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The Learning Process

Coaches will be required to facilitate the learning of new technical skills by the athletes. To achieve this the coach will need to develop his/her knowledge of the learning process and the various teaching methods.

Whole Practice

Ideally a skill should be taught as a whole as the athlete can appreciate the complete movement and execution of a skill. The whole method of instruction can sometimes mean the athlete having to handle complex movements e.g. the whole high jump technique.

Part Instruction

When a skill is complex or there is considered to be an element of danger for the athlete, then it is more appropriate to breakdown the complex movement into its constituent parts. The parts can then be taught and then linked together to develop the final skill.

When part instruction is used it is important that the athlete is demonstrated the whole skill so that they can appreciate the end product and understand how the set of parts will develop the skill.

Whole - Part - Whole Instruction

Initially the athlete attempts the whole skill and the coach monitors to identify those parts of the skill that the athlete is not executing correctly. Part instruction can then be used to address the limitations and then the athlete can repeat the whole skill with the coach monitoring for any further limitations. No one method is suitable to all occasions, but studies have shown that:

• Simple skills (and perhaps 'simple' is relative to each individual) benefit from the whole method

• Skills of intermediate difficulty benefit from the part method

• Closed skills are often taught with part instruction

• Difficult skills are best dealt with by oscillating between part and whole Types of skill

There are a number of different types of skills:

• Cognitive - or intellectual skills that require thought processes

• Perceptual - interpretation of presented information

• Motor - movement and muscle control

• Perceptual motor - involve the thought, interpretation and movement skills

How to teach a new skill

The teaching of a new skill can be achieved by various methods:

• Verbal instructions

• Demonstration

• Video

• Diagrams

• Photo sequences

• The Learning Phases

There are three stages to learning a new skill and these are:

Cognitive phase: identification and development of the component parts of the skill

Associative phase: linking the component parts into a smooth action

Autonomous phase: developing the learned skill so that it becomes automatic The leaning of physical skills requires the relevant movements to be assembled component by component, using feedback to shape and polish them into a smooth action. Rehearsal of the skill must be done regularly and correctly.

Technique Drills

Appropriate drills should be identified for each athlete to improve specific aspects of technique or to correct faults. Drills should not be copied slavishly but should be selected to produce a specific effect. e.g. Running Drills are used to develop important components of proper and economical running technique. Whichever drills are used they must be correct for the required action and should be the result of careful analysis and accurate observation.