Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Basics of Skill Acquisition

Teaching an athlete to learn new movement patterns is a not a skill that is developed over night. Teaching athletes new tricks can be quite time consuming and frustrating, but the process can be expedited if coaches understand the processes of learning advanced movements. In this article I will attempt to explain and illustrate the four steps of learning, using a jump-shot as the desired movement skill.

Step 1: Unconscious Incompetence.
During this stage the athlete looks at the ball, tosses it around a little bit, but then sets it down because he is too embarrassed to attempt to shoot it. While the athlete may have casually watched a few basketball games, he never really noticed the mechanics employed by good shooters vs. that of bad shooter’s, and is definitely incapable of positioning his body in a way to correctly shoot the ball.

Step 2: Conscious Incompetence.
By the time the athlete has gotten to stage two of development the athlete is capable of identifying basketball players with good form, and can visualize himself shooting a sound jump shot, but lacks the kinetic awareness to actually shoot the ball himself. Coaches can help their players through this step by manually posturing the athlete’s body, allowing them to feel what it’s like to shoot a proper jump shot. This will go a long way in helping the athletes CNS to develop the proper neural pathways needed for skill acquisition.

Step 3. Conscious Competence.
 During this stage the athlete can shoot proper jump-shot’s as long as he is thinking deeply about the movement, and nothing else. He can shoot jump-shot’s as long as he’s spotting up, but is unable to shoot properly off the dribble. Advancement to the next step usually takes a while, but can be expedited by developing an oscillating program of jump-shot’s (skill work) and conditioning/already acquired skills-work. I would recommend never working on the acquisition of a skill for longer than 10 or 15 minutes before taking some type of break, whether active or passive.

Step 4. Unconscious Competence.
 At this point the athlete can shoot jump-shots with near perfect form, in a variety of different circumstances without even thinking about it. While step four is the last step, it isn’t the end. All athletes are capable of backsliding if regular skill development/maintenance drills are not employed. This is why NBA players still practice. Ok, well maybe Allen Iverson doesn’t practice. I stand corrected…

I hope this has been helpful. The most important thing is never give up on an athlete, and definitely never let you’re athlete know that you’ve given up on him. Also, during the kinetic linking stages of skill acquisition DO NOT be afraid to put your hands on your athlete. During the early stages of kinetic linking it is imperative that your athlete feels what a proper repetition feels like, even if you have to manipulate that body positioning for them.

-Merry Christmas, Will Hawkins

Seagrave, Loren. "Loren Seagrave – Neuro-Biomechanics of Maximum Velocity

SpeedEndurance.com." Speed endurance . com. Success in Track & Field and Life.. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Dec. 2009. .