Implicit Learning

Implicit learning is an established motor learning technique, and is beneficial to learners as it allows them to perform undisrupted skills, even when they are placed under stress and other adverse conditions, such as; distractions and fatigue (Poolton & Zachry, 2007). This is built on the work of Masters, who explained that implicit learning is ‘ the ability to acquire a skill unconsciously with minimal support such as explicit verbal communication, on how to perform a particular skill’ (Masters, 2002).  A method of making skills easier for athletes to understand, is the inclusion of analogies for acquisition (Liao & Masters, 2001). For example, an analogy that I have used in football is using the word ‘sit’ when talking to the defensive midfielder. This is a term that tells them to not come forward when attacking, but in fact stay back to help defend, in anticipation of a counter attack. The use of analogy is key within coaching, as it allows the individual to break down the steps they need to do, without bombarding them with lots of information. However prior knowledge is needed, in order to use key terms.

As well as this, the four stages of learning need to be achieved before an individual becomes capable of using implicit learning. The model starts at unconscious incompetence, which is the individual not knowing that they don’t know how to do something, this could be simply them never trying this skill before, for example kicking a football. The second stage is conscious incompetence, which is the individual knowing that they don’t know how to do something and it annoys them, for example attempting to kick the ball and they miss. The third step looks at the individual being conscious competence, which is them being able to pass the ball but it takes effort to do so. The final stage of the model is unconscious competence, which is being able to pass the ball with very little effort and it comes as second nature (Howells, 1982).

In Masters SOARED approach, the next two step are result less and error less (Masters,1992). Result less learning is the practice of a skill without knowing the outcome and it is based upon how the ‘feel’ of it is. For example, a goalkeeper in football could be working on their static goal kicks. The focus of the skill is making sure they get the connection in the kick, but at this stage the overall destination of where the pass is going is not within the thoughts of the athlete. Following on from this, is error less learning, which can use the same concept but outcome is required. This outcome could be a manikin being placed on the half way line, and the goalkeeper has to hit that with each kick they do.

However, some limitations to this concept are when considering what age group is being coached. Older athletes or that of the elite level will be able to learn in this was, as they are unconsciously able to complete skills without the need of supervision, meaning it is easier to implement. Younger athletes struggle to implement this learning approach, as they will always rely on some form of supervision in order to make the right decisions. An instance in which this could be implemented would be when wanting to use tactical information. The use of players ‘sitting’, would only be understood by someone who knew what this meant.

When applying this to my role in analysis, it would be beneficial when working with the higher end of the academy. Again, looking at the work of Masters, it is important to give some emphasis on the learner being in charge of identifying their own weaknesses with little support from analysts. As well as this, by the players having an understanding of ‘cue’ words, then the player will be able to use those terms to describe their own performance, rather than waiting for a coach or analyst to give them the feedback. For example knowing what over lapping runs means and then them being applied in a game (Masters, 2002).

Reference List

Fleishman, E.A., 1982. Human Performance and Productivity: Information processing and decision making (Vol. 2). L. Erlbaum Associates.

Liao, C.M. and Masters, R.S., 2001. Analogy learning: A means to implicit motor learning. Journal of sports sciences19(5), pp.307-319

Masters, R.S.W. 1992. Knowledge, Knerves and Know-How: The Role of Explicit Versus Implicit Knowledge in the Breakdown of a Complex Motor Skill Under Pressure. British Journal of Psychology, 83, 343-558.

Poolton, J.M. and Zachry, T.L., 2007. So you want to learn implicitly? Coaching and learning through implicit motor learning techniques. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching2(1), pp.67-78.

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