Skill, ability and technique can have some clear differences and in some cases some close similarities. All three have a relationship with each other when it comes to performing sports. You can structure practises to enhance these components of fitness.
People often talk about improving our own abilities, but we probably mean ‘skill’ rather than ‘abilities’. We inherit our abilities from our parents. Abilities can include things such as hand-eye coordination, strength, fine motor control, flexibility and speed. You could be a natural sprinter if you are average height, strong, good coordination and have an abundance of fast twitch fibres in your legs then you have the natural ability to be a sprinter.
We often talk about an experienced sportsperson is ‘skilful’, but what do we actually mean by the word ‘skill’?
All of us have different skills for different tasks. For sport there can be special skills requested to perform well and effectively. Skill is a learned ability, which brings about pre-determined results with maximum certainty, for example to choose when to perform the right move at the right time, effectively, consistently and efficiently within a competitive game or activity. It will also be done with minimum time and effort. We often see a top sportsperson perform in a seemingly effortless way. Its not until we try it ourselves we soon realise just how difficult it really is. Even though we know these performers are extremely fit but they don’t seem to put in the sufficient amount of effort but the end product still looks good, even if it’s a gymnasts somersault or a perfectly timed rugby tackle. A skilled performer knows exactly what they are trying to achieve and usually succeeds in their task, which can become practically frustrating for their opposition.
Technique is the way you perform a certain task. It is how a person executes a skill using his own abilities, for example kicking a conversion in rugby; people have different ways of doing it, different techniques. Jonny Wilkinson has a very unique kicking technique to others in rugby. The way he sets the ball up. The amount of steps he takes (3 backwards, 2 to the side), the way he bends his knees and leans back but also keeps his head over the ball, the way he holds his hands together with his arms out fully stretched. The way he steps up to the ball and strikes it with his left foot and follows through after he has kicked it. This is his own personal technique that suits his abilities and works for him. Other kickers will have other techniques that will suit their own abilities.
How can ability be enhanced?
Ability cannot really be enhanced; as it is something natural that is inherited from your parents. However, research has revealed that some abilities can be enhanced to a certain extent, especially in early childhood. Coaches can set up a situation that will bring out the abilities of a person. By doing this they can tell what are an individual or teams strengths and weaknesses and try to improve these to a certain extent by doing training that will help them.
How can skill be enhanced?
Skill can be learned by a lot of practise. There are four ways in which you can practise.
1. Whole practice- this is where you repeat the exercise over and over again without breaking the exercise down. For example dribbling a football. This way the skill will seem more fluent and the components interact with one another closely.
2. Part practice- this is where you break down the skill into separate manageable parts and practise each individually. This is a common way of learning a skill. For example when serving in tennis you learn how to grip the racket, your stance, how to throw the ball up and the swing separately.
3. Variable practice- this is when you practise the sport in various settings. For example a cricketer will play their shot according to the type of ball he will receive, fast/slow, spine/no spin etc.
4. Fixed practice- this is when a skill is practised in the same environmental conditions all the time. For example a golfer will practise his long iron or driver shots repeatedly. The setting of the skill doesn’t change.
When learning a skill it is always good to have some guidance so you know more about what you are doing. Watching someone else perform the skill first can give you a good idea of what to do. This could be a one to one demonstration, by watching a video or looking at a series of pictures.
A skill can also be explain by a coach or teacher so that you have to use your imagination of what the end result maybe. You may also be physically taught. This is when someone guides or manhandles you through the motions of the new skill. This would be done so that you can have a good feel of the skill you are learning. An example of this could be playing a tennis serve, with a coach going over the techniques of the serve, this will be done by standing and holding you so that you go through the correct action with him.
How can technique be enhanced?
Trying out new techniques to see which one has the best results can enhance techniques. People can have different techniques for different sports. There are also different techniques in the same sport too. For example Jonny Wilkinson has a very unique kicking style to anyone else in rugby, but this is a proven technique for him. People have the own individual techniques that can work only for themselves, just like Jonny Wilkinson has.
In conclusion the difference between skill and technique is that skill is a task that Is done well with minimum effort, where as technique is how you perform a certain task. Ability is something that you are born with that may affect the way you perform your skill. There can be very fine line between what is skill and what is technique, a sportsperson maybe skilful at their techniques, this can bring some good results in their sport. There is a strong relationship between all of these and if a person has a good technique at something they can become skilful, if someone also has good ability they could end up as a top sportsperson.