The Learning Process
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Benefits of General Physical Preparedness (GPP)

Physical Fitness and Preparedness  
      General Physical Preparedness (GPP) plays a vital role in developing every athlete's physical abilities. As they progress their movements become effortless and both good and poor quality motor skills are reinforced. GPP is great for developing motor skills.

      Athletes need to schedule performing the same tasks at the beginning and end of a practice session to duplicate their performance in a free skating program. The reasoning behind this that every skater is affected from mental and physical fatigue starting approximately 50% through their program, depending on their conditioning. The longer the program, the more acute the skater's fatigue factors into the possibility of serious errors.

      The key to success in any athletic performance is making the difficult tasks easy to perform. Repetitions reinforce the motor patterns into the subconscious mind and allow the skill(s) to be performed even as fatigue sets in. Fatigue causes mental and physical skills to degrade, so achieving good technique is very important in performing the movements automatically when fatigued.

      A child needs to develop physical skills (doing, playing and coordination), plus the growth of their intellectual and emotional capabilities.  This type of development applies specifically to sport and games. But it also applies to many other activities such as learning to play a musical instrument, using a computer keyboard and mouse, controlling a brush or pencil in art art class, legible cursive hand writing, using all hand and power tools, riding a bicycle, etc..

      An athlete who has excellent coordination, with exceptional gross and fine motor skills, and some natural talent will allow them to generally be successful in most sports.

      Coordination is one of ten recognized general physical skills. They include the following abilities of the body's systems:
  • Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance –  To gather, process, and deliver oxygen.
  • StaminaTo process, deliver, store, and utilize energy.
  • StrengthTo apply force a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units,
  • FlexibilityTo maximize the range of motion at a given joint.
  • Power To apply maximum force in the minimum time by a muscular unit, or combination of muscular units,
  • SpeedTo minimize the time cycle of a repeated movement.
  • Coordination – To combine several distinct movement patterns into a singular distinct movement.
  • Agility To minimize transition time from one movement pattern to another.
  • BalanceTo control the placement of the bodies center of gravity in relation to its support base.
  • AccuracyTo control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity
      There are distinct stages for psychomotor skills, emotional and intellectual growth that can be tracked, monitored, and enhanced through training.

Stages of Developing Mastery of Skills
      There are three stages that are required to master skills:

  • Observation and ImitationSomeone who is proficient in the skill will demonstrate the correct way to perform the skill. Following the demonstration specific tips should be provided by breaking the skills down into small sections.
A video camera, with stop motion, is very helpful at this stage. It allows the learner to see exactly what they’re doing, and to compare it with what they will be attempting to mimic.
  • Practicefocuses on improving the coordination of physical movements and the timing involved in performing a skill requiring multiple steps that must be performed in a precise order to complete the task successfully.  Feedback is an essential part of the process to avoiding making a mistaken technical error permanent. After completing this stage, the learner should be competent, but this does not infer that they are an expert.
  • Conversion of skill to an automatic subconscious process. At this point, the individual can use their conscious thought process to enhance and master the skill.
      Upon reaching the final stage, the learner has the potential to transfer the acquired technical concepts to other skills and thus avoid starting over completely to "reinvent the wheel" with every new task/skill they wish to learn.

College Athletes Need to Acquire Life Skills Training
      Less than 1 percent of college athletes are able to successfully transition into a career as a professional athlete, emphasizing the importance of a student athlete to learn life skills during his college career. Life skill training is an essential set of human skills that prepares an athlete for daily life after college and participation in competitive athletics.

Time management skills
      Management of time is an essential skill for effective elite athletes. Athletes who master these techniques routinely are the highest achievers, even those under intense pressure, in all walks of life, from sport to business. Firstly, it is important to identify and concentrate on the things that matter most. This ensures that you achieve the greatest benefit possible with the limited amount of time available to you.

Psychological Skills are Important for Athletes to develop
      An athlete needs to learn the cognitive skills and strategies that are necessary. Athletes and coaches frequently think the only way to win is to practice longer and harder - they are reluctant to include psychological tools in their training and performance regime. To be a better athlete does not necessarily mean that you must train harder or longer. It could mean that you need to address all the components that make up a successful athletic performance - mental as well as physical. Most athletes do not understand that the failure to achieve was related to poor or inadequate preparation of psychological strategies.

      The percentage of a sport that is mental versus physical is at a minimum of 50:50. Many coaches feel the mental and emotional aspects become more important as the athlete reaches the elite status where all of the athletes have worked long and hard to acquire the technical skills sets required to be successful in their sport.

      How often do athletes practice the mental side? Aside from the mental skills that come naturally to some athletes, coaches so not spend much time on developing the mental skills.

      Athletes need to build the essential skills necessary to be a fierce competitor. In addition to athletes learning tangible skills, they must work on establishing a greater self awareness that enables them to
successfully manage their performances. The emphasis of Sport Psychology training should be all about acquiring the mental skills that can make the difference in performing with confidence and have fun. As a byproduct, an athlete can achieve their personal best performance. There is no guarantee that someone else may have a great performance and place higher.

      Most athletes respond well to a simple, well structured training routine that maximizes the use of limited time. A basic training plan is outlined below.

Warm-up Activities
      A warm-up should include an aerobic section and is a good place to teach tempo and rhythm, timing, and moving to different types of music. Dance movements that relate to lively music will be a fun activity for the athletes, as well as training for essential body skills.

      Each athlete should devote part of their warm-up to stretching. This can also be done to music. Music with a slower tempo will encourage long, slow stretches. Graceful, flowing music is ideal for practicing arm and body movements. It is important to transition between the exercises and to include exercises that target all parts of the body.

Cross Training
      Cross training is the use of other activities and exercises offers a number of benefits including injury prevention, burning calories, increasing endurance, and the rejuvenation of mind and spirit from participating in something new.

      Skating depends on developing the quadriceps (thigh muscles) and gluteals (buttocks) which are major sources of power in your legs.  Running impacts the knees, ankles and hips. Cycling does not impact these joints while working on the same major muscle groups used in skating, but with variations that will strengthen some associated muscle groups.

      There are many weight lifting exercises that will be beneficial to you by making you stronger and faster.  Some that are particularly effective include:

      A skaters core body includes the whole central section of the body all the way from the pelvis and hips up through the midsection. Skaters must become strong and flexible to allow stresses to be properly distributed throughout your body, provide support your spine, and to allow the flexibility now required in advanced step sequences.

      A core body training program must address the need to exercise a lot of muscles that work differently, but must work together in concert with each other. You can't just focus on abdominal muscles or think in terms of isolating muscle groups to just strength them. Seek the advice of a trained professional to develop a training regime customized for your body.

Skipping Rope 
      Simple rope skipping is a great way to enhance your agility - the ability to rapidly change directions without the loss of speed, balance, or body control.  Increasing foot mobility is one of the results of jumping rope. However, as fatigue sets in basic rhythm and tempo begins to break down. 

      Use a progressive system of increasing quickness and length of sessions. General Physical Preparation (GPP) should be done on a daily basis not only to enhance a skater's workload threshold and motor skill development, but their concentration level during difficult training.

      Athletes need to perform difficult tasks under difficult conditions to increase reactive strength and reflexes. A program of testing and evaluation of motor skill development is essential to achieving training goals. Testing should measure all qualities an athlete needs to become successful.

Recommended Reading:
  • Fundamental motor skill development   The fundamental skill phase of development begins in early childhood at about two to three years, and individuals have the potential to be fully proficient in most of them by about six years.
   Fundamental motor skills (i.e. hopping, jumping, skipping, kicking, throwing, catching etc.) are prerequisites to learning of sport specific skills (basketball, football, gymnastics, tennis, badminton, etc.).  Sport specific skills are comprised of fundamental skills. It is very difficult to obtain proficiency in sport skills unless the prerequisite fundamental skills are present.  A person's gross motor skill development depends on both their muscle tone and strength.
  • Gross Motor Skill Development  Gross motor skills are defined as the movements of the large muscles of the body that involve such essential activities such as walking and sitting upright, plus sports related skills such as kicking, lifting, throwing a ball, etc..
   There are five senses that are commonly discussed: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell. One overlooked sense, known as proprioception and kinesthesia, is the sensation of joint motion and acceleration that provides the sensory feedback mechanisms for motor control and posture. This sense allows the brain to unconsciously keep the body oriented and balanced while sending out immediate and unconscious adjustments to the muscles and joints in order to achieve movement and balance.

   A great amount of training in motor activities relies on enhancing proprioception activities.  Proprioception input comes from sensory receptors or nerves inside the body rather than on the skin's surface.

   Learning any new motor skill involves training our body's proprioceptive sense which involves our ability to move our arms or legs in a precise way without looking at them.  Proprioception is so automatic that our conscious mind barely notices it. Thus it does not receive the attention it deserves in a training program; however, the ability can be trained, as can any other motor activity.

   Gross motor skills include:

  • Fine Motor Skill Development   skills are our ability to use our fingers, hands, and arms together to reach, grasp, manipulate small objects such as forks, spoons, crayons and scissors.  Through the process of coordinating Fine Motor Skills integrated with our abilities enable us to learn complex skills such as tying a shoe lace, fastening buttons, eating with a fork & knife, and printing, handwriting, typing, etc.
  • Sensory Integration  deals with how the brain processes multiple sensory modality inputs into usable functional outputs. It is believed that inputs from different sensory organs are processed in different areas in the brain. However, different regions of the brain may not be solely responsible for only one sensory modality, but could use multiple inputs to perceive what the body senses about its environment.
   The communication within and between specialized areas of the brain is known as functional integration. Sensory integration is necessary for every activity that we perform because the combination of multiple sensory inputs is essential for us to comprehend our surroundings.
  • Hand-Eye Coordination   is complex because it involves the visual guidance of both the eyes and hands, while simultaneously using eye movements to optimize vision.  Normal eye–hand coordination involves the synergistic function of several sensorimotor systems, including the visual system, vestibular system, proprioception, and the eye, head, and arm control systems, plus aspects of cognition-like attention and memory.
Eye-hand Coordination   What is eye-hand coordination?

Visual Motor Skills - training eye/hand coordination, visual    They range from simple to quite difficult, training eye/hand coordination, visual closure, visual scanning, visual tracking, and fine motor control.
How to Improve Hand-Eye Coordination

  • Learning and Learning Theories   Stages of Learning. Observation of improvements in performance led researchers to suggest a teacher can help ensure positive transfer of learning in sport skills.
  • Physical Education (HKDSE)    The knowledge and skills acquired in this part also help students explain and regulate the process of motor learning and enhance their sports performance.
  • Coach's Corner - Power Motivation     Negative motivation can result in excessive anxiety and tension, while positive motivation tends to positively energize and arouse the athlete.

The following internet links have been gleaned from personal communications
combined with information from public institutions and athletic organizations/
associations that have a web presence with information concerning team and
individual sports programs:

Fitness Training Plans
Fitness Exercises
Fitness Components For All Ages
Exercising Programs
Firehouse Fitness
Benefits of General Physical Preparedness
Fitness for Sports & Life Activities
Fitness Program Components
PDF  Sports Medicine Links

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