Abilities are the building blocks of sport and therefore without them skills would not be able to develop fully. Examples of abilities needed in sport are hand-eye coordination, flexibility and speed. Abilities are innate and are largely determined genetically.
There are two different categories of ability - psychomotor ability and gross motor ability. Psychomotor ability is the processing of information and initiation of a movement, for example reacting quickly to a starting gun in a sprint race. Gross motor ability involves actual movement, for example the speed you sprint.
Techniques are the basic movements of any sport or event, for example a block start in a sprint race. They can be combined to form a pattern of movement. This is done in triple jump where there is a running stage followed by a hop, skip and jump. Techniques are learnt and developed and all sports people must possess them.
In 'Information and skill', Professor GP Meredith defined skill as:
'The successful integration of a hierarchy of abilities
appropriate to a given task under given conditions.'
He is saying that skill is made up of a number of abilities. Therefore, to develop a skill you need to have ability. In 'Advanced PE for Edexcel' by Galligan et al, 2000, the following equation is given:
SKILL = ABILITY + TECHNIQUE
This equation shows that ability and technique are associated with skill. In order to be able to perform a skill correctly, the correct technique is needed. To be able to learn the technique, you need to have the necessary abilities. For example, in gymnastics, the abilities of balance, strength and flexibility are needed to learn the correct technique to perform a handstand, which is the skill. Without ability and technique, a skill will not be able to develop fully.
A quote by Knapp in 1963 states that:
'Skill is gained through learning. Skill is said to be learned behavior.'
Both skill and technique are learnt and developed, whereas ability is innate. Because skill and technique are learnt, they are dependent on practice to be able to progress. As ability is innate, you are born with specific abilities, which will help you to develop skills and techniques. For example, if you are of average height, have good coordination and have an abundance of fast-twitch fibres in your legs then you have the ability to become a sprinter. Although ability is said to be innate, research has shown that some abilities can be enhanced, especially in early childhood. However, innate abilities are needed to reach the highest levels in sport.
There are various methods of teaching a new skill. The pure-part method breaks the skill down into smaller parts, which are learnt separately and practiced until they have been perfected. All of the parts are then joined together to perform the whole skill. This method could be used to teach a tennis serve. The serve would be broken down into four parts - the toss, bringing the racket back, striking the ball and the follow through. Once each of these parts has been learnt and perfected, all of the parts would be joined together so that the learner could perform the whole serve.
The whole-part-whole method is similar to the pure-part method, but the whole skill is performed first before it is broken down into stages. Once each stage has been perfected, the whole skill is then performed again.
The progressive-part method is often referred to as 'chaining' because it is broken down into stages, which are thought of as links of a chain. The person learns the first part, or 'link', and then adds on the second link. The person practices the two links together and then adds the third link, and so on until the whole skill is performed.
To teach a beginner a skill, the best method to use would be a combination of the whole-part-whole method and the progressive-part method. Carrying out the whole skill first allows the learner to see what the whole skill is like so they know what they are aiming to achieve. Breaking the skill down into parts would enable them to concentrate on a small chunk of the skill at a time, so that they can perfect each part. Having performed the whole skill first, they will understand how each part is involved in the skill. After each part has been learnt, it would be useful to then 'chain' the parts together, practicing the first two parts together, and then linking on the third part and so on until they are able to perform the whole skill correctly.
A skill practice for a more experienced person would be based on the pure-part method. This would allow them to practice each part of the skill separately to improve the standard of the overall skill. The whole skill could then be carried out to see how the practice of the individual parts has improved the overall performance of the skill.