- Created on Tuesday, 03 July 2012
- Written by Anna Mitchell
- Hits: 389
Are some people just born better at sports than the rest of us? Do they have better skills or better abilities or both? What's the difference?
Knapp (1965) offers a widely accepted definition of a skill, "the learned ability to bring about pre-determined results with maximum certainty, often with the minimum outlay of time, energy or both." The key word here being: "learned." Meaning that anyone has the potential for skill development – it is just easier for some than others, due to varying abilities.
"Abilities" refer to our innate physical and psychological attributes that determine how quickly and easily we can learn the necessary skills and thus our potential for a particular sport. Each of us have different strengths and abilities and each sport has a different skill type requirement, so the key is to match your abilities with an appropriate sport.
We are born with a certain level of physical ability, which determines our potential for speed, strength and agility. We are also born with specific cognitive abilities that predispose our potential for skills such as problem solving, reactivity and thought control. I highlight "potential" because, even if we are predisposed to certain advanced skills, we still need to learn how to master and execute required skills at appropriate times while under pressure.
Many people struggle in sports because they fail to first develop an awareness of their abilities and then match those abilities to an appropriate sport. It's like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. You may eventually wear off the edges and make it fit but it's going to be a long hard battle. If you take the time to find a good "fit" of your innate qualities and your sport, you have a head start on critical skill development and a better shot at topping your game.
Let me be clear, I am not implying that those of us who have less ability have no potential. We all have potential to learn and some abilities can be improved. For example, physical activity and weight training increases our stamina and dynamic strength, which in turn allows us to further our skills in specific areas. However, if you lack the abilities relevant to the specific skills required to excel in the sport, it will be more difficult for you than for those with matching abilities.
To find your "fit" between innate abilities and required skills a good place to start is to identify the skills specific to your chosen sport. Define specific skills as:
· Gross and/or fine motor skills: How much precision is needed to execute a specific skill accurately?
· Open and closed skills: These are determined by the level of predictability and controllability in the performance environment. For example, gymnastics skills would be considered closed because the environment is predominantly predictable. On the contrary, cutting and football would be considered open-skilled sports because the environments are constantly changing and unpredictable.
· Discrete, continuous, and serial skills: These are determined by the nature of the sport. For example, running requires continuous skills. Continuous skills can be stopped at any given moment without the skill being incomplete. Golf requires discrete skills because a golf swing requires specific skills that have a start and a finish. Many sports require serial skills, which means we need to perform a series of different skills or movements in sequence for example gymnastics.
· Externally and internally paced skills: Another way to classify skills within a sport is to determine the level of control the athlete has over the timing of the movement. Consider the difference between a penalty shooter and a defense player.
So, armed with this information take a look at your own sport and classify the specific skills that are required to excel. This will give you a great starting point to gauge the amount and type of work needed should you choose to pursue a sporting career in this field.