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We’re going to look at the skill acquisition model and look at the differences between a technique and a skill. So, ‘the component stage’. It’s a really early stage. It is learning how to do something. To put some context on it, it might be turning. Where we are learning how to do it, what it feels like and what it looks like. Players might not even have an experience of what it looks like even if they are under 9, under 10. If we can start to differentiate between what it looks like without too many demos as I think they might handle creativity. Just allow them to get a feel of what it looks like with no pressure. Just allow them to experiment. At the component stage there is a lot of unopposed stuff, a lot of 1v1’s, 1v2’s – to get a lot of contact time on the ball and that is really, really important.
Then we go to ‘the shaping stage’. This is trying to link the skills together. It might be in a game and you might say “whenever you feel like it, can you drop it in?” So, hardly any expectation at all or pressure on the fact that they are doing it or the outcome. It’s more guiding them to show their commitment to doing it. That’s really important as if they feel pressured they might not go towards it. It’s really important that we do this. A lot of it, by now, will be external focus rather than internal.
The next stage is ‘the diversion stage’. This is where we are going to look to try and give them a little bit of guidance towards it and reward it a little bit. For example, if you do a turn you get a bonus point or the amount of turns you do before you score equals the amount of goals you get. Something like that just to reward the effort. Especially at foundation phase reward constraints are a really good tool to use in this process.
Then we get to ‘the automatic stage’. On a Sunday or a Saturday morning, allowing your players to experiment with what they have learnt in the week. That really should take care of itself and you are just trying to manage them through the game. This is when the game is pure and it’s got no constraints on it and they are trying to find their way through the game and apply some of the stuff that they have been learning. The automatic stage will feed into what stage you want to go to next. If they are failing badly at the automatic stage, often you’d go back two stages to the shaping stage. Again, this is player and group dependant. You might even go back one stage. This sort of model will allow you to reflect on your practices and what you say and use within the practices as well.