In my last article I talked about how motor learning and retention play a vital role in our defensive backs' development. In this article, I would like to continue to focus on the understanding of motor learning and its link to athletic performance. Please, however, allow me to stray from the topic and let me share some information that I came across that actually repeated what Coach Davies always says about off-season work.
Some time ago as I was thumbing through Science and Practice of Strength Training, by Vladimir M. Zatsirrsky, I noticed a blurb stating that all coaches should really pay close attention to the preparation of their athletes. "Long breaks are customary in education. Vacations do not harm student's acquisition of knowledge or impair their intellectual abilities. After a break, they are able to study hard and learn at a faster pace.
A human body, however, behaves differently. Long breaks in training ruin physical fitness and athletic performance. De-adaptation inevitably takes place. Detraining occurs. After a prolonged period of inactivity, an athlete has to start from a decreased level of physical fitness." Keep in mind as the school year comes to a close that we have to keep our athletes close to the movements that we want them to perform in the fall.
Our training goals should be to enhance motor efficiency by training many actions of the nervous system. My previous article touched on the three stages of motor learning (Paul Fitts):
- In the Cognitive Stage, a teacher or coach introduces you to the motor task. You learn the goals and outcomes of the skill. You also start to associate verbal cues and psychological cues that control and regulate movement.
- In the Associative stage, you learn to perform and refine the motor skill. You replace conscious decisions about response selection with unconscious translations from stimulus to response. Timing the movement becomes vital in this stage. You actually execute the response more quickly.
- In the Autonomous stage, the motor skill becomes automatic. There are typists, pianists and others who can talk and do their job at the same time. Everything is done entirely unconscious (1997 Thomas David Kehoe).
Learning from demonstration can be applied in the context of reinforcement learning. This is probably the strongest tool we have as coaches. Letting athletes watch it before we actually do it on the field holds tremendous teaching power.
Then, having athletes mimic the movements they saw slowly with their own interpretation of the movement begins the process. Progression and a creative approach are a necessity in creating sound agility-training programs. New and challenging movement patterns based on the selected movements of the sport will help the athlete adapt to the challenges of intense game situations.
Added benefits begin to show in other areas such as injury prevention. As we continue to challenge our athletes with a creative movement arsenal, the athlete starts to show an enhanced proprioceptive and kinesthetic awareness (ability to sense your bodies warning signals). We can now cope with the elements of surprise or sudden changes that are so familiar with sports. This helps protect against ACL tears and ankle injuries. The more motor skills one develops, the more able they are to cope with random jolts or changes of direction that are so prevalent in sports today.
By constantly challenging and changing the drill work, we develop a higher level of motor proficiency. I do not agree with most who say this cannot improve in athletes.
In my next article I will look at how we break down the motor skill barriers by intertwining movement skills in every aspect of the Renegade plan. This will include a look at GPP through different eyes. Yes, GPP to enhance agility! Olympic Lifts to enhance movement skills a la the split snatch!
Once again, please feel free to email at firstname.lastname@example.org at any time for clarification or to talk about training.