An important training technique is repetition. In the first stage of learning we perform a skill very cognitively – concentrating and sending messages to our bodies the information it needs to do the skill. The final stage of learning is when the body performs the skill automatically with no cognitive input required. This process happens by creating a “muscle memory” which is achieved by repeating the action many, many times.
When you first started to walk, it took a lot of concentration and there were a lot of failures (ie: falling). Now you are able to walk without thinking about it. In fact you can walk, talk, chew gum AND carry things at the same time.
In creating a muscle memory with respect to sports we want to ensure we are developing a positive muscle memory. This means that the muscles are performing in such a way that the technique is good. If a negative muscle memory is created, the result is “bad technique” and potential for success is reduced. Bad technique is very hard to break and requires re-training the muscles through strong cognitive focus. Good technique on basic skills, especially at a young age, makes or breaks the future success of the athlete. If the basics aren’t developed properly, the advanced skills cannot be learned effectively because the foundation is weak. This is one of the reasons why most athletes stop improving around 12-14 years old and end up quitting.
At Atlantic Stars Academy we provide Progress Reports that show the athletes and parents where they stand in their skill development. There are 3 levels of achievement, White, Blue, Gold. To pass the White level in any skill they have to be able to perform it with good technique in isolation. To pass the Blue level, they must be able to perform it with good technique but in a scrimmage situation where it is difficult to do well because of pressure and distractions. To pass the Gold level, they must be able to perform it under intense pressure (a tight game). As the player masters the skill and it becomes natural for them, they will be able to perform it under pressure with regularity.
Currently with our U12 basketball group we are focusing on the following skills: Shooting – layups, Stances – ready stance and triple threat stance, Dribbling – change of direction, change of speed, Agility- direction changes, balance. We spent April teaching the techniques and now well into May, through a variety of drills and games we are taking them through the stages of learning to make these skills automatic so that the athletes can pass the Blue level by the end of the Spring term. They know exactly what they’re working on, are focused on that goal and as a result are set up for success. In the Summer term we’ll be switching focus to different skills. As the players move through the program they will have a full toolbox of skills ready to be used in their league games.
The result of repetition in training is golden. They experience tangible success, parents enjoy watching their kids improve and coaches have the satisfaction of seeing the athletes grow into skilled players.