The term 'skill acquisition' Is used to describe the ability to learn a new skill. There Is no specification as to what Is classified as a skill, a skill can be anything from intellectual activities to physical activities, a skill can even be something as a simple as listening. The objective of skill acquisition is to select a new skill and study that skill until you have learnt it.
Skill acquisition is an extremely important part of sport making it a heavily researched and investigated topic and therefore there are many efferent theories on the best way to acquire a skill. According to (Skill acquisition and performance Improvement, Abernathy B, 2005) with practice, skills become less consciously controlled and more automatic, this provides highly-skilled performers with the ability to perform multiple tasks relating to that skill concurrently and therefore for efficiently.
This report will outline the stages of learning a skill, open and closed skills, types of practice, how feedback can improve the process of skill acquisition and skill acquisition relating to volleyball. There are three stages of skill learning: cognitive stage, associated stage and autonomous stage, the aim of progressing through each stage Is to coherently understand the level that the player is at and therefore create a better understanding of what type of practice is needed to improve.
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The first stage of learning, the cognitive stage involves mental understanding, watching a demonstration and then having a coach to provide feedback as stated by (M Broadcloth, stages of skill acquisition, 2008). The aim of the cognitive stage is to be educated on the dynamics of the skill for example, a basketball player might watch a demonstration of the basic technique Involved In shooting a free throw, examining the technique they would then try to mimic It and If unsuccessful a coach or someone with a better understanding could then provide ways to improve the result.
The next stage, the associated stage involves trial and error, tuning and honing and lots of practice, the basketball player once given feedback would adjust their technique and then practice it over and over according o (A Gibson, Perez, 2011) for example, shooting one hundred free throws one after the other In order to gain repetition and confidence. The final stage of skill calculations, the autonomous stage involves automatic execution of the skill and then the ability to focus on tactics and decision making.
The autonomous stage of learning is extremely difficult to advance to, once the skill has been successfully learned, the autonomous stage enables the player to execute that skill consistently as stated by (Bored of studies, stages of skill acquisition, 2006) for example the basketball player, once able to shoot free throws every time, would have to execute this skill under pressure with another player trying to block or execute It with a time limit.
Currently, I am at the associative stage of learning in terms of the 'digging' skill in volleyball as I understand the skill and I have been given feedback in order to improve; I am focusing on repetition of the skill by doing continuous practice with simple digs. Each stage can be supported through the use open and closed skill knowledge. An Open Motor skill Is a skill which Is performed In an unstable environment, where reformed in a stationery environment where the performer chooses when to start the skill according to (Hubcap's, closed motor skills vs.. Open motor skills, 2012).
Sports that involve the use of open skills include: netball, soccer and hockey as the environments in these sports are constantly changing and therefore movements have to be continually adapted. Closed motor skills include: serving in tennis and squash as the environments of these sports are stable and predictable, the players know which movements to make and when (Abashes, P. ND Taylor, J. 1996). The skill I am studying in volleyball is the dig, this skill is an open motor skill as it is performed in an unstable environment, the ball can be placed in my area at any time and the required skill may not always be a dig.
There are different methods of practice when acquiring a skill, the quality and quantity of practice plays an important role in this process and is defined as massed and distributed practice by (NEWS HAS, The practice method). Massed practice occurs when one skill is continuously practiced in a session with only brief rest periods or none at all whereas, distributed practice requires a skill to be practiced through a variety of training drills with moderate rest periods as stated by (NEWS HAS, The practice method).
The distributed practice method would be the far more effective method as the stage of learning I am currently at is the associative stage and the associative stage requires massed practice. Each training session I used massed practice to focus on digging; this was achieved by completing at least fifty digs from a set point each session. Through eased practice I have reached a consistent level in terms of accuracy when digging the ball and I have been able to take this skill into each game situation. The use of feedback has also contributed to improving each training session.
Feedback is information that is given about a certain activity after it has performed in order to provide a better understanding. There are two types of feedback, descriptive feedback and prescriptive feedback according to (Craig Wringers, Human Kinetics). Descriptive feedback is when someone describes to the player what they did when reforming the skill whereas prescriptive feedback is when the player is given an explanation on what they can do to improve that skill (Craig Wringers, Human Kinetics).
For example, during each volleyball training session after completing my skill, my partner wrote down descriptive and prescriptive feedback. In doing so, I was able to gather an understanding of how I was achieving the skill and what was needed to improve (See Appendix 1). Through this feedback, finding the weak point of my skill was made easier and I discovered that the preparation needed to be improved when digging the ball; from here I was able to change from focusing on the execution to the preparation.
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