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Teaching the Fundamentals

Getting athletes to master sports-specific skills may seem pretty straightforward. The focus has often been put on doing as many repetitions as possible, but according to longtime coaching professional Wayne Goldsmith, there may be more to it than you think.

In an article on his website, Goldsmith argues that being able to perform a skill with technical perfection is a myth. “Whilst you should pursue excellence in technique and strive to continuously improve an athlete’s skills, it is ridiculous to try to coach every athlete you coach to achieve the myth of technical perfection,” he writes. “But if you want them to win in the real word – coaching sports skills is so much more than looking perfect. Your athletes need to be able to execute sports skills in performance situations – and that means a re-think of the way you coach skills.”

He breaks down coaching sports skills into seven steps.

Step 1:

The first thing for an athlete to do is simply perform the skill. A coach can set up a drill or show an athlete how to perform the skill, and then the athlete will mimic the technique. This is often the only step that is ever taken, and athletes are expected to continuously repeat this step over and over again, but according to Goldsmith this is only the beginning.

Step 2:

Perform the skill very well. Along with regular practice, athletes will also need quality feedback from coaches in order to perform a skill with better execution and accuracy. Watching video and using other performance analysis technologies can also help with this step.

Step 3:

Perform the skill very well at speed. This step seems obvious but is often overlooked. Competition requires athletes to perform skills at a high speed in order to succeed. Practicing something slowly can help improve technique, but until an athlete can perform the skill very well at speed they won’t able to fully utilize it while competing.

Step 4:

Perform the skill very well, at speed, and under fatigue. Again, this is meant to mimic the actual demands of competition. Lots of athletes can perform certain skills when their bodies are fresh, but those that can continue to perform late in a game and when everybody’s tired will have a significant advantage. Those last moments of the game are often the most important, and therefore it can make all the difference when an athlete is able to keep performing a skill well.

Step 5:

Perform the skill very well, at speed, under fatigue, and under pressure. When athletes are under pressure, they are often less likely to perform at an optimal level. Therefore, they will benefit from experiencing pressure situations and focusing on executing certain skills. In-game experience is crucial, but coaches can also incorporates elements of pressure during training to ensure that it’s more challenging and demanding. This will help prepare athletes for those critical high-pressure moments during competition. 

Step 6:

Perform the skill very well, at speed, under fatigue, and under pressure consistently. Achieving consistency is perhaps the most difficult part of mastering a skill, and perhaps it’s also the most important. Being able to do something once could be luck, but those who can do it consistently while under pressure show that they have a true grasp of the skill. Goldsmith suggests adopting a “no-compromise” approach during training when it comes to the quality of skills execution.

Step 7:

Perform the skill very well, at speed, under fatigue, and under pressure consistently in competition conditions. This is the ultimate goal of training—to prepare athletes for competition. When an athlete achieves this step, they have surely mastered the skill. 

Click here to read the full article.

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