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Motor Learning

Motor Learning Principles:

Coaching is like teaching – good coaches have to follow the laws of learning:

  1. Reduce the information we give to volleyball players. Learners have a limited ability to process information. When we introduce a goal, we need to do so in as few words as possible.
    1. Use Keys to give information verbally

Keys are short phrases that condense or chunk information. Advantages:

  • Players pay attention to the important elements of the skill
  • Coaches pay attention to the important elements of the skill
  • Enhance memory
  • Show don’t tell – demonstrations and video of the right way (along with video of how the athlete is doing it).

“All good teachers must learn that images are better than words, showing is better than telling, and too much instruction is worse than none.” Gallwey – The Inner Game of Tennis

  1. Transfer: Research shows there is not much transfer of success from one activity to the next unless the tasks are almost identical. The more practice activities resemble what players do in matches, the more success in practice will translate to success in matches.
  2. Whole vs Part – because motor programs are so specific, the research is clear that the best way to learn a physical skill is to practice the whole skill, rather than breaking it up into parts.

When we teach a skill to our players, we will have them practice the whole skill and use Keys to focus their attention on a part of the skill.

  1. Random vs blocked practice
    1. Blocked -  example: coach tossing to setter, setter sets hitters.  Not much variability, lots of success in practice. Players and coaches feel like there is tons of improvement.
    2. Random – example: ball is hit over the net to players who pass to the setter who then sets the hitters. Lots of variability, not as much success in practice. Players and coaches may become frustrated with difficulty and randomness.
    3. The research is clear –random drills transfer their success to matches much more than blocked. Use random drills except when players are brand new to the skill. The Paradox – blocked practice appears to learners (and coaches) to be more successful during practice because athletes have more success. In games, random practice shows better results.
  2. Physical fatigue reduces learning. The best place for conditioning is at the end of practice, after learning has ended.