Skill and Acquisition


Skill and Ability

Skill- learned ability to bring about pre-determined results with maximum certainty often with the minimum outlay of time or energy or both.

Ability- inherited, innate, stable traits that determine a person's potential to acquire skills e.g. coordination, agility, speed of reaction. 

Skill is Learned whereas ability is innate 

Skill- Learned, Controlled, Goal directed, Aesthetically pleasing, Fluent, Efficient, Smooth, Economical 

Ability- Innate, Enduring, Stable, Building blocks of skill, Might be 50

Perceptual Ability- are those that involve processing and interpreting information 

Psychomotor Ability- are those that help to put decisions into action. Information is interpreted and then a course of action is chosen 

Gross Motor Ability- are those that involve movement, often linked to fitness 

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Skill Classification

Open Skill- (Football pass) - Affected by the environment, externally paced, decision needed 

Closed Skill- (Shot put) - Not affected by the environment, self-paced, fewer decisions needed

Gross Skill- (Rugby tackle) - Major body movements involving large muscle groups, associated with strength, power and endurance

Fine Skill- (Tennis drop shot) - Intricate, fine movement using small muscle groups, associated with accuracy, precision

Discrete Skill- (Shot Put) - Single specific, skill, often short, brief, to repeat the skill performer must start for the beginning, clear start and end 

Serial- (Triple jump or a dance routine) - A number of discrete skills chained together, the first movement triggers the next

Continuous- (Cycling, Swimming and Running) - Movement is ongoing the pattern is continuously repeated, unclear start to end 

Externally Paced- (Hockey Pass / Receiving a Tennis Serve) - The rate of movement / initiation is controlled or influence by external factors 

Self-Paced- (Gymnastic Somersault Speed / Start of a Dive in Swimming) - The rate / initiation of movement is controlled by the performer 

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Information Processing

The three basic stages-

  • Sensory Input- Information is collected by the senses (stimulus identification) 
  • Decision Making- A decision on appropriate action is made (response selection) 
  • Response- This decision is put into action (response programming) 

More detailed version- 

  • Display
  • senses
  • perceptual mechanisms (DCR) 
  • translation mechanisms
  • effector mechanism
  • muscular contractions
  • response 
  • feedback 

See Work for different interpretations 

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Selective Attention

Selective Attention- Filtering out irrelevant information and keeping the relevant information. 

Improving Selective Attention you can- 

  • Do relevant practice
  • Give motivation 
  • Give relevant feedback 
  • Mental rehearsal 
  • Perception- Information which enables a performer to decide how to act 

Proprioceptive- Information on body awareness, (three components- touch, equilibrium, kinaesthesis)

DCR (Detection, Comparison, Recognition) 

Information Overload- trying to take in too much information 

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Stages of learning- Cognitive Stage, Associative Stage, Autonomous Stage

Feedback mainly used for the cognitive stage of learning-

  • Positive feedback- received when performer was successful 
  • Extrinsic feedback- received from outside tough vison and hearing 
  • Knowledge of Results- feedback about the outcome of the movement
  • Terminal feedback- given after a performance has been completed (immediately for cognitive learning) 

Feedback mainly used for the autonomous stage of learning- 

  • Negative feedback- received when performer was unsuccessful
  • Intrinsic feedback- received from their proprioceptors 
  • Knowledge of Performance- internal feedback about a movement, the feel of the performance 
  • Concurrent feedback- given during the performance 

Factors to make feedback effective- relevant, understandable, brief (in chunks) specific and accurate, allow time for feedback to sink in, not over used 

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The memory system-

Display- Short term sensory stores- Selective attention- Short term memory- Long term memory

Short term memory- 

  • Picks up information from display
  • Identification stimulus
  • Filters relevant for irrelevant information (uses of selective attention)
  • Passes information to short term memory
  • Last for 0.25 seconds 

Short term memory- 

Picks up stimulus for short term sensory stores

  • Limited capacity of 5-9 items
  • Working memory
  • Lasts for 30-60 seconds information is lost if not rehearsed
  • Rehearsed information is passed to long term memory 
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Long term memory- 

  • Receives rehearsed information from short term memory
  • Large capacity
  • Stores motor programmes
  • Lasts a lifetime
  • Returns programming to short term memory when needed 

How to ensure items are stored in the long term memory- 

  • Chunking
  • Chaining
  • Mental rehearsal
  • Practice  
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Reaction Time

Reaction time- the time it takes to process a stimulus from the onset of that stimulus to the onset of the associated movement. there is no movement during the reaction time 

Movement time- is the time it takes to complete the physical part of the task from the start to the completion of the movement 

Response time- is the time it takes to process a stimulus until the movement is completed, response time = reaction time + the movement time 

Factors that effects reaction time: 

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Choice
  • Drugs / alcohol
  • Fitness / experience
  • Length of neural pathways  
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Hick's Law

'The more choices there are, the slower your reaction time will be' 


At the bottom of the graph would be the start of 100m sprint (simple) and at the top would be a midfield player in hockey choosing which team mate is the best position to take a pass (choice)

Simple- time taken to start a single response to a single stimulus 

Choice time taken for an individual to respond correctly from a choice of several stimuli each one demanding a difference response 

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Single Channel Hypothesis

( Channel Hypothesis + Psychological Refractory Period


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Improving Reaction Time and Motor Programming

A motor programme is a set of movements stored in the long-term memory that specifies the components of a skill. The subroutines of the motor programme are stored in the order or sequence that they occur. Subroutines usually include grip, footwork, follow through and arm and leg movement 

Motor programming can be improved by meal rehearsal and other techniques.

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Open and Closed Loop

Open Loop Control (discrete skills, a tennis serve) It doesn't use feedback during the execution of the task, it can happen in two circumstances 

  • The skill is closed, the environment is predictable and the movement can be pre-planned so that the motor programme controls the movement. 
  • The skill is fast and ballistic so that there is no time for feedback during the execution of the skill. Feedback could then be used after the task is completed 

Closed Loop Control (feedback whilst the task is being performed) 

  • Level 2- feedback via muscles, feedback is almost sub conscious since the performance is at a high level, error is corrected. Kinesthesis is used to check and amend performance. 
  • Level 3- feedback via brain, the feedback is more conscious and relayed via the brain. Movement is compared to a memory trace a memory trace that can initiate movement. KP is compared to KR 

Open Loop Control may not be suitable for all types of skills-

  • Too many stored movements are required for the memory system.
  • Not all environments are predictable.
  • Not suitable for new skills.
  • Not suitable for open skills.
  • Some skills have time for feedback during performance.
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Learning and Performance

Learning is a relatively permanent change in behaviour a direct result of practice. 

The three stages of learning-

Cognitive Stage-

  • Trying to understand.
  • Mental modal, demonstration, mental image, guidance.
  • Needs to give all attention to perform skill. 

Associative Stage-

  • Normally longer than cognitive stage as performer becomes gradual more successful.
  • Normally stage of rapid improvement, skills become more efficient, smoother, more accurate and better time.
  • The learner begins to be able to make use of some intrinsic feedback.

Autonomous Stage-

  • Skill improvement continues but less rapid.
  • Skills developed are very high level of smoothness, efficiency, accuracy and almost always completes goal.
  • More tactical.
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The Plateau

The Learning Curve- (see sheet of curve and notes)

Causes of plateau- 

  • Boredom.
  • Fatigue.
  • Poor coaching.
  • Personal ability.
  • Injuries.
  • Subroutines mastered.
  • Task is too complex 

Strategies to prevent plateau- 

  • Vary type of training.
  • Set realistic goals.
  • Offer extrinsic rewards.
  • Improve coaching.
  • Give recovery time Encourage mental rehearsal.
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Insight Theories of Learning

Promotes understanding
Based on past experience
Problem solving
Concentrates on Whole task
Provides a solution
Known as Gestalt theory
Not trial and error learning

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Operant Conditioning

Three influences on operant conditioning

Based on trial and error

Manipulates environment

Shapes behaviour

Positive reinforcement- is giving a pleasant stimulus after a correct response to increase the likelihood of the correct response being repeated.

Negative reinforcement- is withdrawing a stimulus to prevent the repetition of an incorrect response or withdrawing an unpleasent stimulus when the correct response occurs.

Punishment- is giving an unpleasant stimulus to prevent an incorrect response re-occurring.

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Observational Learning

Bandura suggest that skills can be learned by coping others, in sport demonstrations can be copied especially if modals are reinforced, consistent, performed accurately by role modals of similar ability and powerful

Attention- how much notice he player takes in
Retention- mental image
Motor Production- physically being able to do the skill
Motivation- desirable skill, role modal, wanting to do the skill (will power), find success easily
Copying Behaviour

What else needs to be considered to ensure that demonstrations can be effective?
Short and sharp
Aim skill at their skill level
Accurate (well done)

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Schema Theory

A schema is a set of concepts taken from the memory and used in a similar way to transfer to help initiate a movement. Rather than use a specific skill a schema uses a generalised set of movement from the memory that can be modified and adapted to suit the current situation.

The Schema is initiated and adapted by the four processes-

Recall Schema- From memory, Initiates movement, Comes before action.
Initial Conditions- Where am I.
Response Specifications- What do i need to do.

Recognition Schema- Controls movement, During action.
Sensory Consequences- How it feels.
Response Outcomes- Skill actions you decide on, What happened, Was it successful, Was it the best option, How does it look to what it was meant to be.

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Transfer Of Training

Transfer is defined as the effect of the learning and performance of one skill on the learning and performances of another.

Types of Transfer-
Positive- When one skill aids the learning of another, the skills have a similar form and shape.
Negative- When one skill hinders the learning of another. there be some similarities but the skills have a different shape and form.
Zero- There is no impact on the learning of one skill to another.
Bi-lateral- A skill is transferred across the body from limb to limb.
Pro-active-The skill being learned may affect skills learned in the future.
Retro-active- The skill being developed gas an effect on one that has been previously learned.

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Goal Setting

Setting goals- improves confidence, gives a target, provides motivation, lowers arousal/ anxiety

Goals can be- Long term (outcome, product) or Short term (process, performance)

When setting a goal you have to use the SMARTER principle.
Specific- to the player and the sport so you know what you are working towards and when you have reached the goal.
Measured- with times, events and distance.
Agreed- between athlete and coach.
Realistic and Attainable- so the athlete does not lose heart.
Time Bound- so that the feedback on progress can be given.
Exciting- to give incentive challenge and motivation.
Recorded- formalised to that the athlete can see progress.

Goals should be set for both practice and competition and not just be about wining, performance and process goals are important.

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'A drive to succeed'
'External stimuli and internal mechanisms that drive and direct behaviour'

Intrinsic- From Within the performer, the pride and satisfaction of completing a task.

Extrinsic- From an outside source. It can either be-
Tangible- Physical rewards, trophies, badges.
Intangible- Non physical rewards, praise, positive reinforcement.

Extrinsic Vs Intrinsic
Intrinsic is more permanent.
Extrinsic can cause pressure on player to achieve, can even lose motivation if no award is gained, players could also cheat to get reward.
Extrinsic can undermine intrinsic, players just player just plays for reward.

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