Developing skills for sport

Skills are technical movements that within sport are very often done under fatigue. This is where the magic happens, seeing someone who is physically at close to maximal capacity carrying out a complex skill. 

Those who do not have this ability and witness it often refer to them as ‘naturally’ gifted or ‘genetic freaks’ etc. 

The truth is much less glamorous than this and for most athletes it comes down to doing a lot of boring, repetitive and mindful practice. 

For our bodies to carry out complex, challenging skills we have to break down those movements into smaller more manageable segments and master them. We then slowly rebuild to the full movement. Within the movement or skill you then work on your weaknesses and practice that – mindfully.

Mindful practice is very different to mindless practice though. You must be deeply in tune with the movement/skill you are doing and THINK about it. From here we can continually provide feedback to ourselves to help improve the movement. 

Practice makes permanent, not perfect. 

Think about the elite gymnast doing complex movements on the rings or pommel horse for example, this didn’t come overnight and he or she wasn’t just born with these skills and strength. It has been developed over years and years of repetitions. Remember this when you want to give up on a tricky skill after a few weeks of practice. 

 

In sports that require heavy energy system work (field sports, crossfit, endurance) many athletes fall into the trap of just doing tons of energy system work and skill work together. Thinking that practicing the skill under fatigue is the best way to get better at that! 

These skills include kicking, throwing, running (yes its a skill), complex gymnastics or weightlifting and potentially all or most of the above if you are an athlete in the sport of fitness. 

In the next blog post I will explain how we develop a skill without having to constantly do it under fatigue and why this is not the best way to do it! 

 

Tom McPartlan

Owner of 'The Athlete System'