Skill Acquisition And Movement Control Physical Education Essay

The object of this paper is to describe the proccesses on which an athlete applies proccesing models, and develop those models for selection of selected sports skills. Skills are difined as an athletic ability to choose the right technique at the right time, and succefully reproduce that skill with ease and cosistancy. Motor skill learning is an active process, interrelated with cognition.

Skill concepts are aspects of cognitive concept learning in physical education that focus on learning the way the body should move while performing motor skills (Gallahue & Cleland, 2003). Skill is a persons degree of compitence in dealing with an action using internal and external stimulus to achieve a goal. Connolly and Brunner (1974) describe skill as indiviuals ability to consitently achieve a goal(s) under a wide variety of conditions. Motor skills learning occurs in three stages:

The cognitive stage: This stage is characterised by the efforts of the learner to understand the task. In motor skills this is the stage of “plan formation”. A great deal of concentration and effort is required.

Associative stage: During this stage the learner approaches maximum efficiency and the qualities of the task are refined.

Autonomous stage: The task is performed with little, if any, conscious control. Performance becomes consistent.

Motor programmes like restitution, partial restitution and substition are linked to the brain where the cognitive proccess interact with the controller (central nervous system), see figure 1.

These motor programmes contain all the information required to make a movement :

Which muscles that are to be to use.

The order in which muscles are used to be used.

The phasing and degree of contraction of muscles that will be used.

skill aquisition chart fig1a.bmp

Figure 1. A closed loop central system adapted from (Kelso, 1982, Adams, 1971).

For instance the example of kicking a football which is inline with the movement in this paper. Skills are aquired over time, it is belived that a professional athlete at the top of their sport would of trianed over 10,000 hours, to achieve the level of skill needed to compete at elite level for thier particular sport. Williams and Hodge (2004) outline’s this saying “The pratcice history profiles of experts in a variety of sports suggests that an investment of over 10,000 hours of pratice is requires to reach elite levels of performance”.

The proccess of learning demands insight into the task and selective attention to the pertinant sources of information within the person and within the environment .Learning is traditionally defined as the proccess that results in relatively permanent changes in behaviour brought about by experience. It implies a change so profound that we have truley altered our operating knowledge base. It also implies that we have access to and have benefited from information base and analytical proccesses of the skill we have learned. We not only can perform the skill (ie, solve the problem), but we can also apply the knowlege and control accured to future behaviour (Higgins. 1991).

Development of a sports skill.

Information processing model is based upon the following:

Input is the information from the surrounding environment which the player or athlete is aware of and uses to decide on a responce. So the environment needed to maximise this for the player/athlete would be to intorduce this to everyday sporting situations.

Decision making refers to a combination of recognition, perception and memory. The player or athlete uses recognition, perception and memory to select an appropriate responce to the demands of the situation.

Output is determined by the responces made and the movement which inturn become inputs in which player/athletes percive the outcome of his or her responces thus becoming the basis for further decision making. A view of the information proccessing model and its complicated links can be seen in figure 2.

information proccessing model.bmp

. Figure 2. Information proccessing model.

Transfer of learning skills

The early stages of skill learning are charaterized by a high degree of cognitive- concious invovlvement on the part ofthe learner in analyzing the motor problem or engaging in the task analysis (Higgins. 1991). The player/athlete is attempting to understand both what is expected and how to solve both the startagies and the principles of the movement, and how this is compatiable with the variables of the task. The player/athlete will not be able to engage in any motor skill behaviour until this proccess occurs.

That is until the player/athlete understands the means – ends relationship. The player/athlete is developing a totally complementary system for solving the problem. He or she must learn to meaningfully organize all behaviours that support the intricatley interwined information gathering and preformatory aspects of the task. At the same time, the learners performance is limited by his or her current knowledge and currently available organizational capacities (Higgins. 1991).

The problem for the learner is to understand the nature of the motor problem to be solved so that a coordinated pattern of specfic movement can occurrs. So the main goal of the first phase of learning is to discover a relationship between the task variable and the movement required. The player/athlete now has to learn movement that is broken down into segement for learning with a goal in mind being the means – end relationship.

As the coach, they are responsible for teaching new skills and movements to players/athletes or improving their existing skill and movement levels. Learning these skills and movements is made simple if certain stargatgies as a coach are adopted in how the skill and movement are taught. The three approaches are expalined as follows:

“Whole” Practice is the ideal situation a skill movement should be taught as a whole. The player/athlete can then appreciate the complete movement and execution of the skill. This “whole” method can sometimes mean the player having to handle complex movements e.g. executing a shot on goal.

“Part” Instruction is When a skill is complex (a sequence of steps like the cruyff turn or the Beardsley shuffle), then it is more appropriate to breakdown the complex movement into its elements. The elements can then be taught separately and then linked together to develop the final skill.Focusing on the mechanics of the movement. When part instruction is used it is important that the player/athlete is demonstrated the whole skill so that they can appreciate the end product (means- end relationship) and understand how the set of parts will develop the skill.

“Whole – Part – Whole” Instruction a combination of the two where the learning process becomes a more interative cycle: try the whole skill, break down in elements and train these. Finally, bringing it all back together again as one complete skill and movement.

The patricular skill and movement that this paper will focus on is the components of kicking a football. Breaking the skill and movement down in to segements will help the palyer athlete understand the all variables within the skill/movement and the means-end relationship.

Kicking is a complex motor task which we learn as children. The player/athlete’s kicking skill develops rapidly between the ages of four and six, and by the age of nine the pattern is mature – it does not develop further (Barfield, 1998). Acquring mature patterns of fundamental movement skills during early childhood is necessary for succesful participation in games and sport (Rink, 2002). Figure 3 shows how the particular movement of the kick is broken down at this early stage of learning.


Figure 3. The componets of the kick adapted from (Barfield, 1998).

The ultimate goal of breaking the skill/movement down is to effect change in the behaviour of the player/athlete. The most common biomechanical difference between the elite and novice footballer is that elite footballers use a refined and consistent movement pattern where novices use a variable and inconsistent one (Phillips, 1985).

If the componets are broken down further to what muscles perform and which actions they perfom, it becomes clear that movements originated from the control centres as described on p.3 and that motor programmes are linked with the storage of this information to repeat the same movement in the future. Figure 4 shows the break down of the body part, the muscle and actions they perform.

Body Part




Abdominals, psoas major,

erector spinae and spinal

Postural muscles.

Stabilisation of rotation to the right.

Right Hip

Gluteus maximus and

Hamstring group.


Left Hip

Gluteus med, gluteus min,

hamstring group and adductor


External rotation and eccentric extension.

Right Knee

Hamstring group and popliteus.


Left Knee

Quadriceps group.

Eccentric extension.

Right Ankle

Plantar flexors.

Plantar flexion.

Left Ankle

Plantar flexors.

Eccentric plantar flexion.

Left Shoulder

Middle and anterior deltoid

and supraspinatus.


Figure 4. The muscular action during kicking preparation (right-footed kick), adapted from (Barfield, 1998).

Some Players/athletes need additional input from visual stimulus, in the use of video play back of the movements they have performed. This enables them to break down an analyse their movements in a third person perspective (looking on as the coach see’s it). This then enables the player/athlete to then adjust to the slightest millimeter, making the acquisition of that movement or skill more refined. Thus installing a new motor programme for that particular movement. Other players/ athletes use verbal language as additional stimulus in the form of command and propmts to change the movement. In additon some players/athletes use both as additional stimulus, other stimuli can come from intrumental learning. This proccess installs variables on how players/athlete respond to the stimulus from the caoch and the environment around them.

Instrumental learning is also called operant conditioning and based on rewards and punishments in order to strengthening the responses that lead to positive outcomes and the avoidance of negative outcomes. For example if a player/athlete is priased for achiveing a certain movement then they will be more likely to attain that movment. So in theory prasing the athlete for correct practice encourages them to consistanly perform the variables and movement more efficent.

Instrumental conditioning is of the opinion children may have attitudes about topics they do not fully understand (e.g., tactics,managaement), but they may hold similar attitudes as their adults counterparts up until thier teen year In their later teens. Subsequently, teens begin to evaluate attitudes and views independent of parents’ attitudes and views. So in the terms that they say they cannot complete the gaol or task, it may be the fact that they do not wish to complete the goal or task as they know they may already be able to acheive the task. See figure 5 for a model of instrumental conditioning.

Figure 5. Model of Instrumental Conditioning

Instrumental Conditioning involves three key elements, these are:

a response

an outcome (the reinforcer)

a relation, or contingency, between the R and O

The Instrumental Response is usually an arbitrary motor response and there are limits on the types of responses that can be modified by instrumental conditioning relevance, or belongingness, is an issue in instrumental conditioning as well as in Pavlovian conditioning.


Cognitive and motor proccess are at the essence of learning, their complex structures and proccess allow the player/athlete to store cognitive and motor programmes for the future. Skills and movement are repeated through cloosed loops and information processes. A skill developed during the process of learning, behaviour tends to develop efficiency. That is, there is a tendancy towards consistent application of underlying set of principles that are mechanically, environmentally and psychologically-morphologically derived and task specific (Higgins, 1991).These principles are certainly observed as variant characteristics of movement. Movements are in essence strucutred around congnitive and motor programs. In turn motor skills are the ability to use movement as a problems solving tool. The demands met by this are inherent within the tasks encountered by the player/athlete, and must be analyzed, understood and resolved in a self referential fashion.