I’m reading “Attention and Motor Skill Learning,” by . So far I’m seeing that many studies have been done that suggest one’s attention affects motor skill learning, performance, and retention and shows that relevant external foci generally improves these three compared to internal foci. As I’ve been playing around with trying to figure out where students’ or instructors’ attention is focused, I’ve noticed that we use a lot of internally focused tasks: push down on the toes, Dorsey flex, plantar flex, roll the ankle, curve the spine, tighten up the core, for some examples. Then it occurred to me that PSIA’s five fundamentals of skiing contain much more external foci than internal.
Here are the five fundamentals:
- Control the relationship of the center of mass to the base of support to direct pressure along the length of the skis.
- Control pressure from ski to ski and direct pressure toward the outside ski.
- Control edge angles through a combination of inclination and angulation.
- Control the skis rotation with leg rotation, separate from the upper body.
- Regulate the magnitude of pressure created through ski/snow contact.
One could argue that 3 and 4 have an internal focus (and maybe 4 to a greater degree). You almost have to define what body parts are doing what to create inclination and angulation; and figuring out what leg rotation separate from the upper body mean. But I think these five fundamentals are generally more externally focused.
Also consider that in movement analysis models, and skiing maneuver descriptions, we (PSIA, pro skiing) break performance down into ski performance and body performance. One could say that attention to ski performance could be defined as an external focus and attention to body performance could be seen as an internal focus.
So how would this apply to how we teach, how we perform, and how fast/long we retain motor skills in our sport? Of course the measure is where a subject’s performance level lies on the Fitts & Posner model of motor skill acquisition.
Does an external focus while teaching help a student develop autonomous motor skills faster? If it does, then how can one practice using externally focused coaching and teaching techniques to better facilitate success? Do we switch focus of attention based on the types of intelligence a student or athlete has?