Skill Acquisition: learn, learn and learn some more
This one is heavy but bear with us 🧠 as it gives some real food for thought, particularly when it comes to learning a new sport, skill or movement within your existing sport.
Skill Acquisition is the science that underpins movement learning and execution (more commonly termed motor learning and control) and, broadly speaking there are two skill acquisition options.
Session-focussed improvement: where you or your coach will work through a session that has high reproducibility within it (competing the same movement over and over for rapid learning.) This type of learning can feel much easier as your brain isn’t being taxed quite as hard and therefore your mind/body can replicate what you’re asking it to do over and over with little effort. An example here may be your coach giving you an expert demo of the movement along with ‘this is how you do it.’
Program-focussed improvement: where your focus is for long term skill retention or ‘better’ learning. These will include sessions that have a high amount of variation within them and perhaps more intricate movements. This method will lead to your brain having to work much harder therefore being much more likely to encode your learning into your LTM (long-term memory.) An example here may be your coach breaking down the movement with you and using lots of Q&A, helping you to actually understand why you do each aspect and what that does to the movement itself.
What you will find learning skills and movements in either of these ways is that when using the session-focussed improvement method (easy) your development may feel faster BUT over time your retention will be much lower. Using the program-focussed improvement (harder/long term learning) method is far better as although learning feels busier and more difficult, over time your retention will be far greater.
And coaches, whilst both methods have their place in the skill acquisition journey it’s important to continually check in with your client/learner to make sure they understand what they’re doing and how this fits in with their plan so that both of you can make sure you’re still on the right track.