Characteristics of the learner – Improving PDHPE
Study Notes

– Characteristics of the Learner (PEACH)

The rate in which an individual learns the skills required for their sport or activity depends on a number of characteristics. These are personality, heredity, confidence, prior experience and ability. These characteristics are different for each individual, so the rate and extent they acquire these skills can vary from person to person.

Personality

Personality has a great impact on the athlete’s success within their chosen sport or activity. This is because personality can influence their behaviour. Although there are a number of theories regarding personality development, an individual’s personality traits can develop over time due to social influences and past experiences. Personality can influence an athlete’s ability to handle high-pressure situations, e.g. taking a penalty kick in soccer.

It can also influence the athlete during the beginning of their career, as well as their sport choice. For example, an individual who is not motivated to try a new sport or is unwilling to try something new are unlikely participate in the sport or take learning the skills seriously. Additionally, an individual who thrives off social interaction may be more suited to a team sport, rather than an individual sport.

Examples of favourable traits in an athlete include:

– Eager

– Focused

– Motivated

– Self-disciplined

– Determined

– Self-assured

– Positive, even during challenges

– The ability to take constructive criticism and use it to better their performance

It is important for a coach to understand the personality in each athlete they train to ensure the athlete uses their personality traits to their advantage and get the best performance out of the athlete. For example, in the movie “The Waterboy”, the coach uses Bobby’s suppressed anger to motivate him to attack and tackle the quarterback with a high success rate. Furthermore, a coach may be aware of the athlete’s susceptibility to become anxious during high-pressure events, e.g. a soccer player who suffers from anxiety under high pressure may not be chosen by the coach to take one of the five shots at goal during a penalty shoot out in a grand final.

Heredity

Genes passed down from parents can also have an impact on an athlete’s learning and sporting success. An athlete’s genes cannot be changed and can prove to be an advantage or a hindrance. However, genes do not always dictate an athlete’s success, as proven by short basket ballers like Slater Martin and Muggsy Bogues. Muscle fibre type, height and weight, gender and somatotype.

Muscle Fibre Type

An athlete may have more of a certain muscle fibre type, making them more suited to different movement requirements. Those with fast twitch muscle fibres can easier meet the demands of explosive movements such as jumping, whilst those with slow twitch muscle fibres can easier meet the demands of endurance events, such as a marathon run. However, there are also intermediate fibres that can perform slow or fast twitches based on the stimulus applied to it, which can impact the athlete’s performance also.

Gender

Due to males’ higher testosterone levels, they can develop muscles to have more strength and/or power. This is why sports are usually categorised by gender.

Height and weight

Height and weight can impact athlete’s success through the advantage or disadvantage it may provide them. For example a heavier sumo wrestler is likely to win against an average sized man.

Somatotype

Somatotype refers to the athlete’s body shape. It is closely related to height and weight in that it can provide an advantage or disadvantage to the athlete. The 3 somatotypes can be classified as:

– Endomorph (rounder): wide hips, narrow shoulders, pear shaped, high percentage of body fat

– Ectomorph (taller): narrow hips, narrow shoulders, lanky, low percentage of body fat and muscles

– Mesomorph (muscular): narrow hips, broad shoulders, low percentage of body fat, high level of muscles

Confidence

Confidence can develop from previous success in the past, related to sport or not. It can also be fostered by others around the person. Sometimes high levels of confidence can be seen as arrogant, but confidence is required to enable an athlete’s belief in themselves and abilities despite the risk of failing. Athletes with high levels of confidence trust they can overcome any challenges if they apply themselves – this proves especially important in the cognitive and associative stages of learning. Furthermore, any constructive feedback they receive is viewed as an opportunity to improve.

Prior Experience

Any experience of a skill or something similar an athlete has had in the past, can be transferred to the sport. In some cases this can be positive, such as a pass in Rugby Union can be used in AusTag, or it can be negative, such as the flick of the wrist in Squash would not be beneficial in Tennis. The rate and extent of transfer may vary between individuals. Prior experience can be beneficial in regards to tactics and strategies, skills and components of fitness.

Skills

There are some skills that can be directly transferred. For example, skateboarding and snowboarding.

Tactics & Strategies

The same tactics and strategies can be used across different sports. For example, dragging a player out before passing the ball in offense.

Components of Fitness

There are health related components of fitness and skill related components of fitness. If an athlete has a high level of a component already and it is heavily required in their new sport, then the rate of success for the athlete is likely to be higher. For example, cardiorespiratory endurance in tennis can transfer to soccer.

Ability

Is the way in which an individual is able to learn, process and apply new skills – incorporates factors such as sense acuity (sharpness), perception, reaction time and intelligence, which can combine to allow the athlete to do readily what is intended

An athlete who can progress through the stages of skill acquisition quickly is often seen as being “a natural” at the sport. There are a number of factors that come together to allow the athlete to not only understand what is meant to occur, but approach the skill with this knowledge and execute it with success.

These factors can include having a high level of the following:

Coordination – move and control body parts together with accuracy.

Reaction time – react to stimuli quickly and usually with the correct response.

Kinaesthetic sense – aware of body control and position e.g. knowing position of body when attempting a difficult dive.

Spatial awareness – aware of their environment and what is going on. i.e. apparatus, gameplay, field/court/area positioning, teammates and opponents.

Tactical awareness – aware of how apparatus should feel when making contact with body or apparatus. e.g. feeling the ball hit the sweet spot when batting in baseball.

Full Written Notes

Critical question 4: How does the acquisition of skill affect performance?
Characteristics of the Learner (PEACH)

The rate at which an individual learns the skills required for their sport or activity will depends on a number of factors including personality, heredity, confidence, prior experience and ability. Each individual is unique, so the rate and extent they acquire new skills will vary from person to person.

Personality
Personality influences behaviour and has a significant impact on an athlete’s success within their chosen sport or activity. There are a number of theories relating to personality development and individual traits are shaped by social influences and past experiences. Personality can effect an athlete’s ability to handle high-pressure situations, like taking a penalty kick in soccer.

It can also influence how an athlete chooses their sport and their initial career development. For example, individuals who are unmotivated or are reluctant to try something new are unlikely to participate in a sport or take learning skills seriously. Additionally, an individual who thrives off social interaction may be more suited to a team sport, rather than an individual event.

Examples of favourable traits in an athlete include:

– Eagerness
– Focus
– Motivation
– Self-discipline
– Determination
– Self-assurance
– Positivity and optimism, even when challenged
– Ability to take on constructive criticism and use it to better their performance

It is important for a coach to understand the personality of each athlete they train. Shaping programs to the personality traits of an athlete can help them get the most out of each session and improve their overall performance. For example, in the movie “The Waterboy”, the coach uses Bobby’s suppressed anger to motivate him to attack and tackle with a high success rate. An athlete who is susceptibility to anxiety under high-pressure events, will likely not be chosen by a coach to take one of the five shots at goal during a penalty shoot-out in a grand final.

Heredity
Genetics can also have an impact on an athlete’s learning and sporting success. Genetic traits are inherent, which means that they can serve as both an advantage or disadvantage for athletes, depending on their choice of sport. However, genes do not necessarily dictate whether athlete will succeed. Short basketballers like Slater Martin and Muggsy Bogues have both enjoyed success. Examples of genetic traits include muscle fiber type, height, weight, gender and somatotype.

Muscle Fiber Type
An athlete may have more of a certain muscle fiber type, which may influence their movement requirements and abilities. Individuals with fast twitch muscle fibers can easily meet the demands of explosive movements such as jumping. People with slow twitch muscle fibers may find it easier to compete in endurance events, like marathons. There are also intermediate fibers which can perform slow or fast twitches based on the stimulus applied to them, which may also impact the performance of an athlete.

Gender
Individuals with higher testosterone levels are typically able to develop ore power and strength in their muscles. This is the justification used to categorise sports by gender.

Height and weight
The height and weight of an athlete can create advantages or disadvantages for them, impacting their success. For example, a heavier sumo wrestler has an advantage when competing against and average sized individual.

Somatotype
Somatotype describes the body shape of an individual. Similar to height and weight, it can be an advantage or disadvantage to the athlete. The 3 somatotype classifications are:

– endomorph (rounder): wide hips, narrow shoulders, pear shaped, high percentage of body fat
– ectomorph (taller): narrow hips, narrow shoulders, lanky, low percentage of body fat and muscles
– mesomorph (muscular): narrow hips, broad shoulders, low percentage of body fat, high level of muscles

Confidence
Confidence can result from past successes, regardless of whether it was sport related. It can also be nurtured and developed by external factors, like support from friends and family. Sometimes high levels of confidence can be perceived as “cockiness”. Confidence is an essential requirement for an athlete; the must believe in themselves and their abilities despite the risk of failure. Athletes with high levels of confidence trust that they can overcome any challenges if they apply themselves. This confidence is especially important during the cognitive and associative stages of learning. Furthermore, any constructive feedback they receive is viewed as an opportunity to improve, rather than a criticism of their ability.

Prior Experience
Individuals are capable of transferring past knowledge, experience and skills to the development of new skills. This has positive advantages for athletes; a pass in Rugby Union can also be used in AusTag. However, there are negative implications too. The flick of the wrist in Squash is not does not yield the same benefits when playing Tennis. The rate and extent of transfer may vary between individuals. Prior experience can be beneficial in regards to development of tactical and strategic understanding as well as the ability to take on new skills.

Skills
Some athletic skills are directly transferable. For example, there are numerous similarities between the techniques used to skateboard and snowboard.

Tactics & Strategies
Many sports share similar tactics and strategies, for example, dragging a player out before passing the ball in offense.

Components of Fitness
There are health and skill related components of fitness. If an athlete has a high level of a particular component already and it is heavily required in their new sport, then the rate of success for the athlete is likely to be higher. For example, cardiorespiratory endurance in tennis is tranferrable to soccer.

Ability
Ability determines how quickly an individual is able to learn, process and implement new skills. It incorporates a wide range of factors including sense acuity (sharpness), perception, reaction time and intelligence.

An athlete who can move through the stages of skill acquisition quickly is often seen as having a natural ability. There are a number of factors which influence whether the athlete can understand what is meant to occur, approach the skill with this knowledge and execute it correctly. Athletes with high levels of the following attributes will likely enjoy greater rates of success:

– Coordination: ablilty to accurately move and control body parts simultaneously
– Reaction time: ability to react to stimuli quickly and correctly
– Kinaesthetic sense: awareness of body control and position, for example knowing how to position the body when attempting a difficult dive
– Spatial awareness: awareness of the environment relative to the individual, for example, the relative distance of apparatus, gameplay, field/court/area positioning, teammates and opponents
– Tactical awareness: awareness of how the body should respond to contact with apparatus, for example, feeling the ball hit the ‘sweet spot’ when batting in baseball