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Is variety the answer to a lifelong love of being active?

Think back to your most successful PE lesson. The chances are it was when all children were engaged and involved, working together, supporting each other and having fun. Successful PE is when everyone takes part and learns something to aid their progress. 

Making sure all pupils have a positive experience of PE can sometimes be a challenge. Children who are good at sports can get frustrated with those less able, and those less skilled can resent being made to take part. 

Our enjoyment, or not, of PE can have a long-lasting impact on our lives. 

What difference does enjoying PE make? 

A report from Youth Sport Trust highlights that a positive experience of PE, school sport and physical activity at school lasts a lifetime. Parents who have happy memories of PE and school sport are more likely to be active as adults and encourage their children to be active. This is the latest in a long line of research looking into the long-term impact of PE at school. 

A study by Middlesex University also found that bad experiences of physical education at school can put some adults off exercise for decades. It also found that it can lead to some people experiencing ‘corporeal dissociation’ – a state of physical detachment which potentially results in adult inactivity and making particular life choices such as opting for sedentary jobs and hobbies. 

How can I ensure all children enjoy PE?

We are all different; finding out the kind of activities that your pupils enjoy will help you create a broad and balanced PESSPA programme that the whole class wants to take part in.

Letting children try out different sports and activities can significantly increase the chances of them finding something that they enjoy, succeed in and/or that interests them. Children who have good balance might realise they enjoy climbing, cycling, dance or gymnastics. Those with good hand-eye co-ordination could find they shine at games – frisbee, cricket or tennis, for example.

Including a variety of traditional and more modern sports and games will keep your children excited about moving. Trying out different activities means they can discover and develop new skills. It keeps them interested, stimulated and challenged too.

How can I add variety to my PE lessons?

Go back to basics. Look at your PE curriculum and make sure it includes different activities, sports and games that focus on developing different skills – running, jumping, throwing and catching, balancing, agility and co-ordination. 

Provide opportunities for children to have a go at both competitive and cooperative physical activities. 

You can also use external providers to boost your curriculum offer. Our Coaching Days can broaden children’s experiences of different sports and activities by providing exciting taster sessions in the chosen activity. This could spark a half-term of engagement in the activity on your playground or inspire pupils to join community clubs.

Providing a platform for children to realise their sporting potential in a safe environment will help them to remain active throughout their life. 

Further information

Get in touch to find out more about our Coaching Days

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PE – more than keeping fit

Do you find PE, school sport and physical activity generally come off ‘second best’ at your school? Lessons or activities are cancelled to make way for school photo shoots, plays, exams or tests…

While many people understand the benefits of being active in terms of our physical health, less well understood are the wider benefits and how PESSPA can be used to help children to develop key skills and values. These wide-ranging benefits are often overlooked and there are few schools that capitalise on the full potential that PE offers as an educational tool.

What are the wider benefits of PE?

A subject frequently dominated by traditional sports such as football, netball and athletics; teams and fixtures, there can be a limited understanding amongst the school staff team as to the wider benefits of PE.

PE can support all-round development, from intellectual to emotional. Children learn how to negotiate, collaborate, compromise, make decisions, lead and communicate. PESSPA also supports resilience and determination. 

How to overcome challenges, plan, set goals, adapt, assess and manage risks can all be learned, developed and practised through PE.

3 ways to use physical activity to support personal development 

Here are three activities that you can use to support personal development in your school:

Teamwork, collaboration and leadership: Divide the class into groups and give each group the task of creating their own game, physical activity routine or exercise session. As well as working together to decide on the structure of the game or activity, they would need to decide on rules, what equipment is needed and plan how they will explain and deliver the session. 

Empathy and kindness: Have the group form a circle (or two circles if a large group), players must pass the ball across the group to someone. The person throwing the ball must say something kind about the person they are throwing to. Everyone must be passed the ball and the ball must continue to move so there is limited time to think. 

Self-motivation, determination and resilience: Set a series of short challenges or activities eg squats, burpees, lunges, torso twists. Start a timer and each child counts how many of each activity they can do in 3 minutes. They record their results and repeat the challenges weekly to see if they can perform more repetitions in the 3 minutes. 

Further information

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Could gamification help more children be active?

As teachers and coaches, we are always looking for new ways to engage children in learning and activity. How and the way we teach is constantly evolving, even in PE. 

While we don’t want to jump on to every new bandwagon that comes along, there are some trends that are worth exploring further, such as gamification.

What is gamification and how does it work in PE?

Rest assured, it isn’t about sitting playing video games! Gamification is an educational approach that looks to motivate students by harnessing the elements of video games that make these games so engaging, and applying them to learning. The intention is to capture interest and inspire children to get involved.

Some children thrive on traditional games such as football, netball or cricket, but there are many who struggle to enjoy PE or physical activity. Gamification could be a way to capture their interest and inspire them to be active.

How can gamification of PE lessons help your students?

Children are spending increasing amounts of time gaming. Rather than competing with this, incorporating elements of video games into your PE lessons and physical activities can help make these sessions relatable, it can help your pupils make connections. They are also more likely to get excited about something that replicates an area of their life that they enjoy. 

Studies have shown that gamification can greatly increase motivation and engagement. It can reduce disruptive behaviour and encourage children and adolescents to be more active.

How can you introduce gamification into PE and physical activities?

Setting a challenge where players (pupils) need to make choices to overcome the challenge, collecting items, exploring, achieving mini-goals, these are all ways to introduce gamification into your lesson. 

At the simplest level, gamification includes games such as throwing bean bags at a target or ‘tag’ running games. For a game to feel satisfying it needs some sort of challenge – a goal or objective. More complex games could have players constantly re-evaluating the best choice for any given situation or basing activities on popular video games such as the Marvel universe of superheroes.

A great example is our exciting new PE Escape Room coaching day. During the event, children will need to solve mental and physical puzzles to be freed.

Adding tech to PE and physical activity

Tech aimed at exciting pupils and encouraging them to be active is another way to introduce gamification to your lessons. 

Wearables, smart technologies etc can provide new opportunities to keep children engaged. Our new OAA activities and Wellbeing Walks incorporate dynamic QR codes. When scanned, these codes will unlock an additional piece of information, a task or an activity for children to complete.

Gamification can be an exciting way to reimagine physical education in a post-pandemic world and could help support and encourage more young people to lead healthy and active lifestyles.

Get in touch to find out more about how our programmes can help engage even the most reluctant of pupils in PE and physical activity. 

More information

Research: Exploring the benefits of using gamification and videogames for physical exercise

TES article: Can video games help to boost PE engagement?

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Why should PE be a core subject?

Think back to 2012; what comes to mind? The chances are it’s the London Olympics. The last time we had held the Games before this was in 1948. It really was something to celebrate – remember Super Saturday? It seemed that the whole country had gone sport crazy.

Conversely, 2012 is also the year that funding for school PE was slashed. Worried about the future of PE and the pressures teachers were facing, we set up a social enterprise to work with schools to help inspire children and to build healthy active futures. 

It was a really tricky time, but we survived. In fact, our service grew and we now work with schools across England, helping to engage thousands of pupils in sport and physical activity every year.

Fast forward ten years; we’re celebrating our 10th birthday; the House of Lords has recommended that PE becomes a core subject in its National Plan for Sport and Recreation and former children’s minister, Edward Timpson has led a Westminster Hall debate on the subject. 

How times have changed!

Physical education is just as important as any other school subject

We firmly believe that PE should have the same status in schools as English, Maths and Science. Why? 

High-quality PE is more than ‘just playing games or running around’. It impacts on a child’s physical, moral, social, emotional, cultural and intellectual development. While it can be a stress-reliever and provide respite from classroom-based learning, it also provides pupils with meaningful learning experiences. 

PE squeezed from the curriculum

Department for Education guidance recommends that schools provide pupils with a minimum of two hours PE per week. However, as this is only a recommendation. It is up to schools to determine how much time should be spent teaching PE. This means we often see PE being squeezed from the curriculum. Pressures on schools to hit academic targets means that PE can be marginalised for additional Maths and English support and PE space is often compromised and made inaccessible for school plays, exams etc. 

The many benefits of high-quality PE

Elevating PE to core subject status would increase appreciation of the subject, ensuring it is valued as much as reading, writing and maths. Another benefit from regular high-quality PE lessons is that it helps children to develop an interest in being active, which is essential for ensuring long-term active lifestyles, which in turn will reduce the burden on the NHS.

Alongside these, there is evidence that regular physical activity raises academic performance as following a bout of physical activity you are more alert and open to learning new things, problem solving and retaining information. 

Looking to the future

We are delighted to be celebrating our 10th birthday and are so thankful to all the schools we have worked with over the past decade for putting their trust in us. While no one can predict the future, we are hopeful that the importance of PE and the need to help children to build healthy active futures will continue to grow. 

One thing we can say for certain is that we will remain committed to creating and delivering innovative educational programmes that improve wellness and inspire children to be more active more often.

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Six Dimensions of Wellness – pt 6 Spiritual Wellness

What does being ‘well’ mean? Isn’t exercising regularly and eating healthily enough? Many health experts believe that true ‘wellness’ comes when several areas of our lives are in balance. Dr Hettler, who co-founded the National Wellness Institute, developed the six dimensions of wellness as a guide for us to use in order to achieve a whole and complete life. 

In this, our last blog on the six dimensions of wellness, we are looking at spiritual wellness.

What is spiritual wellness?

We all need a sense that life is meaningful and that it has a purpose. Spiritual wellness is our need for a connection to something greater than ourselves. For some people, spiritual wellness comes from taking part in an organised religion; for others, it is a connection with nature or the environment, whilst for others, it comes from their passion for their vocation. 

Many aspects are involved in achieving spiritual wellness – faith, beliefs, values, ethics, principles and morals. It is the most neglected of the six dimensions of wellness. However, a strong spirit is instrumental in helping us to keep going in the face of challenges. Spiritual wellness comes when you have found inner calm and peace.

When you achieve spiritual wellness, your actions will be more consistently in line with your beliefs and values, and you will be tolerant of others who hold different beliefs and values. 

What are the benefits of spiritual wellness?

As well as having a connection to the world around you, there are many benefits to being spiritually well including being able to:

  • Love and forgive others
  • Show compassion and tolerance
  • Experience joy and fulfillment

Five ways to achieve spiritual wellness:

  1. Volunteer in your community
  2. Identify what gives your life meaning and direction
  3. Make time for personal reflection or meditation each day
  4. Start a gratitude journal and intentionally give thanks each day
  5. Spend time outdoors 

Further information

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Why are Fundamental Movement Skills so fundamental?

Fundamental movement skills are the ‘building blocks’ for more complex and specialised skills that will help children take part in different activities, games and sports. The common fundamental movement skills are running, jumping, throwing, catching, skipping and hopping.

Fundamental movement skills are grouped into three broad categories:

  • Locomotion: Anything to do with movement – walking, hopping, running, swimming, skipping, jogging, running and so on in different directions.
  • Stabilisation: Skills that show how you can control your body – balancing, stretching, twisting, landing, bending, pivoting, hanging.
  • Manipulation: These are skills that involve moving something that isn’t attached to you – throwing, catching, pushing, pulling, bouncing.

Recent research has indicated that decreasing activity levels are impacting on children’s ability to develop these skills and that this will have an adverse effect on their long-term health and wellbeing.

Why is it important that children develop their fundamental movement skills?

As well as being the building blocks for more complex skills, if children develop a wide range of fundamental movement skills whilst they are young, it increases the likelihood that they will continue to take part in sports and activities as they get older. This means they are more likely to be active adults. They will also feel more confident in having a go at different sports and activities and their risk of injury will be substantially reduced.

So, developing robust fundamental movement skills (FMS) is crucial to ensuring lifelong healthy habits. However, all too often children can be pushed into playing sports before they have mastered their FMS. If a child has not yet developed FMS they will have difficulty in performing well and/or progressing in the sport which in turn, can put them off sport or exercise for the rest of their lives.

5 simple activities to develop fundamental movement skills

FMS aren’t naturally learned through free play. It can take hours of high-quality PE teaching, with appropriate practice, instruction and opportunity, for a child to become proficient in each FMS. Here are five simple activity ideas that you can use in your PE lessons to help your pupils develop their FMS:

Run or walk on uneven surfaces – running on different surfaces (grass, bark etc) strengthens muscles in the feet and legs and engages core stability for better balance. Try to travel in different directions, changing directions regularly.

Target practice – while children naturally begin to throw objects at around 18 months of age, these skills can be further encouraged and developed by providing targets. To progress this skill, remind children to point their finger and throw overhand as though they are high-fiving.

Activity trails such as Hop, Skip and Jump with a Kick at the end – lay a trail around the school grounds: skip over a pile of leaves, jump over a bench, hop from one point to another. Include a goal at the end where pupils need to kick a ball into the marked space before completing the activity trail.

Balancing activities – Try balancing on different body parts, taking body weight on hands and feet or other large body parts, for example front support or rear support positions. Ask children to get into front support and use their hands and feet to ‘walk’ along the edge of the playground. See how far they can go without falling over.

Use movement games such as Fast Cars – mark out a space/area in the school hall or playground. The children run around the space without bumping into each other (crashing their cars). Gradually reduce the size of the space so they learn how to control their speed and be able to stop, twist, turn and start again.

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Six Dimensions of Wellness – pt 5 Intellectual Wellness

When we think about being healthier, we often focus on our diet and exercise. To be truly healthy, we need to look after our mind too. The Six Dimensions of Wellness is a tool to help us to achieve a healthy balanced life.

In this blog we are looking at Intellectual Wellness, or how creative and stimulating mental activities can help you think faster, increase your cognitive capacity and improve your overall health and happiness.

Why do we need to look after our brains?

Your brain controls you. Spending some time concentrating on how you can help your brain will help your overall wellbeing.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, being intellectually well and engaging in stimulating activities may also reduce cognitive impairment and reduce your risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.

An ‘intellectually well’ person is someone who is open to new ideas, meeting new people and hearing new perspectives. They think critically and are keen to learn new skills. They spend time discovering more about themselves and their potential, and share their knowledge and skills with others.

10 ways to develop your intellectual wellness

  1. Spend time reading books, magazines and newspapers – it doesn’t matter what you read, if it stimulates your mind and generates interest or allows you to learn something new or find out something interesting, it all benefits your mind.
  2. Try something new – your brain continues to grow throughout your life. Stimulation, stress and experiences can help it to change and adapt. Try pushing yourself out of your comfort zone – have a go at a new sport, learn a foreign language or a musical instrument, for example.
  3. Get moving – as well as being good for your heart and body, exercise improves your brain too. Research has shown that regular aerobic exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning. This kind of exercise also releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which helps new connections develop within your brain.
  4. Be social – when we are being around other people and hear different ideas and perspectives we learn and grow. Spend time with friends, family and colleagues. Try meeting and mixing with new people by joining a club, a class or a sports team.
  5. Eat well – Did you know, your brain consumes about 20% of your daily calories so feed your brain as well as your body. Include foods that are good for brain health regularly in your diet such as blueberries (antioxidants), green leafy vegetables (vitamin K and beta carotene), pumpkin seeds (magnesium and zinc), nuts (healthy fats and compounds).
  6. Get creative – drawing, doodling, painting, playing a musical instrument, photography, gardening, pottery, crafting, writing…being creative stimulates your mind and can help develop problem solving skills, memory and processing speed.
  7. Practice puzzles – games and puzzles help to exercise your brain and improve long-term and working memory.
  8. Drink water – the majority of our brain is water, over 75% in fact. If you are dehydrated your brain is too, this is why you experience brain fog, loss of focus and memory as well as headaches. You may also feel tired and moody. Improve focus and clarity by drinking more water.
  9. Get some sleep – when we sleep our brains remove stored toxins so they are better able to function the following day. Lack of sleep impairs reasoning, problem-solving and attention to detail. Aim to get 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night.
  10. Meditate and reflect – take a step back and think about your actions and motives, reflect on your life, behaviour and beliefs. Self-reflection improves self-awareness, provides perspective and can improve confidence. Meditation also allows you to calm your thoughts and achieve greater mental and emotional clarity.

Further information:

National Wellness Institute

Our blogs:

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Six Dimensions of Wellness – pt 4 Occupational Wellness

Welcome to our fourth blog exploring the Six Dimensions of Wellness. Each of the six areas, or ‘dimensions’, contribute to our overall wellness – physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, emotional and occupational. These areas complement each other to provide a well-balanced, vital and prosperous life.

New year, new start?

The start of the year can often be a time when we re-evaluate our lives. Many people take it as an opportunity for a fresh start or to make a change in their work-life – a new job, career or industry.

While our jobs no longer dictate our names (Blacksmith, Potter, Mason, Tailor and so on), they are still often a major part of our identity. Often one of the first questions we ask when we meet someone new is, “What do you do?”.

A person’s profession or job can be a defining detail of who they are, providing clues as to their values, interests or background. So, having a job or career that is personally meaningful, and that brings us happiness or satisfaction, is important.

What is ‘occupational wellness’?

The Six Dimensions of Wellness are a guide to help us achieve balance in all areas of our lives. The occupational dimension recognises the personal satisfaction and enrichment that we achieve through our work. Our attitude to our job or career has a crucial impact on our lives, occupational wellness is being able to achieve a balance between work and leisure time, addressing workplace stress and building successful relationships with our colleagues.

According to Dr Hettler, who devised the Six Dimensions of Wellness, it is better to choose a career which is consistent with your own personal values, interests and beliefs. To find this, we need to explore various career opportunities until we discover one that fits.

As our job or profession encompasses so much of our time, it is essential that it brings us joy and fulfilment. When we are doing something that we love, it deepens our sense of meaning and purpose.

Your choice of profession, job satisfaction, career ambitions and personal performance are all important components of occupational wellness. As is using your skills and talents in a role that is both personally meaningful and rewarding.

Getting involved, taking part, learning something new and developing new skills is far better than remaining inactive or uninvolved.

How to know when you have achieved occupational wellness

  • Do you enjoy going to work most days?
  • Do you have a manageable workload?
  • Do you feel that you can talk to your manager and colleagues when problems arise?
  • Does what you do make you feel satisfied?

If you answered ‘No’ to any of these questions, it may mean you need to look at that area of your occupational wellness to see what could be enhanced or improved.

How can you develop your occupational wellness?

  • Explore different career options, especially those that involve taking opportunities you enjoy and that suit you best.
  • Look for, and take advantage of, the chance to learn something new along with opportunities to develop new skills.
  • Use your skills and talents in a way that is personally meaningful and rewarding.
  • Explore both work and volunteer opportunities in areas you are interested in to enhance your personal satisfaction.
  • Develop positive relationships with colleagues. We can’t all get along all of the time, so it is also important to learn how to practise open communication and effective conflict management.
  • Aim to find a satisfying balance between the financial fulfilment and the personal accomplishment and happiness from the work that you choose to do.

Further reading:

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The six dimensions of wellness pt 3 – Social Wellness

Welcome to our third blog in our series exploring the six dimensions of wellness. Being ‘healthy’ isn’t just being illness or disease-free; good health encompasses our physical, mental and social wellbeing. Practising positive habits every day will help us to achieve optimum health and wellness.

What is social wellness?

The social dimension of wellness is how we connect with others and the part we play in our local community – the relationships we have and how we interact with others. Positive and satisfying relationships are fundamental to our physical and emotional health.

We are living through a time where non-face-to-face interactions have grown substantially. We spend more time interacting with people digitally and as a consequence, we are becoming more isolated. Social connections and interactions affect our brain health and numerous studies have shown the better our relationships, the longer and happier our lives are.

Feeling part of something bigger than we are is also important to our social wellness. Being ‘socially well’ means playing an active part in the world around you, actively making this world a better place by caring for the environment, enabling important relationships and friendships to flourish.

It also means believing that contributing to the common good – our community – is better than thinking only of ourselves, and that it is better to live in harmony with others and nature.

Social wellness involves developing positive interpersonal skills, growing a strong support network and playing an active role in your community.

What can you do to develop your ‘social wellness’?

  • Talk to friends and family regularly – make an effort to keep in touch and check in on those in your support network. Be there when they need you and they will be there for you when you need them.
  • Get involved in school, work or other community activities – being part of a community unites us, it makes us feel as though we are part of something greater than ourselves. It gives us an opportunity to connect with people, to work towards a goal and it makes us feel safe and secure.
  • Learn about the social issues in your community – understand the challenges your community faces and ask yourself what you can do to help.
  • Deal with conflict respectfully – as we have discussed in previous blogs, conflict isn’t always a bad thing; the world would be a less exciting or interesting place if we all agreed all the time. However, how we respond to conflict is the crucial point. Nurturing your communication skills, practising active listening and looking at our body language can all help to manage conflict positively.

Further information:

Find out more about the six dimensions of wellness at the National Wellness Institute

Read our previous blogs on the subject: Pt 1 – Physical Wellness and Pt 2 – Emotional Wellness

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What is the best way to teach PE?

There is no one perfect way to teach PE. Your lessons should incorporate different learning styles that help stretch and support pupils. You need to be able to provide challenge and progression at an appropriate level for the individual.

How can you support and challenge all pupils within one PE lesson?

You have a class full of individuals all of whom will be at different stages in skill development and understanding, so how can you ensure there is differentiation in your lesson?

There are many different teaching styles – from ‘command’ to ‘inclusion’ to ‘guided discovery’. In fact, Mosston and Ashworth identified 11 different teaching styles for teaching physical education. Their Spectrum of teaching styles is a flexible framework of approaches to help teachers meet the needs and interests of each pupil. This framework can help you to differentiate how instructions are given and modify the curriculum to meet different educational goals.

The framework forms a continuum based on the degree to which the teacher or pupil assumes responsibility for what is taking place. At one extreme, the teacher is giving all instruction and direction, and at the other end is a pupil-centred approach and the teacher is a facilitator.

There is no single perfect teaching style. To provide a progressive experience, you can incorporate more than one style in each PE lesson. Doing so will mean you can best accommodate diverse learning styles and meet specific learning goals.

The 11 teaching styles for PE

A: Command
This is where you, as the teacher, make all the directions and decisions. Pupils copy and comply with decisions and instructions.
Good for: Copying practice. When time is short and/or safety is paramount

B: Practice
You demonstrate the task/activity. Your pupils practice the task, working at their own pace. You provide feedback to each pupil.
Good for: Repeating and improving performance

C: Reciprocal
Pupils work together in small groups on a skill/activity and provide feedback to each other. You circulate amongst your class giving groups pointers for areas for feedback.
Good for: Performing and peer assessing

D: Self-check
You demonstrate the activity/skill and set the criteria for success. Pupils work individually on the task/activity/skill and reflect on their own performance.
Good for: Self-assessing and evaluation

E: Inclusion
You set a variety of tasks/activities at different levels of difficulty. Pupils select which task or activity is most appropriate for their abilities and/or motivations.
Good for: Making choices, understanding capabilities, challenging oneself

F: Self-guided discovery
Using questions and tasks/activities, you gradually direct your pupils towards a pre-determined learning target or solution to a problem.
Good for: ‘Uncovering’ – questioning, problem solving, developing tactical thinking

G: Convergent discovery
You set a challenge or problem and your pupils try to find the best solution.
Good for: Finding out, discovery

H: Divergent discovery
You set a challenge that has multiple possible solutions and when the problem is solved, another problem arises that needs to be solved.
Good for: teaching tactics, creativity

I: Learner designed
As pupils develop their knowledge and understanding, you set an area of focus and pupils set their own challenges and try to find solutions, working with you.
Good for: Independent thinking and learning, initiating

J: Learner initiated
Your pupils decide what to focus on and what challenges to solve. They can ask questions of you and draw on your support as needed.
Good for: Decision making

K: Self-teach
Pupils take full responsibility for their own learning and the learning process.
Good for: Self-development, self-determination

Further information

Mosston & Ashworth – Teaching Physical Education