Essay: Motor Processes in Sport Tom

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[. . .] The approach for Tom might be best if the bilateral transfer notion is ignored and Tom's weakness is approached from a very basic instructional level. If there is bilateral transfer in this case it will reveal itself as Tom begins working on his left foot kicking technique and make the learning process all the smoother.

Given the above facts of the current case we can outline a program to help Tom improve his left foot kicking techniques and at the same time remain sensitive to the potential psychological issues in this situation.

Assessment Issues in Tom's Case.

The first step in the current process would be to perform both a physical and psychological assessment of Tom. The physical assessment would concentrate on Tom's left leg, his core, and left arm to determine factors such as strength, flexibility, and coordination in his left leg to rule out any significant physical imbalances that may be present and contributing to his difficulties and also to develop an understanding of what areas, if any, need improvement before beginning the skills training of kicking. In addition, a physical assessment would help to identify any potential congenital issues that might be contributing to Tom's difficulties. While there is no reason to believe that Tom has some form of long-standing physical disability affecting his left side it certainly is a possibility given the description of his ability to kick with his left foot and a physical assessment would help to rule this out. If such a disability is present identifying it as a possibility would allow for further assessment by specialists.

The psychological assessment would be done to determine of Tom really understands the nature of the difficulty that he is having, how he feels about it, and what he views as the solution to the problem. We start with a brief discussion of what would be covered in the psychological assessment.

Psychological assessment

Here we use the term "psychological" assessment in more of a lay capacity. It is not meant to imply that Tom needs to be seen by a psychologist or needs to have a formal psychological evaluation. Instead, the coaches need to discuss the issues at hand with the athlete. This should be done separate from the team by a trusted coach or coaches, with whom Tom feels comfortable. The first thing would be to explain the reason for the discussion with Tom and ask him how he views the problem and the solution. Is Tom open to working on his kicking technique with his left leg? Does he understand why he should not use his right leg in certain situations? How does he feel about the situation? Is he motivated to improve? What are his plans or goals regarding football? These questions are in line with the aforementioned discussion of schema.

The coaches should then offer Tom an idea of the goals and training routine they have in mind to help him. Every step of the process should be explained. Moreover, one would suspect the presence of social facilitation effects once Tom attempts to kick with his left foot in actual competition, and by addressing the above issues Tom's coaches can help reduce factors contributing to these (Strauss, 2001). The other important step is the physical assessment.

Physical assessment.

This need not be very complex, but if a physical assessment is not performed the actual problem cannot be fully understood. Simple measures of single leg strength for both left and right legs (leg press, leg extension, and leg curl), arms (dumbbell press, curl, triceps extension), chest (single arm bench press), and back (single arm bent row) will suffice on the strength component. There typically should not be much more than a ten percent difference between dominant and nondominant sides (Stokes, Luiselli, Reed, & Fleming, 2010). Likewise leg flexibility can be manually determined by the coaches. Coordination exercises can include simple observations of running and calisthenics such as down-ups, running broad jump, etc. Any identified target areas for improvement can be discussed with Tom and a routine can be developed.

After these issues are covered a full assessment of Tom's kicking technique should be undertaken from both the right and left sides. Coaches should try and tape Tom, take notes, and offer suggestions. By taping Tom's kicking technique the team and Tom can observe what exactly is going on. Taping Tom kick in practice and watching game types are indispensible components to improving technique as an athlete cannot see their own performance on the field or during practice and often does not have a realistic idea of exactly how they are performing (e.g., Banister, 1991). It is helpful from the start to get as many senses as possible involved in the learning process in order to facilitate new skill acquisition (e.g., Higgins, 1994). In this case sight, touch, proprioception and sound would be key sensual components to concentrate on.

For the purposes of this paper we will suppose that Tom does not have a congenital difficulty that is contributing to his kicking difficulty.

Developing Kicking Tom's Skills

We can characterize Tom's difficulty as a need to develop a specific motor skill on his left side. The classification of skills in sports has been described as a single dimensional continuum that ranges from one extreme to the other. The best known system of classification used for the development of sport skills involves the stability of environmental contexts. These contexts can range from open to closed skills (Magill, 2007). In closed skills the environment is generally stable and the athlete acts upon or initiates the movement. In soccer the goalie kick is a good example of a closed skill. At the other extreme continuum are open skills where the environment is unstable or variable. During open skills the variability of movement can be due to the movement of the athlete, an object, or both. Dribbling, passing, and shooting the ball are excellent examples of open skills since there are many variables involved with the performance of these.

When teaching motor skills for sports coaches should consider the open/closed dimension as prerequisite to setting up instructional and practice conditions. For example, passing and dribbling need be practiced under a variety of circumstances, whereas a goalie kick can be practiced under relatively static conditions. However, most motor skills in sports are much more complex.

Gentile (2000) outlined a two-dimensional classification system for teaching motor skills. Since motor skills range from simple skills to complex skills, Gentile expanded the one dimensional system to include the context of open and closed skills as well as the function of the action of the skill. When considering the environmental context of soccer skills coaches need to determine the relevant features or regulatory conditions that dictate the kind of movement necessary to perform the skill (Gentile, 2000). Regulatory conditions effect one's movement and may be closed sport skills open sport skills. The goalie kick is relatively closed but there is some need for intertrial variability.

Gentile's nomenclature also includes the function of the action. This incorporates body orientation, which in the current case is unstable (there is body motion in the kick) and object manipulation, which in the current case is present (the ball). Skills that require bodily transport and object manipulation are more complex than those that do not. Therefore it is important to practice the motion with and without the object in order to develop the skill.

Breaking down the task for Tom

Following an information processing approach is important as Tom learns to use his left foot. Because of the limits of working memory and the complexity of the task it is helpful to break the task down for Tom (Baddeley, 2003). Secondly, since Tom is relatively inept at kicking with his left foot breaking down the task will allow Tom to focus on each segment of the task by reciting the proper procedure as he practices (Castaneda & Gray, 2007). As he develops skill and puts the pieces together he should do less reciting of the steps (Castaneda & Gray, 2007). Thus as he begins to learn the technique he should remain internally focused but as he masters the procedures outlined below he needs to externally forget them and just "kick" (Dugdale & Eklund, 2002; Castaneda & Gray, 2007).

However, one important point to remember as that due to the relatively closed nature of the task Tom's coaches can focus on having Tom apply a consistent strategy to his approach to kicking with his left foot until he has mastered the fundamentals. This involves kicking the ball as far away from the goal as possible and keeping it in bounds. Once he has master the basics coaches can work on special cases where Tom attempt to work on accuracy and place the ball closer to team mates. There are several steps to an effective goalie kick that Tom should memorize (e.g., see www.soccer-training-guide.com):

1. Proper placement of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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