Sports psychology

  • Created by: Hbrandxx
  • Created on: 21-05-17 12:28

Classification of skills


  • Simple-complex continuum: depend on judgements and decisions made to perform the skill.
  • Complex= lots of decisions to make and may be learned in stages (pass by fly-half).
  • Simple= little decisions, can be taught in a whole and fairly repetitive way (sprint start).

Environmental influence:

  • Open-closed continuum: effects of the environment on skills.
  • Open= affected by environment (perceptual), movements have to be adapted to the environment and externally paced (pass in football).
  • Closed: unaffected by environment (habitual), set pattern of beginning and end for movements and are self-paced (free throw in basketball).


  • Self paced-externally paced: timing of movements.
  • Self-paced: performer controls rate of execution, usually closed skills (javelin throw).
  • Externally-paced: environment (+opponent) controls rate of execution, usually open (returning a serve in tennis).
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Classification of skills

Muscular involvement:

  • Gross-fine continuum: precision of movement.
  • Gross- large muscle movements, not precise, more explosive (shot put).
  • Fine- intricate movements with smaller muscle groups, precise (snooker shot).


  • Discrete-serial-continuous continuum: how well defined the beginning and end are.
  • Discrete- clear beginning and end (penalty flick in hockey, conversion in rugby).
  • Serial- several discrete elements which make a sequence of movements (triple jump).
  • Continous- no clear beginning or end, one cycle as skill is repeated as a set (cycling).


  • High-low organisation continuum: can apply right practices for the skill.
  • High: sub-routines are hard to separate (dribbling in basketball).
  • Low: sub-routines easily identifiable as separate elements (tennis serve).
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Practice for skills

Practice for open/closed skills:

  • Closed- repetitive practice makes the skill almost automatic (constant environment).
  • Open- varied practice so the performer can create numerous strategies to cope with the changing nature of the environment.

Practice for discrete/serial/continuous skills:

  • Discrete- whole practice is better.
  • Serial- breaking down into sub-routines (learn each one fully then practice as a whole).
  • Continous- whole practice so kinaesthetic sense of the movement can be retained.
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Types and methods of practice

Part method:

  • Good for low organisation skills; can be split into sub-routines (fractionisation).
  • Good for complex skills: perfect basic movements then progress with complexity.
  • Useful for dangerous skills.
  • Performer can gain confidence by learning each element sepatately then as a whole.
  • Good for serial skills; learn each technique so more likely to achieve success.

Whole method:

  • Player experiences kinaesthetic sense for skill, positive transfer to real situation likely.
  • Good for rapid actions as the components of the skill interact closely together (golf swing).
  • If a motor programme, like a golf swing, is to be built up then its better to practice as a whole.
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Types and methods of practice

Whole-part-whole method:

  • Attempt whole skill, then practice it in sub-routines and then together as a whole again.
  • Suited to serial/low organisation skills as sub-routines have distinct features (triple jump).

Progressive-part method (segmentation):

  • Referred to as chaining= serial skill broken down into its sub-routines (links)
  • Perfomer learns each link at a time, joining them together each time.
  • Helps performer understand relationships between sub-routines.
  • E.g. in the breaststroke, the leg and arm action should be practiced independently.

Massed and distributed practice methods:

  • Massed; continous, no rest (good for discrete skills but can demotivate/fatigue performers).
  • Distributed; long rests (shouldn't involve actitives that lead to negative transfer), more experienced performers would use rest for 'mental rehearsal'.
  • Distributed; good for continous/dangerous skills as theres no mental/physical fatigue.
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Types and methods of practice

Fixed practice:

  • Stable and predictable practice environment- conditions remain unchanging/fixed.
  • Suited to closed skills where the environment doesn't affect skill execution much.
  • Enables habitual movements to be learnt well with few irrelevant stimuli interfeering.

Varied practice:

  • Relevant experiences can be stored in long-term memory and can be used to modify motor programmes in the future.
  • For closed skills, practice conditions must resemble real life (irrelevant stimuli should be varied but relevant stimuli should be fixed).
  • Should involve many different situations so strategies can be put into long-term memory.
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Summary of links: skill classification and types o

Gross and fine skills:

  • Gross; building strength of large muscle groups, repetition of gross body movements.
  • Fine; repetitive training and mental rehearsal practice to aid concentration.

Open and closed skills:

  • Open; variety of situations to create different strategies, knowledge of the perceptual requirements of a skill help taking in the correct info and avoiding attentional wastage.
  • Closed; repetitive practice to make them automatic, the constancy of the environment for closed skills makes varied practice unnecessary and distracting.

Discrete, serial and continous skills:

  • Discrete; whole practice is better.
  • Serial; break down into sub-routines (so each discrete element is learned)= whole part whole.
  • Continuous; whole practice to feel kinaesthetic sense of movement.
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Summary of links: skill classification and types o

Self-paced and externally-paced skills:

  • Self-paced; fixed practices to help develop habitual responses in a constant environment.
  • Externally-paced; varied practice to build strategies for a changing environment.

Simple and complex skills:

  • Simple; repetitive and fixed due to limited need for decision making.
  • Complex; break down into sub-routines, varied practice to help performer learn the right tactics.
  • Complex tasks involve more info processing; high perceptual requirements.

High-low organisation:

  • High; difficult to split into sub-routines, often continous (best with whole method so that the pattern or rhythm of movement is experienced and the kinaesthetic sense of the skill is recognised.
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Transfer of skills

Positive transfer:

  • Only occurs if the situation created when teaching is similar to performance.
  • More likely if the info processing requirements in practice are similar to ones of the actual skill.
  • The 'identical elements theory'- the greater the number of components of practice that are relevant to the real situation, the more likely positive transfer is to take place.
  • Amount of positive transfer depends on how well previously performed skils have been learned.
  • If a skill is broken down, each part must be learned correctly for PT to be maximised.

Negative transfer:

  • Associated with the performer misunderstanding the movement requirements.
  • Must be minimised; often occurs when a familiar stimulus requires a new response (confusion).
  • E.g. tennis player may misjudge her shots when playing indoors (techniques subtly different).
  • Can be eliminated by a coach drawing the performers attention to the problem.
  • Can be avoided; ensuring that the forehand in tennis is thoroughly learned before moving on to top spin forehand.
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Transfer of skills

Bilateral transfer:

  • Transfer of learning from one limb to another.
  • Occurs in two ways.
  • 1. The cognitive aspects of the skill- a footballer has an idea of how the non-preferred limb might operate so understands what is required "I'll swing my left foot like I do with my right"
  • 2. The motor programme is transferred-the pattern of movement that is learned is almost automatically as one limb is used subconciuosly when the other is used.
  • When one limb is used separately= asymmetrical training.
  • When both limbs are trained at the same time= symmetrical training.

Optimising positive effects/limiting negative effects of transfer:

  • Positive- use correct practices/training, emulate real game situation for kinaesthetic sense.
  • Too many differing movement patterns can confuse the performer + hinder effective transfer.
  • Proactive= the influence of one skill on a skill yet to be performed.
  • Retroactive= the influence of one skill on the learning/performance of a skill that's been learned previously.
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Learning theories

Operant conditioning:

  • Example of associationist learning- B.F.Skinner's theory (trial and error learning).
  • Concerned with actions being shaped and then reinforced; only occurs if reinforcement is there.
  • Learning is faster if a reward is given on every occasion- complete reinforcement.
  • Reinforcement strengthens S-R bond (can be positive or negative).
  • Positive reinforcement; stimulus given when desired response occurs.
  • Negative reinforcement; stimulus removed when the desired repsonse occurs.
  • Punishment; giving a stimulus to prevent a response occuring.

Thorndike's laws:

  • Law of exercise: repeating S-R connections is more likely to strengthen them.
  • Law of effect: if the response is followed by a satisfier then the S-R bond is strengthened, if its followed by an annoyer, the S-R bond is weakened.
  • Law of readiness: performer must be physically/mentally able to complete the task effectively.
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Learning theories

Cognitive theories of learning:

  • Intervening variables; mental processes between stimulus being received and the response.
  • Trial + error has no place in cognitive theory, known as insight learning (problem solving from memory).
  • Cognitive theorists believe we're continually receving info from our environment and we work out what's happening using past experiences and perception.
  • Lends support to whole practice as participants understand whats required and the learner can develop problem-solving and decision-making skills.

Social learning/observational learning theory:

  • Personality created by observing others (significant others), we imitate their behaviour.
  • Humans like to be part of a group ao copy behaviour to be socially acceptable=social learning.
  • We copy skills done by others as we're motivated to achieve success (role model).
  • In observational learning, the person being observed is the model.
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Learning theories

The process of observational learning:

  • 1. Attention- to be able to imitate a demonstration, performer must pay attention and focus on important ques (depends on the characteristics of the model and the observer).
  • 2. Retention- observer must be able to remember the model thats presented (create a mental picture of process, mental rehearsal can improve retention of this image).
  • 3. Motor reproduction- observer must be physically able to imitate the skill, demonstrations should be matched to their capabilities.
  • 4. Motivation- oberver's motivation is crucial if they're going to imitate performance (external reinforcement will increase it, e.g. coach praising gymnast when vault done successfully).
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Stages of learning

Stage 1- the cognitive stage:

  • Earliest stage; when the performer understands what needs to be done (lots of trial and error).
  • Successful movements can be reinforced by experiencing sucess or being praised.
  • Unsuccessful movements shouldn't be dimissed; understand why to avoid it in the future.

Stage 2- the associative stage:

  • Performer practices and associates the movements produced with the mental image.
  • Feedback occurs here; performer becomes more aware of complex ques.
  • Vast improvement in performance occurs; motor programmes formed.

Stage 3- the autonomous stage:

  • Movements almost automatic with little concious thought, can concentrate on tactics/strategies.
  • Motor programmes completely formed in long-term memory, short reaction time.
  • To stay here, performers must constantly refer back to the associative stage where practice ensures that motor programmes are reinforced.
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Verbal guidance:

  • Used to describe the action and explain how to perform the activity; used alongside visual.
  • Effective for advanced performers as more perceptual info needs to be conveyed.
  • For associative/autonomous learners, can be an effective source to improve skill learning.
  • Coach musn't speak too long or overcomplicate but should use questioning techniques.
  • Advantages- can be used as feedbacl (reinforce good movements/identify errors), can hold the performer's attention and motivate them.
  • Disadvantages- can lead to info overload, can be inaccurate so skills learned ineffectively.

Visual guidance:

  • During cognitive stage, helps create a mental picture of the skill (demos, videos, charts).
  • Demonstration must be accurate so mental picture isn't incorrect or cause negative transfer.
  • To avoid info overload, coach should 'cue' the performer onto aspects of the movement.
  • Advantages- easy to create a mental picture by demos, can be seen in different stages, encourages observational learning by focusing on important ques.
  • Disadvantages- demo could be incorrect/unclear so bad habits could be formed.
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Manual and mechanical guidance:

  • Involves physical support from a person or mechanical device (physical restriction).
  • Involves the response of the performer being directed physically by another person (forced response).
  • Both can reduce fear in dangerous situations, increases confidence and kinaesthetic sense.
  • Can give an unrealistic kinaesthesis (remove armbands asap to teach stroke technique).
  • The intrinsic feedback received could be incorrect= bad habits or negative transfer.
  • Reduction in learner's participation could negatively affect motivation.
  • Advantages- feel safer, increase motivation, can isolate an aspect to practice as a sub-routine.
  • Disadvantages- can be over restrictive to the performer who feels lack of control of the movement, can lead to a false sense of kinaesthesis as the body is restricted/mechanical aid.
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Intrinsic feedback:

  • Involves info available to the performer that's arising from the sensory system (kinaesthesis).
  • Arises from signals from the proprioceptors found in muscles, ligaments and joints.
  • Advantages- occurs during performance of movement so is readily available so movements can be altered immediately, no reliance on others, likely to be accurate in autonomous stage.
  • Disadvantages-if in cognitive stage may interpret info accurately as it depends on sensory effectiveness; some performers may interpret it incorrectly so performance deteriorates.

Extrinsic feedback:

  • From an external source; should be used carefully as performer may depend on it too much and wont develop internal feedback
  • Advantages; coach can give coaching points to increase performance, can increase motivation.
  • Disadvantages; if inaccurate can hinder performance and result in negative transfer, or if its from an unreliable source then motivation can drop, doesn't encourage as much kinaesthesis.
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Positive feedback:

  • Involves info that's often extrinsic and rewards the performer via praise on performance.
  • Advantages- can lead to positive reinforcement which enables the correct S-R bond to form, can be very motivating for cognitve learners, helps build self-esteem and confidence.
  • Disadvantages- if undeserved, inappropriate S-R bonds may be built which can deteriorate performance, some performers may ignore this which can hinder learning (too much praise).

Negative feedback:

  • Can be in the form of criticism and concentrate on poor aspects of performance and results.
  • Advantages- can motivate and make them more determined, makes it clear which aspects of performance requires improvement, more suited to autonomous learners.
  • Disadvantages- can be demotivating due to negativity (especially for those in cognitive stage), can be detrimental to the learning process if the feedback is unfounded or inaccurate.
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Knowledge of results:

  • This feedback is external; can come from performer or from a coach.
  • Important for performer to know what the result of their action is; helps learning of skills.

Knowledge of performance:

  • About the pattern of movement that has taken/is taking place.
  • Normally associated with external feedback but can be gained by kinaesthetic awareness.

Effective feedback:

  • Depends on the quality and nature of feedback.
  • Any feedback given should involve; a limited amount of info (prevents overload), immediacy (so performer can relate info to recent experiences), related to the individual (can relate to feedback more readily and are accountable for future actions), facilitating intrinsic feedback (encourages performers to recognise for themselves the quality of their movements and be able to correct errors immediately).
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