PE Classification of Skills


Difficulty Continuum

Simple - Complex skills continuum

  • Skills can be classified according to the types of judgements and decisions that you have to make to perform the skill.
  • If there are many decisions to make, then the skill is known as a complex skill and may have to be learned in stages.
  • If the skill is a straightforward one with hardly any judgements and decisions to make then it is known as a simple skill and can be taught as a whole and in a fairly repetitive way.

Practical Examples

  • Complex skills: slip catch in cricket, or a pass by a midfield player in hockey who has to make lots of decisions before they pass.
  • Simple skills: a sprint start in swimming, for example, where there are very few decisions that have to be made.
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Environmental Influence Continuum

The Open-Closed Skills Continuum

  • This continuum is concerned with the effects of the environment on skills.
  • Open skills are affected by the environment and are, therefore, predominantly perceptual.
  • Movements have to be adapted to the environment and the skill is mostly externally paced - for example, a pass in football.
  • Closed skills are not affected by the environment and are predominantly habitual.
  • Movements follow a set pattern and have a definite beginning and end.
  • These skills tend to be self-paced.
  • An example of a closed skill is a free throw in basketball.

Practical Example

  • A tennis serve is a skill that involves a set pattern of movement.
  • It is not greatly affected by the environment, so it is more closed than open.
  • If the server perceives some movement of their opponent the serve will need some adjustment and therefore there are open elements to the skill - but it still remains predominantly closed.
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Pacing Continuum

The 'Pacing' Continuum

  • This is often used in conjunction with the open-closed continuum and refers to the timing of movements.

Self-Paced Skills

  • The performer controls the rate at which the skill is executed.
  • Self-pacing involves proaction by the performer.
  • Self-paced skills are usually closed skills - an example is a javelin throw.

Externally Paced Skills

  • The environment, which may include your opponent, controls the rate of performing the skill.
  • This type of skill involves a reaction and is usually an open skill, such as receiving a serve in badminton.
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Muscular Involvement Continuum

The Gross-Fine Skills Continuum

  • This is concerned with the precision of movement.
  • Gross skills involve large muscle movements.
  • These skills are not very precise and include many of the fundamental movement patterns, such as walking and jumping.
  • An example of a skill which is predominantly gross is the shot-put.
  • Fine skills involve more intricate movements using small muscle groups.
  • These skills tend to be precise in nature and generally involve a high degree of hand-eye co-ordination.
  • An example of a fine motor skill is a snooker shot.
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Continuity Continuum

The Discrete-Serial-Continuous Skills Continuum

  • This is concerned with how well defined the beginning and end of the skill are.
  • Discrete skills have a clear beginning and a clear end.
  • The skill can be repeated but the performer must start again from the beginning.
  • It is a single, specific skill.
  • A penalty flick in hockey is an example of such a skill.
  • Serial skills have several discrete elements which are put together to make an integrated movement or sequence of movements - for example, the sequence of skills in a triple jump.
  • Continuous skills have no obvious beginning or end - the end of one cycle of movement is the beginning of the next.
  • The skill is repeated as a set pattern - for example, cycling.
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Organisation Continuum

High Organisation - Low Organisation

  • The type of skill and the way in which it is made up or organised can also be classified so that effective teaching and learning can take place.
  • If a skill has elements or sub-routines that are very difficult to separate, then it is known as a highly organised skill, such as dribbling the ball in basketball.
  • If a skill is split up into sub routines that are easily identified as separate movements, then it has low organisation, such as a tennis serve.
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Practice and Open/Closed Skills

  • The learning of closed skills is more effective if they are practised repetitively so that the skills become almost automatic.
  • The constancy of the environment makes varied practice unncecessary and often distracting.
  • When coaching or teaching open skills, a variety of situations should be experienced so that the performer can create a number of different strategies to cope with the changing nature of the environment.
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Practice and Discrete/Serial/Continuous Skills

  • Discrete skills are better taught as a whole rather than splitting them up into sub-routines.
  • Serial skills are better taught by breaking them down into sub-routines.
  • Each sub-routine can then be learned fully before the skill is practised as a whole.
  • Continuous skills are more effectively practised as a whole so that the kinaesthetic sense of the movement can be retained and the performer can feel the 'true nature' of the skill.
  • The importance of knowing all there is to know about the skill to be attempted cannot be overstated.
  • It is particularly important at the top level of performance, where only a small difference in technique or tactics can mean the all-important advantage over your opponent.
  • Coaches who work with performers with disabilities can make important differences to physical performance using their knowledge of skill composition to ensure effective instruction.
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