The Classification Of Skills

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A skill is a mixture of ability and technique that is learned by a performer. The more a skill is practised, the easier it should become to consistently repeat that skill with little trouble or difficulty. Knapp defined skill as:

“The learned ability to bring about pre-determined results with maximum certainty often with minimal outlay of time, energy or both”

Abilities can come naturally, such as the ability the run fast or to have good vision, but having good abilities does not mean you can perform a skill. A tennis player like Tim Henman may have good vision to spot where to place a ball on the court, but it will take a lot of practice to learn the skill of getting the ball to land where he wants it. By continuously playing shots around the court, he will pick up the skill to be able to accurately place the ball where he desires, with little effort both physically and mentally.

As there are so many different variations of skills, there are many ways of classifying them. The most general way of classifying skill would be to separate them into three sections, which are cognitive, perceptual and motor skills.

Cognitive skills involve problem solving, and using your brain to decide what you are going to do, for example, deciding where to place a serve in badminton

Perceptual skills involve interpreting your surroundings and using your senses to help you, for example, returning a serve in tennis.

Motor skills involve a players primary movement, for example, dribbling past a player in football

A more specific way of classifying skills is to use a variety of different continuums.

* Bodily Involvement Continuum – ranging from gross to fine skills

* Organisation Continuum – ranging from continuous to serial to discrete skills

* Pacing Continuum – ranging from self-paced to externally paced skills

* Interaction Continuum – ranging from individual to co-active to interactive skills

* Open-Closed Continuum – ranging from open to closed skills

* Difficulty (Complexity) continuum – ranging from complex to simple skills

Open And Closed Skills

Knapp’s open-close continuum recognises two basic classifications of skills, open and closed. Open skills are those which are directly influenced by the environment in which they are performed. They are skills that require adaptation each time they are performed. Factors that affect these skills are weather conditions, pitch standards, the speed of a ball and the position of an opponent. An open skill is never performed in the same way twice. Knowledge, experience and perceptual skills are used before performing the require skill, for example, a tackle in football. This requires consideration of a whole range of factors before the correct variation of the tackle is executed

Closed skills are those that have no outside physical influences acting upon them. The performer will go through a pre-learned sequence of motor activities with no reference to the environment it is being performed in. Once learned, closed skills should be performed in exactly the same way each time. A good example of this is darts, aiming for a specific number. There are no outside physical factors that interfere with the performance. The board remains stationary, and the environment remains the same.

Self Paced and Externally Paced Skills

The pacing continuum recognises two extremes of skill, with other skills fitting in between the two extremes. A self-paced skill is where the performer controls the rate at which the action takes place. This can mean taking as much, or as little time as they want. An example of this is a set shot in basketball. It can be taken as and when the player wants to.

An externally paced skill is where the timing of the action is not controlled by the performer, but by an outside instigator. This could be an official or another performer. In tennis, the receiver of a serve will have to use externally paced skill to return the ball, as it is his opponent who chooses where and when the ball is hit. Read how surveillance can be performed through either stationary or mobile 

Discrete, Continuous and Serial Skills

This method of skill classification relies on the existence of an obvious beginning or end to the skill itself. It is either a separate aspect of the sport, or it is an element that cannot be identified as having an obvious point at which it starts and end. Discrete skills have a clear beginning and end, for example, when kicking a football, there is the preparation to kicking the ball (swinging the leg back) kicking it, and then following through at the end.

Continuous skills have no obvious point at which they start or finish. This means that the skill just repeats over and over, as in running, where each step flows into the next, and it is not clear when each phase starts or ends.

Serial skills are made up of a number of either discrete or continuous skills put together. For example, in a gymnastics floor routine, where there is a sequence of many moves strung together. Some have obvious beginnings and ends, where others flow to look like one long move.

Individual, Co-Active and Interactive Skills

There are many various skills that are performed in sport. Sometimes, we are on our, own, sometimes others perform around us, and other times, people perform along with us. This is the difference between individual, co-active and interactive skills. Individual and co-active skills both require a well thought out pre-leaned routine or sequence of movements. Interactive skills need interpretation and variation.

Individual skills are performed in isolation. These are skills are where there is only one performer at any particular time. In individual figure skating, competitors will skate freely, with the rink to themselves, and another competitor will only come on once the previous one has finished. This is an individual skill.

Co-active skills are those performed at the same time as others but without direct confrontation. In a 400metre race, competitors will run against each other, but will not be able to physically influence someone else’s performance, as they are in separate lanes.

Interactive skills are those in which other performers are directly involved. There is a direct influence on skillful performance, created from the opposition. The greater the level of interaction is, the greater the potential is for the opponents to affect each other’s games. Football is a good example for this, as depending on how good a player is at tackling or dribbling, there can be various consequences, influencing mistakes either way.

The different skills I have listed in this essay, are usually involved in continuums devised by Barbera Knapp. Depending on the sport, there are different requirements to the skills that are needed. By identifying the requirements, skills can be more easily developed. Most skills are often closely linked to one-another. Closed skills and individual skills are very closely linked, as there is no outside physical factors affecting either. Each sport is either played individually, co-actively or interactively, and they all require different forms of skill to give a perfect performance.

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