say a cross country runner or triathlete- I will send him/her to a running coach.)
And when we're talking about improving movement patterns for sports, strength training- which includes skipping- for young kids is imperative to combat the mentality of early sport specialization. (And I’m not the only one tooting this horn.)
Plus, skipping makes you smile. Seriously, try skipping and NOT smiling. It’s hard.
All this said, skipping is a foundational movement that, if skipped over (see what I did there) running and arguably other athletic movements will suffer. Therefore, teaching skipping.