Skill Acquisition and Drill Design

by on February 14, 2010
in Skill Development

Each week, I write a free weekly newsletter which I send to thousands of subscribers. During the year, I interview experts with my own questions and share the interviews in the newsletters. In 2009, I interviewed a sports medicine specialist at one of the leading hospitals for ACL injury research; a popular strength & conditioning coach and a sports nutritionist. However, my favorite interview was with Adam Gorman, a Skill Acquisition Specialist at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Canberra, Australia.

Gorman’s role at the AIS is diverse and includes drill design and implementation, as well as the development of research initiatives and interventions including video-based training and perceptual skill development.

Here is one of the questions that I asked Gorman:

BM: How does your presence change the way that a basketball coach approaches skill development? What do you add or do differently?

Gorman: Basically, I think I provide a different way of viewing skill acquisition and the ways in which a training session or drill can be structured. My approach is often a little different to the “traditional” methods that have been applied in the past. I try to create a learning environment where players are able to explore their own, unique movement solutions to problems.

That is, I don’t overly constrain players in the ways in which they attempt to achieve success in a drill or activity. Instead, I simply manipulate the environmental demands (number of defenders, aim of the task, etc.) and allow the players to explore what works and what doesn’t work. Through questioning and drill design, the players learn the broad principles of play so that they can apply those same principles to new situations.

Wherever possible, I include the normal perception-action coupling of the skills and link the solutions to the problems. For example, a player who learns how to perform a certain defensive movement, without also learning how that movement is linked to the movements of an offensive player or other defenders, is really learning a solution that is isolated from the problem. In a constrained situation, the solution may be performed extremely accurately but when that same solution is then applied to a situation that is more representative of the game, the solution can decompose because it was never performed and mapped to the relevant information in the environment.

Brian McCormick writes the free weekly newsletter, Hard2Guard Player Development Newsletters. To subscribe, go here. To read the compilation of newsletters from 2009, including the rest of the interview with Adam Gorman, purchase Brian McCormick’s Hard2Guard Player Development Newsletter, Volume 3.

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