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Ways of Teaching a Skill

Whole or Part Learning

A skill may be taught in its entirety (whole learning) or broken down into parts (part learning). Most coaches combine the two methods (as whole-part-whole learning) with players learning the whole skill at times while at other times concentrating on parts of the skill. The best method depends on the skill being taught. Generally, whole learning is best for simple skills and part learning for more complex skills.


This involves breaking a skill down into progressive part teaching. Each part is taught and practised on its own, and the parts are added in their correct sequence. Chaining is adopted when a skill is complex and needs to be taught in a particular order.

Massed or Distributed Practice

Massed practice is where the coach has players continuously practise a skill without any breaks until the skill has been learned. In a distributed practice, the players may learn the skill in short, frequent practice sessions interspersed with rests or alternative skill activities.

Distributed practice is the most effective for improving performance with younger players in particular, as the breaks between sessions reduce boredom and recharge the players' energy and powers of concentration. Massed practice is more suitable for highly skilled or highly motivated players.

Drill or Problem-Solving

Drills involve learning through repetition while problem-solving refers to learning through investigation and discovery. Drills are better suited for closed skills which are basically the repetition of movement patterns. Open skills that require a degree of creativity and decision-making on possible courses of action are better suited to problem-solving. In learning either open or closed skills, the problem-solving approach will usually lead to a better understanding and retention by the player of what is involved in the correct skill performance.

Mental or Physical Practice

Physical practice of a skill is necessary for improved skill performance and is what most players are accustomed to. Mental practice can also be used by picturing the performance in one's mind. This can be done using mental imagery, viewing the performance (live or on video), and reading or listening to instructions.

A combination of both physical and mental practice makes for the most effective learning.

Factors that affect the ability of a player to learn new skills

  • Stage of growth and development.
  • Physical capacity.
  • Facilities and equipment.
  • Experience playing the sport.

For the player to be able to effectively develop skills the coach should use the following model as a guideline:

  • 3% explanation
  • 7% demonstration
  • 90% practice


This informs the player what they are doing, how they will do it and why they are doing it.

Explanations should be:

  • Specific
  • In simple language
  • Short and to the point