Motor Skill Characteristics
times, limb movement speeds, kinesthesis, sense awareness, balances,
mechanical aptitudes and coordination are basic motor skill characteristics.
Reaction times measure how quickly students respond to stimuli.
Limb movement speed measure how quickly students move limbs between
assigned locations. Kinesthesis measures how well students replicate
assigned body segments alignments. Sense awareness measures how
well students perceive minimal stimuli changes. Static and dynamic
balance measure how well students stand perfectly still and walk
narrow rails. Mechanical aptitudes measure how well students
perform fine hand-eye manipulations. Coordination measures how
well students perform unfamiliar motor skills.
do not typically have research equipment required to measure
these attributes. The American Association for Health, Physical
Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD) has a youth fitness
testing program that measures one mile run time, body fat percentage,
sit and reach flexibility, bent-knee sit-ups and pull-ups. While
most coaches know that how students perform physical fitness
tests does not measure motor skill abilities, some coaches still
measure vertical jump to indicate football, basketball and baseball
motor abilities. Vertical jump ability relates to vertical jump
muscle leverage and vertical jump muscle contractility. Vertical
jumping does not predict motor skill abilities in any sport.
1960, Franklin Henry, found that students perform motor skills
at ability levels equal to practice durations. Students do not
have general motor abilities. Many undeterminable factors influence
how well students perform motor skills. After physical education
teachers evaluated elementary school students' motor skill abilities,
they predicted who would become outstanding middle school athletes.
These motor skill experts correctly predicted only twenty-five
percent of outstanding middle school athletes. Prior to completed
biological maturity, motor skill acquisition experts cannot predict
future motor skill excellence.
education teachers and coaches should either choose specific
sport skill tests or design sport skill tests. The AAHPERD has
sport skill tests for football, basketball, softball, volleyball
and archery. Other researchers developed sport skill tests for
tennis, badminton, bowling, handball, racquetball, soccer, golf,
swimming and gymnastics.
Testing Research Council for the AAHPERD has eight sport skill
1. Tests measure sport's critical motor skills.
2. Accuracy reliability exceeds .70.
3. Wall volley, obstacle course and maximum distance reliabilities
4. Tests help students practice sport skills.
5. Tests have objective scoring.
6. Tests distinguish between superior, above average, average,
below average and inferior performances.
7. Tests function at all school grades and ages.
8. Test results distribute normally.
design sport skill tests, motor skill teachers progress through
1. Define sport skill's instructional objectives.
2. Specifically describe sport skill.
3. Select equipment to measure sport skill.
4. Pre-test small, representative student sample.
5. Adjust test appropriately.
6. Test entire student sample.
7. Determine test statistical reliability.
8. Appropriately adjust test.
9. Develop test's local statistical norms.
blueprints are formal, systematic lesson plans that precisely
describe students' motor skill learning environments. To design
pitching instructional blueprints, coaches must biomechanically
analyze pitching, create pitching motor skill learning steps
and precisely describe pitchers' daily learning environments.
skill tests typically measure accuracies, wall volley numbers
in prescribed time periods, obstacle course time to traverse
and maximum distances. After students achieve specific high skill
levels, these evaluation types may have value, but they do not
evaluate motor skill critical aspects, how children perform them.
For example, how fast pitches arrive at home plate, what pitches
enroute to home plates and where pitches cross home plates become
relevant only after pitchers perfect how they apply force to
pitches to releases. Therefore, biomechanists must thoroughly
analyze how students should apply forces in motor skills before
researchers develop motor skill learning steps and before teachers
test students' abilities to perform motor skills.
baseball scouts evaluate only how fast and accurately pitchers
throw pitches. However, these factors become relevant only after
pitchers perfect how they apply force to pitches. Therefore,
after pitching coaches thoroughly biomechanically analyze the
pitching motor skill, they develop pitching's learning steps.
coaches tell pitchers, 'just throw naturally.' If pitchers threw
naturally, then why do they injure pitching arms? Newton's three
motion laws and pitching arm anatomy determine proper pitching
motions. With practice, all pitching motions feel natural. Therefore,
all pitchers should practice Newton's ideal pitching motor unit
contraction and relaxation sequence. In addition to Newton's
pitching motion, coaches must understand how pitchers learn motor
this three step procedure's weak link is biomechanists' lack
of agreement on how students should apply forces in motor skills.
At present, motor skill teachers frequently avoid criticism by
telling students to just do whatever feels natural. Nevertheless,
teachers must evaluate how students perform motor skills, not
performance results. Only perfect practice makes perfect performances.
But, how can students practice perfectly when teachers do not
know perfect motor skill techniques?
2. Motor Skill
motor skills do not require learning steps. When students learn
bicycle riding, they practice the whole bicycle riding skill.
However, complex motor skills require learning steps. Learning
steps require youngsters to learn parts separately and, later,
combine parts into whole. Pitching is complex motor skill.
design complex motor skills' learning steps, coaches determine
each motor skill's distinctly separate phases. Next, they determine
each motor skill's most critical phases. Then, they design specific
instructions and learning environments to teach youngsters how
to master each motor skill's most critical phase. Lastly, they
repeat these processes for remaining phases.
design pitching's learning steps, coaches first determine pitching's
phases. Next, coaches determine pitching's most critical phase.
Then, coaches design specific instructions and learning environments
to teach pitchers pitching's critical phase. After coaches determine,
define, design and disseminate pitching's critical phase, they
repeat the processes for remaining phases.
has transition, upper arm acceleration, forearm acceleration,
deceleration and recovery phases. Forearm acceleration is pitching's
most critical phase. Pitching's remaining descending importance
order is transition, upper arm acceleration, deceleration and
recovery. The specific instructions and learning environments
for pitching are swing to forearm leverage throws, wrong foot
throws, step-through throws, windup throws and set position throws.
environments encompass everything external and internal that
influence students' abilities to learn motor skills. As much
as possible, coaches control learning environments. Coaches help
students to appropriately activate internal learning processes.
Coaches teach biomechanical principles. Coaches provide outstanding
performance examples. Coaches set realistic short-term and long-term
goals. Quality learning environments equally benefit all students.
pitching skills requires that pitchers activate internal learning
processes. How timely and well pitchers learn pitching relates
to when and how well they activate ten internal learning processes.
refers to pitchers readiness to learn pitching. Coaches appropriately
train pitchers for pitching's physical demands. Coaches convince
pitchers that they can learn pitching. Pitchers adopt appropriate
refers to pitchers' activation states. Over-aroused pitchers
attend to too many stimuli. Anxieties increase activation states
beyond functional levels. Conversely, under-aroused pitchers
attend to too few stimuli. Pitcher indifference decreases activation
states below functional levels. Coaches determine appropriate
activation states and maintain arousal levels throughout instructional
refers to pitchers correctly interpreting coaches' instructions.
Coaches give simple, precise and encouraging instructions. Pitchers
maintain sufficient attention spans and verbal comprehensions
to understand instructions. Within normal intelligence ranges,
pitchers' cognitive abilities do not significantly effect how
well they learn pitching.
refers to pitchers' time commitments, energies and internal learning
processes for the why, how, when and where they will learn pitching.
Until pitchers develop personal plans, they just show up. Pitchers
must commit to learn pitching.
refers to pitchers translating coaches' instructions into personal
codes. Learning is personal and private. Pitchers attach personally
meaningful pitching cues. Pitchers must visualize how to pitch.
Pitchers must feel how to pitch. Pitchers must create personal
are short-term and long-term. Short-term memory is the working
memory that people use every day to attend to daily learning.
People store long-term memories for future reference. In 1973,
Gene Mauch told me how he had planned to score a cheap run off
of Sandy Koufax. He said that when he had a baserunner on second
base with less than two outs, he planned to start the baserunner
and have the batter bunt towards first base. If the first baseman
fielded the bunt and threw it to Sandy covering first base, then
the baserunner would round third base and race Sandy's throw
to home plate. Gene did not believe that Sandy could throw well
when he was not on the mound. I stored this story in my long-term
refers to pitchers entering long-term memories to retrieve information.
Pitchers personally categorize information for long-term storage
and retrieve those categories when they require information.
If pitchers cannot quickly retrieve information, then that information
cannot help performances. Tied score, top of the twelfth, Dodgers
playing the Cubs in Chicago. I am on second base with one out.
Rick Auerbach hits a swinging bunt towards first base. Gene Mauch's
Sandy Koufax story pops to my consciousness. I put my head down
and sprinted to third base, ignored third base coach Tom Lasorda,
rounded third base and raced towards home plate. Cubs catcher
Randy Hundley had followed the batted ball and did not expect
me to try to score. I scored and we won the game. My long-term
memory categories and retrieval worked.
refers to pitchers correctly assigning responses to relevant
stimuli. Until pitchers determine and practice responses to relevant
stimuli, they cannot succeed in competitions.
refers to pitchers analyzing relevant stimuli and choosing correct
performance responses. Only after pitchers make decisions and
actuate them can they gain experiences that result in quality
performances. When coaches do not permit pitchers to decide,
they retard performance developments. Coaches must never intimidate
pitchers. Pitchers must never fear failure. Fear of failure insures
refers to pitchers correctly evaluating practice and competitive
performances. If pitchers incorrectly analyze themselves, then
they cannot improve. Whether pitchers evaluate performances to
be better or worse than actual makes no difference, both incorrect
evaluations retard improvement. Coaches must help pitchers to
correctly analyze themselves.
skills differ in many ways. Researchers classify motor skills
1. Fine or
Gross Motor Skills
skills are fine or gross depending on muscle fiber numbers per
motor nerve in performing motor units. Because pitching requires
pitchers to precisely locate pitches in strike zones, pitching
is a fine motor skill.
Serial or Continuous Motor Skills
skills are discrete, serial or continuous depending on time periods
that students control them. Discrete motor skills have distinct
beginnings and distinct endings. Pitching is a discrete motor
skill. Serial motor skills require that students perform a series
of operations. Ground ball fielding and baseball throwing to
correct locations is a serial motor skill. Continuous motor skills
require that students continuously use their sensory feedback
to adjust and control them. Mountain climbing is a continuous
or Open-Loop Motor Skills
skills are closed-loop or open-loop depending on whether students
receive performance sensory feedback in time to adjust. Closed-loop
motor skills return students' sensory feedback in time to adjust.
Baseball fielding is a closed-loop motor skill. Open-loop motor
skills do not return performance sensory feedback in time to
adjust. Pitching is an open-loop motor skill.
or Responder Motor Skills
on whether students initiate performances or respond to someone
else's performance, motor skills are either initiator or responder.
With initiator motor skills, students initiate performances.
Pitching is an initiator motor skill. With responder motor skills,
students respond to someone else's initiated motor skill. Batting
is a responder motor skill.
e. Motor Skill
initiator motor skills differs from teaching responder motor
skills. Teaching low-skilled students differs from teaching high-skilled
learning instruction means that teachers completely structure
students' daily motor skill learning environments. At low-skill
levels, teachers guide all motor skill learning. At high-skill
levels, teachers guide only initiator motor skill learning. Guided
learning succeeds where motor skills requires that all students
respond the same to simple, precise and encouraging instructions.
solving instruction means that students solve performance problems.
All responder motor skills require problem solving instruction.
High-skilled students benefit from problem solving instruction.
If students cannot perform motor skills without conscious awareness,
then they cannot anticipate opponents' performance varieties.
Responder motor skills require much more practice time to master
than initiator motor skills.
practices, coaches prepare pitchers for learning environments.
They communicate what they expect pitchers to accomplish, describe
appropriate learning attitudes and motivate.
skills that require students to catch, throw, strike or kick
objects have optimal competitive velocities and accuracy's. Coaches
should start pitchers at low limb movement velocities and, as
techniques and specific fitness increase, gradually increase
to competitive velocities. Then, coaches introduce the accuracy
with which pitchers pitch.
fitness is specific to the muscle fibers students use to perform
motor skills. Consequently, low-skilled students cannot be physically
fit to perform any motor skills. Therefore, early in instructional
blueprints, teachers must schedule frequent rest periods. High-skilled
students benefit from continuous practices with few rest periods.
Teachers must help students understand that high quality perfect
practices result in high quality competitive performances. After
students accomplish high-skilled performances and specific fitness,
they must emulate competitive circumstances. To sustain practice
motivation, teachers must vary practice routines. Teachers must
always show enthusiastic positive interest.
students correctly imagine competitive circumstances and how
to correctly perform, they activate proper performance techniques.
When students cannot physically practice motor skills, they can
mentally rehearse motor skills.
factors explain why performances stop improving. Teachers may
demand more than students can handle. Present abilities may satisfy
students. Students may have lost motivations. Therefore, teachers
must continually evaluate students' practice motivations, methods
and energies. Also, teachers must continually evaluate the goal-directedness,
scheduling, the distribution of the motor skills and the order
in which they present the motor skills.
must carefully control psychological influences that enhance
or retard training. They must carefully evaluate the role of
training facilitators (Training facilitators are anything that
coaches yell at pitchers to work harder. Other coaches encourage
pitchers to work harder. Some coaches use music, inspirational
sayings, prayers, and so on. However, when pitchers rely on coaches
or something else to motivate them, they do not control learning.
Whether negative or positive, extrinsic motivation limits students.
intrinsic motivation, where pitchers do not believe that they
can succeed, also limits learning. However, when pitchers have
positive intrinsic motivation, where they believe that they can
succeed, has no limits. Positive intrinsically motivated pitchers
achieve all training programs have to offer. When positively
intrinsic pitchers train in quality programs, they succeed beyond
should promote positive intrinsic learning. They should permit
pitchers to train alone or with selected training partners. To
insure that pitchers know where training programs are going,
coaches should explain whole programs. Coaches should give pitchers
learning responsibility. When pitchers improve performances,
coaches should share the joy. Coaches should teach pitchers improvement
effort leads to winning. Coaches should make training programs
fun, without gimmicks. Coaches should encourage pitchers to be
their personal bests, not team bests.
past experiences and motor skill practices permanently change
how students perform motor skills, they have learned those motor
skills. Motor skill learning increases students' abilities to
predictably and repeatedly perform motor skills. When students
effortlessly perform motor skills at expectation levels, they
have mastered those motor skills. After pitchers master how to
perfectly apply force to pitches, how fast pitches reach home
plates, how quickly pitches change directions en route to home
plates and/or where pitches cross home plates are valid pitching
evaluations. However, coaches should permit pitchers sufficient
practice time to physically, psychologically and cognitively
prepare for pitching evaluations.