Does changing the learning environment for your players have a positive impact on skill development?
The learning environment refers to conditions external to the learner, including the nature of the skill, performance elements, practice methods and feedback. Changing the learning environment can have a big impact on skill development. The game of Australian Football is unpredictable, so it is important to change the learning environment to enhance skill development and execution.
- When first learning or practising a skill, complete it in a closed environment – this is an environment that is predictable and stable e.g. stationary kicking.
- As you develop your skill level, start to perform the skill in an open environment – this is an unpredictable environment e.g. picking up a moving football under pressure and kicking to another player.
- Self- paced skills are movements for which the player determines the timing and speed of execution e.g. kicking the football to another player.
- Externally paced skills are movements for which an external source controls the timing e.g. another player kicking the football out in front of you for you to mark. Then you kick to another player.
- Performance elements are those factors that are required to perform the skill in a game. The old saying ‘You train the way you play’ is so important. Practise skills at game intensity, under pressure, while including decision making.
- Practice method is classified into Massed and Distributed. This refers to the length of practice and the rest between intervals. Massed Practice is having ten shots at goal in a row. With Distributed Practice, you may have five shots and then go onto another skill, before returning back to this to have another five shots after resting. The type of practice will depend on individual preference.
- Skills can be learnt by using either the whole or part method depending on the complexity of the skill or whether it can be broken down into parts.
- Feedback is an important part in the learning process because it provides guidance and helps the player modify technique in order to enhance performance. The type of feedback will change as the person develops their skill level. There are many different types including internal (from self), external (coach / training partner), knowledge of results (kicking a goal or hitting a target) and knowledge of performance (information about how well a skill was performed e.g. video footage of a player performing a skill).