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Developing Skills

Developing Skills

Young players pass through various stages from first learning a skill to mastering it. The length of time this takes will depend on the individual player and the quality of coaching.

Factors to be considered

The ability of the coach to teach or demonstrate the skill.

The skills must flow from simple to complex.

Some players will learn at a faster rate.

Phases of skill learning

In general, players pass through three stages of skill learning, these include: 

  1. Early stage
    • Where large numbers of errors occur as the player attempts to perform the skill. The coach needs to provide demonstrations, verbal instructions and positive corrective feedback to encourage the player. 
  2. Intermediate stage 
    • Where the player has achieved a basic level of competence and can start to perform the skill at a faster rate and practise it in an appropriately structured competitive situation. The coach is required to have the player practise with opposition and in game like situations. 
  3. Advanced stage 
    • When the skill becomes automatic the player can perform the skill under pressure without consciously thinking about it. The coach extends the players by working on advanced skills and team plays and players are encouraged to evaluate their own performances. 

Individual skills

Skill can be categorised as an individual skill or team skill.

Once the player has learnt the basic individual skills, they should be further developed into game-like situations at training.

The player is then required to make decisions about what to do with the ball, when to do it and how to execute the skill under pressure.

However, it is vital that the basic skills of the game are taught correctly. The effective coach must break the skill down into simple manageable segments before progressing to more advanced skills.

Teaching skills

Training should be based on the notion that perfect practice makes perfect.

The coach is responsible for conducting practices that achieve the objectives for the practice session. In preparing a skill teaching episode within the training session, an effective coach should: 

  • Know how to introduce a skill.
  • Know the key points to emphasise.
  • Recognise skill errors.
  • Know how to rectify skill faults.
  1. How to introduce a skill
    • Players must understand the need to learn and practise skills. As a coach it is essential to highlight the importance of why a skill needs to be practised. Using video from training and or match-day, or after consultation with the player, the coach can establish with a player the reasons why certain skills need to be practised.
  2. Know the key points to emphasise
    • To create an effective learning situation, the coach must take into account the following points:
      • Minimise the number of teaching points. Don’t confuse the player with a long list of instructions – keep it simple.
      • When teaching an advanced skill, break it down into simple manageable stages.
      • Ensure the skill is being performed correctly as practise makes permanent actions. During a training session, a coach should spend time observing and analysing various aspects of the session. Not only should the coach observe the general performance of the team, but the coach must also analyse the specific performance of individual players within the group.
      • Finally, communicate with the player using as many senses as possible. In teaching skills, a coach can communicate by showing/demonstrating or by asking the player to see their own movement by providing instructions. (Kinesthetic Learning, Visual Learning & Auditory Learning).
  3. Recognising skill errors
    • An important part of skill teaching is to determine whether correction is necessary.
      • One procedure in identifying skill error is as follows:
      • Watch the player carefully over a period.
      • Identify where there is a difference between the player’s performance and the desired performance.
      • If possible, video the player to confirm these observations.
      • Identify under what conditions the problem occurs.
      • Measure the extent of the problem.
      • Determine whether the problem needs refining that is, is the problem restricting the player’s development?
      • Determine whether the problems is only a reflection of the player’s individual style.
      • If there are multiple causes of the problem, decide on what error to correct first.
    • Repetition with corrective feedback, praise for effort and encouragement enables learning to occur.
  4. Rectifying skill faults
    • There are broad techniques that coaches should use to remedy problems in the performance of a skill:
      • Rebuild the skill. When the performance deviates markedly from the desired model.
      • Renovate the skill. When the performance only partially deviates from the desired model. Correct the component that is causing the error.

The SPIR Method for teaching skills


Name the skill

Demonstrate the whole skill

Give your teaching points (no more than three points)

Ask if there are any questions


Demonstrate the skill once again

Get the player to practice immediately


Use manageable groups

Stand back and observe each performer

Offer advice


Praise players for good efforts

Acknowledgement of Country

The Dolphins respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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