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Encouraging the learner

This is an excerpt from Secrets to Success in Sport & Play-2nd Edition by Marianne Torbert.

Here are some tips that you should keep in mind when helping players learn skills:

  • Remember that feelings are important to learning and changing habits.
  • Encourage players to try not to invest their identity in instant success. Mistakes are also a vital part of learning.
  • Try to recognize improvement—even when it may seem minimal.
  • Use a visual model. A visual model gives learners an idea of what they are supposed to be doing. This can be a demonstration, a picture, or observation of a live or recorded performance. I have noted that learners tend to focus on the results rather than concentrate on the three phases of the motion; therefore, I no longer demonstrate by hitting a ball over the net or shooting a ball into the basket. Learners retain more of the relevant aspects of the demonstration when the result becomes irrelevant. So I demonstrate only the motion that I want the learners to focus on and retain. No ball or goal is involved.
  • Remember that young children may not be the best listeners. Try to help them understand and begin to use the mechanical principles of movement through experiencing. Games and movement activities can be selected that will enable them to practice specific foundation skills that incorporate the mechanical principles. These foundation skills (balance, visual tracking, absorbing force, changing directions, stopping and starting, spatial [space] awareness, and reading movement) are vital because they underlie many activity skills. (See the games in chapter 10.)
  • Try to have a thorough understanding of the mechanical principles and the visual evaluation skills involved so that your help can be specific and keyed to a particular skill or problem. This understanding will help you see relationships, make wise choices and decisions, and increase the possibility of a transfer of learning from one activity or situation to another.
  • Avoid giving too much information at once. Solve only one problem at a time. Focus on what is most relevant and will give the players the most to build on. Problem areas will be discussed throughout the chapters that follow.
  • Try to develop special key words and phrases that seem to be helpful and are understood by as many players as possible. The “gorilla” technique discussed in chapter 3 (page 24) is an example.
  • Be patient. The tension created by stress is both an emotional and a physical deterrent to learning. Players need time and lots of repetition in order to compute what works; to get the “feeling” for moving (kinesthetic sense); to recognize flight and rebound patterns; to learn to know what to attend to; to time their moves; and to let extraneous, ineffective, or overflow movements be extinguished.
  • Try to determine “progressions” for growth. Consider reducing the complexity or the number of problems to be solved at any one time. Try to simplify, perhaps breaking the skill down or using a lead-up activity. Try to reduce the number of things in motion. Use a tee, tether, or trough (figure 1.1). Use balloons, beach balls, or other slow-moving objects. Toss slowly and accurately to the beginner. Increase the size of the object or striking implements without increasing the weight. And try to make initial experiences consistent, simple, and successful.
  • Help the players establish obtainable goals, and help them see and feel their successes. Positive feelings about growth and improvement increase motivation and challenge, and they reduce threat, another deterrent to learning.
  • Make sure that each participant has many trials, is challenged at her level, and has some success.
  • Create an environment that supports trying and allows for the errors that normally occur during learning.
  • Try to reduce the fears of failure and of injury. Sometimes equipment can be effectively modified. Be creative.

Read more from Secrets to Success in Sport & Play, Second Edition.

More Excerpts From Secrets to Success in Sport & Play 2nd Edition