Silverman, S. (1996). A pedagogical model of human performance determinants in sports. In Proceedings of the Pre-Congress Symposium of the 1996 Seoul International Sport Science Congress (pp. 32-41). Seoul, Korea: Korean Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

Sport pedagogy has three major subareas: (a) curriculum, (b) teacher education, and (c) teaching. Time and practice variables are those which have been shown to be the most powerful predictors of student motor skill learning. A similar emphasis should be applied to learning the skill elements that are necessary for competitive performances in sport.

The degree of learning is a function of the ratio of time actually spent on learning and the actual time needed. Underlying this ratio is the need for mastery learning which is developed through good instruction. Mastery learning is in small units, is student focused, and requires students to master a unit before moving on to the next. Learning in small manageable chunks is particularly appropriate for linear activities such as swimming and arithmetic.

Effective learning time in activity is called "academic learning time," (ALT-PE). The amount of activity time students spend engaged at an appropriate difficulty level is the most important variable in predicting learning/performance achievement. This holds true with skill learning in sports. Effective practice time is called "beneficial training time" (BTT).

Time spent in subject matter or activities that are specific to competitions, is related to learning and performance change. However, not all time is equal in predicting achievement. Time spent in games or scrimmages has been shown to be negatively related to achievement. They do not conform to the good instructional dynamics of blocks of repetitions with feedback.

Individual student practice is the single most important determinant of success in learning a motor skill. The more a student practices at a high rate of success, the more likely learning will occur. Thus, individual, challenging, and successful practice with equipment is the most effective activity for altering skill competency.

Inappropriate or unrelated practice is negatively related to achievement. Practice that is too hard also negatively impacts learning (students realize they cannot do the activity, "they are no good at it").

At very high levels of practice, learning improvements cease. However, in physical education this level is rarely reached and with the de-emphasis on skill learning in sports which require significant energy output it also is rarely achieved.

Organizational strategies which promote appropriate practice are important. Students and athletes need to spend sufficient time for learning to occur and to be translated into consistent performance. Practicing for a day or two and expecting refined movements to result is a misconception that underlies many poor educational and sporting endeavors. This tendency results in a decrement in learning and students/athletes playing games at inappropriate skill levels. Such resulting situations "turn-off" students to the activity, their perception being that they are "not good enough" to do the activity. Many physical education situations are actually teaching students not to do activities rather than building their skill repertoires.


  1. Time spent in games and scrimmages is negatively related to skill achievement. Instructional and practice time should be spent performing individual skills, not games or "simulations."
  2. Individual appropriate practice is the single most influential variable associated with skill achievement. Since most sports have skill as a primary component for performance, BTT (beneficial training time) would seem to be a major requirement for effective coaching.
  3. Appropriate skilled practice (blocks of repetitions with feedback organized in a developmental progression) should be maximized.

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