Sport Memory Techniques

Memory is the ability to store and recall information. Sport memory involves learning and retaining physical skills. Sound instructional and coaching techniques can accelerate the memory and retention process.

Short-term memory is temporary--about 20-30 seconds; that is, unless we intentionally work on retaining information through repetition and rehearsal. It's capacity is also limited. According to Miller (1956) we can generally retain 7 items or chunks of information plus or minus 2. In contrast, our long-term capacity to remember seems to be unlimited in amount and duration.

Sport Memory: Coaching Tips

Principles for learning motor skills are based in psychology and applied to movements used in performance. The following techniques can facilitate sport skill memory and retention:

1. Help athletes learn skills correctly the first time. Initial learning is most impressionable. Coaches should monitor and guide athletes as much as possible in the early stages of learning. A skill learned incorrectly is often difficult to re-pattern after neurological pathways are established. The more engrained the motor program becomes, the more difficult it is to change.

2. Teach skill rhythms first, then refine the movements. Athletes can learn and recall rhythmic movements more quickly than isolated movements, just as rhymes are more readily remembered in verbal learning.

3. Chunk movements. Movements can be learned and processed if they are “chunked” or grouped into larger movements. This grouping increases an athlete’s capacity to learn and perform sport skills. Break skills down only as much as is necessary.

4. Make new skills meaningful. Explain and demonstrate new skills so that the athlete understands what the skill requires and why it is executed that way. Also make clear how a skill applies to sport performance.

5. Associate new skills and concepts with well learned skills. Athletes learn new skills more quickly if key movement concepts are relevant to them. Knowing an athlete's previous experience is helpful for creating associations.

6. Point out specific cues or concepts that require the athlete's attention. Intention to remember alerts an athlete to important aspects of a skill or situation.

7. Overlearn skills to correct errors. Overlearning means practicing skills beyond what was necessary to learn them. It is effective when incorrect movement patterns are engrained.

Related pages:

Mental Practice

Training Variation

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