Sunday, December 18, 2011

Developing sport skills: The Talent Code

Finished reading 3 books offering a different perspective to the mechanistic skill learning model I was introduced to in my teacher training. Here I share the messages I got from these books.
The Talent Code (Daniel Coyle)
The thesis here is that there is a code to talent development which all teachers and coaches can use to accelerate skill learning. Developing skill is contexted as a product of myelinisation of neural pathways. The more a pathway is used, the thicker the myelin and deeper the learning. The three rules of deep practice to accelerate this process, and the 'code' behind developing talent 'hot beds' are 1. Chunk it up - absorb the 'whole thing' first (I see some correlations here to Norman's protype model - start with a knowledge representation that can be progressively added to), and slow it down to begin with; 2. Repeat it (Coyle connects to Ericsson's research here); 3. Learn to feel it.
Bounce (Matthew Syed)
The thesis here is that talent is a myth. The path to talent is built on many thousands of hours of practice (Ericcson's work is again cited). Start early (it takes ten years to develop a talent), adopt the principles of purposeful play and practice, get involved in 'citadels of excellence' (Coyle might call them talent 'hot beds') where there is coach that encourages a growth mind-set and where there are other players motivated to play and practice because they enjoy it.
The Inner Game of Tennis (Timothy Galway)
The thesis here is that images are better than words, showing is better than telling, and concious trying often is counter-productive to skilled performance. 'Trying hard is a questionable virtue' (p27) as 'getting it together requires slowing the mind' (p.33). Seeing, feeling, awareness of what is and not judging performance are the keys to being able to achieve 'peak experiences' where players let skill performance happen rather than trying to make it happen. Galway discusses how to 'program the self computer' by learning movements  through visual and feeling images rather than 'how-to-do-it instructions' (p57).

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