Motor Control of Skills

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Motor and Executive Programmes

A motor programme (MP) or executive motor programme is the plan of a whole skill or pattern of movement. This plan is made up of generalised movements. Generalised movements are stored in long-term memory. Every skill performed in sport is the product of a motor programme.

Executive motor programmes are made up of sub-routines. Sub-routines are small components of executive motor programmes and are often called mini skills. Sub-routines underpin the executive motor programme hierarchy and are usually performed in sequence.

  • Motor programmes are hierarchical and sequential.
  • When a motor programme is stored in long-term memory it is said to have been grooved or overlearned.

When a motor programme has been overlearned the performer is said to be at the autonomous phase of learning. Once the motor programme has been overlearned it can be performed with little conscious control. The movement now appears to be automatic and this is the basis of open loop control.

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Open Loop Control

Open look explains how rapid movements are performed in sport e.g. a close catch in cricket or a close range save in football.

This rapid action occurs when the motor programme is triggered from long-term memory.

The transfer of information from the long-term  memory to the working muscles is done through the formation of a memory trace. There is no reference to feedback.

Open loop is regarded as level one control and is thought to start (initiate) motor skills. Motor skills are adjusted and concluded by closed loop systems. Closed loop systems use feedback.

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Closed Loop Control (L2)

Level two control -

Closed loop involves feedback and this is termed the perceptual trace. At level two the feedback loop is short and involves internal feedback gathered through kinaesthesis and proprioception during the execution of the skill. This type of feedback allows quick subconscious corrections to take place, e.g. the slalom skier will make quick adjustments to retain balance.

Although these changes are produced subconsciously, the adjustment is stored in long-term memory for future reference.

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Closed Loop Control (L3)

Level three control -

- At level three, the feedback loop is longer because information on performance is relayed to the brain as a result of external feedback.

- The brain controls and modifies the movement by passing corrective messages back to the working muscles.

- External feedback is necessary when making decisions like running into position in invasion games.

- The perceptual trace operates by comparing the performance as it is taking place with the plan formed by the memory trace.

- If performance matches the plan, the skill is reinforced and allowed to continue.

- Should performance not match the plan, the perceptual trace allows adjustment.

- This change or adjustment is stored as a new motor programme.

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Feedback is the information received by the athlete both during and after the skill has been performed.

1. Positive feedback can be given externally by the teacher or coach when the player is praised following success.

2. Negative feedback is received when the movement is incorrect; it can be extrinsic or intrinsic.

3. Extrinsic feedback comes from external sources such as the teacher; this type of feedback is also called augmented feedback.

4. Intrinsic feedback is a form of sensory feedback about the physical feel of the movement as it is being performed.

5. Terminal feedback is received after the movement has been completed and is extrinsic feedback.

6. Concurrent feedback is received during the performance of the skill.

7. Knowledge of performance is feedback concerning the quality of the movement which is gained from kinaesthetic awareness.

8. Knowledge of results is feedback about the result or outcome of the movement (extrinsic).

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Schema Theory

Schema is a build up of experiences which can be adapted and transferred to meet the demands of new situations.

Schema theory is based on the idea that motor programmes are not stored as separate items as described by open loop theory. Instead they are retained in long-term memory as relationships with other motor programmes. These relationships are termed generalised movements and they allow the performer to adapt quickly in response to a situation.

Schema theory states that experience is gathered frm four areas. These areas are termed memory items.

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The 4 Memory Items

Recall Schema:

1 - Knowledge of Initial Conditions: Relates to whether the player in possession has previously experienced a similar situation.

2 - Knowledge of Response Specifications: Involves having knowledge of what to do in this situation.

Recognition Schema:

3 - Knowledge of Sensory Consequences: Applies to kinaesthesis and how it should feel e.g. the attacker woud need to know how hard to pass the ball in order to reach the target.

4 - Knowledge of Movement Outcome: Involves knowing what the result of the skill is likely to be.

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