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Skill developement for improved performance

Whether you're just starting out learning an activity or are a seasoned pro, skill development will become a factor at some point in your training. In order to progress forwards with your training program, you are constantly going to need to work on new techniques and movements. Understanding how skill development works will therefore be beneficial in helping you advance as quickly as possible.

When talking about skill development, there are a few different types to consider. They are:

Cognitive - this includes the intellectual learning that must take place

Perceptual - this is the mind interpreting what is going on around you

Motor - this is the actual physical movement and muscular control

Perceptual Motor - this includes how well you are able to make a mind-body connection

When you are first going to teach a new task, there are a few different ways you can go about doing this. Some of which include verbal instructions, demonstrations, showing videos or listening to audio recordings, drawing diagrams or performing the task in slow motion so it makes control of the body easier.

There are various theories that psychologists have proposed as to how the mind processes learning, however one usual commonality is that at first you will need to focus very hard on the task and everything that is going on around you. Once you are comfortable with this then you will move into a stage where your actions are smoother and you are better able to execute it. Then finally, once that has been achieved the new task will then become more automatic; almost like it is now second nature for you. Note however that with some very difficult tasks, it can take years of working on mastering it before it reaches this level. Two such psychologists, Fitts & Posner, labelled these stages the cognitive phase, the associative phase and then the autonomous phase.

Finally, you should also be aware that whenever you are learning something new, there can be some negative transfer over from other activities that you perform. If two actions are quite similar in nature but have one very distinct difference, this is likely going to be a little more problematic as you may keep reverting to your 'old' way of doing things - the way that you would if you were performing the other task.

Whichever way you look at it though, learning a new movement takes time and motivation. With proper teaching methods and practice however, you should be able to become competent at achieving your goal.

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