Skill Development & The Brain
Learning a new skill is about correct repeated meaningful repetitions. When a person performs these meaningful skill repetitions enough times, the skill is imprinted into the brain. Neural pathways or engrams are created when the player has performed enough meaningful repetitions. The skill than becomes automatic, the players are able to carry out the skill without thinking. At this point, the skill goes from short-term memory (not automatic yet) to long-term memory (automatic). However, it is important to define what exactly a “meaningful repetition” is, and does the meaning change depending at what level a player is at? In my opinion, when a skill is learned and competency is proven (initial skill learned), the repetitions that follow should be different than the beginning stages of learning, in order for the repetitions to be considered meaningful. This second stage should attempt to account for the many variable ways a skill would actually be used in a game (also involves using strategy). A top golf professional spoke on this topic, saying the only way to improve in golf, during the initial skill acquisition stage was by a method called rote learning, this involves the player hitting lots of balls on the practice fairway, ingraining the technique into the memory, shot after shot after shot, the same way, the same repetition. However, once this initial learning step is completed, the next step should progress to having the player hit lots of different shots, with different clubs and in different environments. At this point, the player is now getting meaningful repetitions by not hitting the exact same shot over and over, but rather constantly hitting different shots in different conditions. The golfer is forced to self-organize and adjust to different lies, course conditions, distances and various obstacles, and this is what really leads to improvement and meaningful repetitions. So after a skill is learned well, it must be trained in unstable environments, forcing adaption and repetition with modifications and strategy.