Player development is the journey an athlete takes with their coach toward improving performance. For example, basketball players run and lift weights, swimmers perform leg exercises and stretch, and marching band musicians practice hand-eye coordination to expand their developmental capabilities. Athletes will occasionally reach performance peaks that are overcome by improving their developmental aspects. Seasoned coaches help identify which aspects need enhancement and assist players in overcoming their overall performance ceiling.
Skill acquisition – the science supporting movement education and execution – is comprised of three stages used by coaches and trainers to improve player development. Development itself is comprised of biomotor abilities, defined by USA Track and Field (USATF) as, “abilities in the biological and motor domains that enable success in athletic performance.” Regardless of the sport, players should be dedicated to their own development and coaches are there to assist them.
Three Stages of Skill Acquisition
Defined above, skill acquisition is a powerful method for improving developmental aspects. Athletic performance is built on a player’s physical and mental foundation, meticulously constructed through learning, practice, and mastery. The stronger their developmental foundation, the stronger their overall performance can become. Coaches play a pivotal role by inspiring players as they progress through the skill acquisition stages repeatedly throughout their career.
The first is the Cognitive stage. This is when players are introduced to a new skill or activity to perform. It’s in this stage where they will produce frequent errors as their mind and body work together to negotiate the new process. Successful coaches provide continuous, positive reinforcement during this stage so the player develops confidence which promotes their comprehension.
The second is the Associative stage. Players in this stage have already accepted the new skill or activity, and are doing the work to master it. Errors will still occur, but they become less frequent as the body naturally activates and achieves the skill repeatedly. Coaches work with players during this stage to synchronize their minds and bodies so the action is purposeful and fluid.
The final stage is the Autonomous stage. Almost without thinking, players at the Autonomous stage react and execute moves based on their environment. This translates to game play and performance and the cycle begins over with a new skill or activity. The Autonomous stage is both the coach and player’s desired goal, and they achieve it regularly to improve developmental aspects.
Biomotor Abilities: The 5 Aspects of Player Development
One of the most important reasons coaches work with an athlete’s developmental capabilities is injury prevention. Imbalanced exercises or improper workout schedules can lead to unnecessary wear on their bodies, resulting in minor to major injuries. Through developing the following biomotor abilities, players can confidently perform athletic feats.
– Naturally a physical ability that every athlete wants to improve, strength is the production of force. Players use their strength to overcome obstacles through power, and coaches can help them increase that ability. By scheduling weight lifting, strength training, body-weight training, and core stabilization, coaches can ensure that their players are improving this developmental aspect.
– Acceleration, maximum speed, and speed endurance can be built through a variety of running and cardio drills as part of player development. Speed exercises, carefully monitored and instructed by knowledgeable trainers and coaches, increase a player’s rapid movement. If done improperly, these drills can cause injury inhibiting comprehensive player development.
– The biomotor ability to withstand fatigue, endurance allows players to perform at or near peak for lengths of time. Endurance is a particularly important developmental ability because of its direct effect on overall performance and health. Coaches encourage frequent aerobic and anaerobic practice such as sprints or swimming to maximize endurance potential.
– As a preventative and proactive developmental ability, coaches want their players to maintain their muscle and tendon health. Through both static exercises such as toe-touches and dynamic exercises like leg swings, players warm and stretch their muscles to attain functional flexibility; movements correlating with specific sport functions.
– The accumulation of agility, mobility, and balance activated by the physical and mental interconnectivity. Running AND throwing a ball, swimming AND controlled breathing, and playing music WHILE marching are examples of coordination. Most athletic movements rely heavily on coordination; therefore, coaches ensure it’s a well-regarded developmental ability.
Performance is increased by improving the basic biomotor developmental foundation. Without a strong developmental foundation, players will find it challenging to break new performance ceilings. Successful coaches make it a point to remind athletes of their basic motor skills and focus on improving them. To achieve those ends, coaches stay updated on the newest research and athletic exercise programs that maximize improvement with minimal risk of injury.
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