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CLASSICATION OF SKILLS. Analysis of movement skills enables us to understand their requirements and decide on the best ways to teach, practise and improve them. To analyse movement skills psychologists have identified a range of characteristics.

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classication of skills
  • Analysis of movement skills enables us to understand their requirements and decide on the best ways to teach, practise and improve them.
  • To analyse movement skills psychologists have identified a range of characteristics.
  • It is difficult to be precise about classification as skills may have elements of all the characteristics or may change depending on the situation in which the skill is performed.
  • The use of continua allows us to show that skills have characteristics to a greater or lesser extent depending on the situation.
  • A continuum is an imaginary scale between two extremes and is usually represented in linear form, eg.
  • Freezing Cold Warm Hot Boiling
the six continua






muscular involvement continuum gross fine

This classification examines the precision of the movement.

Gross skills:involve large muscle groups with little precision.

Fine skills: involve small muscle groups and intricate movements. They usually involve accuracy and hand-eye coordination.

Gross Fine

Running wrist/finger action of

Swimming a spin bowl in cricket

environmental continuum open closed
  • This is concerned with how the environmental conditions affect the skill
  • The environment includes all factors that affect the performance in that situation eg. Opponents, team mates, playing surface.
  • If the skill is performed outdoors the weather may also be a factor.

Open skills: These skills are affected by the environment and have to be adapted to suit the situation. They are predominantly perceptual and involve decision making. and are usually externally paced.

Closed skills: are not affected by the environment and are always performed in the same way. They follow a set technical model and are usually self-paced.

Open Closed

A chest pass in a vault in

Netball/basketball gymnastics

continuity continuum discrete serial continuous
Continuity Continuum (Discrete-Serial-Continuous)

Discrete skills: have a clear beginning and end.

Serial skills: have a number of discrete elements that are put together in a definite order to make a movement or sequence

Continuous skills: have no definite beginning or end. The the end of one cycle of the movement is the start of the next.

Discrete Serial Continuous

A catch Triple jump Cycling

A penalty kick Trampoline sequence Swimming

pacing continuum self paced externally paced
  • This concerns the level of control the performer has over the timing of the movement skill, relating to when starts and the rate at which it is performed.

Self-paced skills: the performer decides when to start the movement and the speed at which it is carried out. These are often closed skills.

Externally paced skills: The control of the skill is determined by the environment, such as a starting gun, opponents or the weather. They are often open skills and involve reacting to the situation.

Self-paced Externally paced

High jump Receiving a pass in hockey

Serving in badminton Windsurfing

difficulty continuum simple complex
Difficulty continuum (Simple-complex)
  • The complexity of the movement is determined by the amount of information to be processed, decision making involved, time available, quantity of sub-routines and use of feedback.

Simple skills: have little information to be processed, few decisions to be made, few sub-routines in which the speed and timing are not critical.

Simple skills may still be difficult to learn or perform!

Complex skills: have a high perceptual load and many decisions need to be made. The skill will have many sub-routines where speed and timing are critical and will involve feedback.

Simple Complex

Sprinting Tennis serve

Swimming Volleyball smash

organisatonal continuum low high
  • This concerns how closely linked the sub-routines of the movement are.

Low organisation skills: are made up of sub-routines that can easily be separated, practiced by themselves and then put back into the whole skill.

High organisation skills: in these the sub-routines are very closely linked together and difficult to separate without disrupting the skill. Highly organised skills are usually practiced as a whole.

Low High

Swimming stokes Cartwheel

Trampoline sequence Golf swing