“The importance of repetition until automaticity cannot be overstated. Repetition is the key to learning.” - John Wooden
For those just now tuning in, we are covering a series on different areas in which youth athletes typically find themselves in the comparison trap. We are sharing simple ways to educate the best ways to avoid it. The last blog of this series is centered around the time spent doing sport and skill development. Also known as, REPETITION.
It’s easy for youth athletes to see one of their peers and immediately compare their skill level without taking the time to understand how long they have been doing their sport and just how much time he/she spends time practicing BOTH MENTALLY & PHYSICALLY. Instead of this, it’s usually an automatic “He/She is better than me. I am not good enough.” Which in worst case scenario may lead to, “I don’t want to play any more.” Enrolling children in sports that are beyond their developmental ability can lead to frustration and early dropout.
Instant gratification is very desirable, but unrealistic. Taking the time to clearly communicate to our athletes on the time and effort it takes to make significant improvement is crucial in this learning process. Where do you think the 10,000 hour rule comes from? If this concept seems more difficult for your athlete to grasp, encourage them to do some research on their favorite professional athlete and their journey as a youth athlete to the most elite level. It takes time! And a lot of patience, persistence, and perseverance. It’s never that linear path, it looks more like a crazy up and down scribble line and our RISE Olympian Mentors can attest to that!
There are three stages of learning that are associated with sport skill development. Each athlete will catch on at different rates depending on a few factors.
1) The cognitive stage. The very beginning of skill learning. Understanding the dynamic of the game, proper body positions, foot placement to pass, the basics of any movement. This is the repetition stage. How many reps is your athlete getting?
2) The associative stage. At this stage, the athlete is learning all basic fundamentals and finding less and less simple mistakes in movements being made. Most importantly, the athlete is able to recognize exactly when the mistake is made and is aware of how to fix it. Constructive feedback from coaches during this phase is crucial for skill refinement.
3) The autonomous stage. Depending on the athlete or the skill/sport, getting to this stage may take years. Some athletes will arrive at this stage earlier than others based on how much practice spent practicing the skill consistently and/or the maturity of the athlete. The goal for optimal performance is to get to this stage of learning.
If you find your athlete stuck comparing themselves to another athlete, who practices their skills 5 days a week and maybe some extra, there is a reason they're developing at this stage more quickly. As a broken record would say, it’s important to educate our athletes on the reality of significantly improving a skill. Instead of comparing themselves to their peers, use their level as a motivation to get where they can.
“It's a game of habit, or repetition. You can't play one way in practice and another way in a game. It's a reflex. The game is so quick you don't have time to think.” - Bill Sharman
This blog was originally published by RISE Athletes.
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