Skill acquisition refers to the process that athletes use to learn or acquire a new skill. A skill can be defined as an act or task such as typing or drawing, or in the instance of sport, catching, throwing, and running. Skill acquisition is used to describe the ability to learn and acquire a new skill. A skill refers to a particular ability or the ability to do something well such as a natural talent like singing, painting or dancing.
According to Encarta Dictionary (2009), a skill is seen as ability to do something well, usually gained through training or experience. Skill acquisition on the other hand involves the development of a new skill, practice or a way of doing things usually gained through training or experience. The types of skills that can be acquired by the youth include:
a. Vocational carpentry, hair dressing, fashion designing, tailoring etc;
b. Mechanic, electrical, repairs of GSM handset, Wrist watches, air- conditioner etc; and
c. Entrepreneurial (small scale business such as operation of kiosk, buying and selling of spare parts, restaurants etc).

A motor skill is an intentional movement involving a motor or muscular component that must be learned and voluntarily produced to proficiently perform goal-oriented task, according to Knapp, Newell, and Sparrow. Men and women differ in motor skill ability. In general, men are better at gross motor skills while women are better at fine motor skills. Gender differences in brain physiology are often cited by scientists to explain these differences. Many of the regions of the brain responsible for motor skill reside in the frontal lobe, basal ganglia, and cerebellum.
The regions of the frontal lobe responsible for motor skill include the primary motor cortex, the supplemental motor area and the premotor cortex. The primary motor cortex is located on the precentral gyrus and is often visualized as the motor homunculus. By stimulating certain areas of the motor strip and observing where it had an effect, Penfield and Rassmussen were able to map out the motor homunculus. Areas on the body that have complex movements, such as the hands, have a bigger representation on the motor homunculus.
The supplemental motor area, which is just anterior to the primary motor cortex, is involved with postural stability and adjustment as well as coordinating sequences of movement. The premotor cortex, which is just below the supplemental motor area, integrates sensory information from the posterior parietal cortex and is involved with sensory guided planning of movement and begins the programming of movement.
The basal ganglia are an area in the brain where gender differences in brain physiology is evident. The basal ganglia are a group of nuclei in the brain that are responsible for a variety of functions, some of which include movement. The globus pallidus and putamen are two nuclei of the basal ganglia which are both involved in motor skills. The globus pallidus is involved with voluntary motor movement, while the putamen is involved with motor learning. Even after controlling for the naturally larger volume of the male brain, it was found that males have a larger volume of both the globus pallidus and putamen.

Motor responses can be use in a number of ways to explain skills acquisition strategies. In relation to the strategies and skills, concerning individual differences, ability and prior experience consistently emerged as moderate to strong predictors of task performance, whereas self-reported Big 5 personality was unrelated to task performance. Similar but generally weaker relationships were found between individual differences and strategy sophistication. A model that proposed that the effect of ability and prior experience on task performance was mediated by strategy sophistication was not supported. Findings were broadly consistent with cognitive correlates and skill transfer models of individual differences.

In relation to skill acquisition, looking at differences between instructed strategy shift and self-initiated strategy shift, hypotheses were partially supported. In summary, relative to self-initiated strategy shifts, instructed strategy shifts were more abrupt. Performance also tended to decline sharply immediately following the instructed strategy shift. After additional practice, performance was similar to groups that had not received instructed strategy shift. The study highlighted how the dynamics of instructed strategy shift differ from self-initiated strategy shift with regards to discontinuities.

In order to define the phrase “motivational variables in learning,” learning should be defined first. Learning refers to “change in abilities, attitudes, beliefs, capabilities, knowledge, mental models, and patterns of interaction or skills” (Spector 2001, p. 313). Motivational variables in learning can be defined as the attributes that make a learner desire to pursue such changes. Not only the initiation of a desire, but also its continuation is necessary for the desire to result in change; that is, to be considered a motivational learning variable, a learner’s desire ought to be sustained until there is a change in the learner indicating that learning has occurred. There are numerous variables that might be associated with the initiation and continuation of a learner’s willingness to learn, including interest, perceived relevance, activation of prior knowledge, goal orientations, self-efficacy
Skill acquisition refers to the process that athletes use to learn or acquire a new skill. A skill can be defined as an act or task such as typing or drawing, or in the instance of sport, catching, throwing, and running.
Skill acquisition is a gradual developmental process that requires our cognitive (thinking) processes to work with our physical abilities to learn how to perform movements that we were previously unfamiliar with. For performers and coaches to produce peak performance, it is essential that they understand how the level of skill acquisition can affect performance. This includes an understanding of the learning process, analysis of how well it is performed and identification of how the performance of this skill can be improved.
Learning can occur in three ways:
• cognitive learning – learning by receiving knowledge and information
• affective learning – learning on a social level (e.g. self-esteem and fair-play)
• motor learning – learning by acquiring physical motor skills.
When learning physical skills motor learning is of greatest importance.
Motivational variables are regarded as a critical variable for skill acquisition and are broadly defined as any kind of sensory information related to a response or movement. Intrinsic feedback is response-produced — it occurs normally when a movement is made and the sources may be internal or external to the body. Typical sources of intrinsic feedback include vision, proprioception and audition. External feedback is augmented information provided by an external source, in addition to intrinsic feedback. Extrinsic feedback is sometimes categorized as knowledge of performance or knowledge of results.
Several studies have manipulated the presentation features of variable information (e.g., frequency, delay, interpolated activities, and precision) in order to determine the optimal conditions for learning
Skill learning is a continuous and dynamic process. When the learner acquires a skill certain changes can be seen in their performance as they move through stages of learning from a beginner through to a skilled performer. These changes can be analysed in three stages, as developed by Paul Fitts and Michael Posner in 1967 These stages are known as the cognitive, associative and autonomous stages of skill acquisition.
Each individual brings unique qualities, characteristics and experiences to the learning environment. These experiences and characteristics influence the capacity of the learner to acquire skills. These include inherited, social and emotional factors, and are the reason why individuals develop skills at different rates even though they may be exposed to the same training.
In addition to the characteristics a learner brings to the situation, everything outside the learner needs to be considered in terms of the impact on the learning process. This includes the nature, or complexity of the skill to be learnt, the performance elements, the types of practice to be used, the surrounding environment and the nature of feedback.

In order to improve performance, an athlete’s performance needs to be analyzed. In some sports and activities such as Olympic gymnastics, an assessment of skill and performance is used to determine competition results. There are a number of processes we can use to distinguish between a skilled and unskilled performer. The development of objective and subjective performance measures is two ways in which appraisal and evaluation of a performance can be done

The specificity of the implication of motivational variables in skills acquisition suggests that learning is most effective when practice sessions include environment and movement conditions which closely resemble those required during performance of the task — replicating the target skill level and context for performance. It suggests that the benefit of specificity in practice occurs because motor learning is specific to the feedback sources available during the process of skill learning. Contrary to previous beliefs, skill learning is not accomplished by shifting from one source of feedback to another, or reducing the importance of feedback for information critical to task performance. The learning process, especially for a difficult task, results in the creation of a representation of the task where all relevant information pertaining to task performance is integrated. This representation becomes tightly coupled with increasing experience performing the task. As a result, removing a significant source of information after a practice period where it was present causes performance to deteriorate (see relative frequency of knowledge of results for example – motor learning). Interestingly, the converse is also true: adding a significant source of information after a practice period where it was absent also causes performance to deteriorate.

1. Kurt z, Lisa A. (2007). Understanding Motor Skills in Children with Dyspepsia, ADHAM, Autism, and Other Learning Disabilities: A Guide to Improving Coordination (KP Essentials Series) (KP Essentials). Jessica Kingsley Pub. ISBN 1-84310-865-8.
2. Lee, Timothy Donald; Schmidt, Richard Penrose (1999). Motor control and learning: a behavioral emphasis. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. ISBN 0-88011-484-3.
3. Stallings, Loretta M. (1973). Motor Skills: Development and Learning. Boston: WCB/McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-697-07263-0.
4. Joseph, R. (2000). “The evolution of sex differences in language, sexuality, and visual–spatial skills”. Archives of Sexual Behavior 29 (1): 35–66.
5. Schott, G. (1993). “Penfield’s homunculus: a note on cerebral cartography”. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 56 (4): 329–333. doi:10.1136/jnnp.56.4.329.
6. Rijpkema, M., Everaerd, D., van der Pol, C., Franke, B., Tendolkar, I., & Fernandez, G. (2012).Normal sexual dimorphism in the human basal ganglia. Human Brain Mapping, 33(5), 1246–1252. doi: 10.1002/hbm.21283.
7. Raz, N., Gunning-Dixon, F., Head, D., Williamson, A., & Acker, J. (2001). Age and sex differences in the cerebellum and the ventral pons: A prospective mr study of healthy adults. American Journal of Neuroradiology, 22(6), 1161–1167. doi: 11415913.
8. Becker, J., Berkley, K., Geary, N., Hampson, E., Herman, J., & Young, E. (2008). Sex differences in the brain: From genes to behavior. (p. 156). New York, NY: Oxford University Press, Inc.

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