Different Types of Skill

Every individual has their own skills, that they use and employ on a day-to-day basis in their daily routines. These skills can be classified into a number of different categories and some tasks performed may need skills from more than one group to be executed effectively. However, not all of these skills will be relevant to their role as a coach or a player, in fact there are four groups that should create the focus for further analysis:

Cognitive Skills – Often referred to as mental or intellectual skills as they involve the thought processes. A good example would be that of the role of the coach, where they must correctly choose the appropriate tactics to employ to be successful.

Perceptual Skills – These types of skills involve the individual’s ability to detect and interpret information. Two individuals may receive the same piece of information but their interpretation may be totally different. For example, a refereeing decision during a match or a coaches assessment of their team’s performance.

Motor Skills – These skills involve movements being performed. Such as running, jumping or striking a football.

Perceptual Motor Skills – Or otherwise referred to as Psychomotor Skills, as they involve components of all 3 of the other skills. The individual is required to think, detect and interpret and perform a movement to complete a skill. Once a player has the ball the must think what to do with it, analyse and assess what is happening around them and then perform their decision (pass, dribble, shoot etc).

Skills within the Perceptual Motor Skills can then be further categorised into groups that relate to the:

  • Muscular involvement employed during the movement.
  • Environmental conditions affecting the movement.
  • Clarity of a beginning and an end for the movement.
  • Level of control the individual can employ over the timing of the movement.
  • Complexity of the movement.
  • Links between the individual components of the movement.

Muscular involvement employed during the movement

The focus in this category would be the precision required for the movement to be successfully executed.  Movements can either be:

Gross Skills: The movement involves large muscle movement where there is little attention paid to fine precision. For example running, jumping or diving.

Fine Skills: Require more complicated movements employing smaller muscle groups to be executed.  For example making notes in your pocket book about the game.

Environmental conditions affecting the movement

When focusing on the environment, every factor that could impede or affect the movement is considered, including the opposition, team mates, the weather or the playing surface. Movements can then be placed into two groups:

Open Skills: Predominately occur in an unpredictable environment where the movements are influenced by the ever changing environment. Open skills tend to be mostly perceptual and greatly involve decision making. For example receiving and then giving a pass.

Closed skill: These movements are unaffected by the environment. They can be performed the same every time and as a result they are habitual. The performing individual will know exactly what they have to do in order to achieve their desired outcome without requiring a decision making process. Very few movements in football are closed, so examples from other sports would be a basketball free through or tennis serve.

Clarity of a beginning and an end for the movement

It is slightly harder to distinguish where a movement starts and ends than to decide if the environment affects it. However it is possible, and there are three different ways a movement can be described:

Discrete Skill: These types of movements have both a clear beginning and a clear end. If the movement is to be repeated then the whole process must start again. For example a throw in or a goal kick.

Serial Skill: A sequence of discrete skills that combine in a set order to create the movement. For example heading the ball (made up of run, jump, head).

Continuous Skill: Are movements that do not have a definite beginning and end. The end of one phase leads immediately into the next, and it usually has to be repeated numerous times before it becomes a significant movement.

Level of control the individual can employ over the timing of the movement

The focus here is whether or not the performer has complete control over when the movement is begun and what rate it is performed at:

Internally Paced: Also known as Self Paced, where the performer has complete control over when it begins and at what speed they will complete it at. They are also predominately closed skills such as long jump or tennis serve.

Externally Paced: The environment dictates when and how quickly the movement is conducted. Usually open skills and the result or reacting to an opponent’s or team mate’s movement. For example saving a shot at goal.

Complexity of the movement

The complexity of a movement can be determined by considering the following factors:

  • Perceptual load plus the level of decision making
  • Time to execute the perceptual and decision making tasks
  • Amount of interconnecting components to execute and their speed of execution and timing
  • Use of feedback.

Once a movement has undergone analysis using the above criteria they can then be classified as:
Simple Skills: These movements involve very low amounts of the above aspects. Small amount of information to process, few decisions and interconnecting components, insignificant speed and timing issues. Although these times of movements are classified as simple they still may be very hard to perfect and perform, such as sprinting.

Complex Skills: These movements involve very high amounts of the above aspects. High perceptual load including many decisions to make. The movement will also contain a high number of interconnecting components and the movements overall success will greatly be determined by the speed and timing of these components. A good example would be receiving the ball in a crowded penalty area with the intention to score.

Links between the individual components of the movement

Movements can also be classified depending on how the individual components that create its execution interlock.

Low Organisational Skills: Movements that are based upon individual components that can be easily separated and focused upon by themselves, then placed back together again for the overall movement.

High Organisational Skills: Theses movements are based upon components that are closely linked and cannot be separated easily without disturbing the overall movement.

Essentially a skill is a learnt, goal-directed movement that follows a process of technical pre-planned actions.

Knowing exactly what type of classifications a skill falls into can greatly help a coach plan exactly how to conduct their exercises and sessions to ensure a fair replication of the real situation the movement is to be performed in.


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