Our brain is a gigantic neural network; its minuscule neurons amount to one of the most complex machines on earth. Each neuron is connected by synapses to several thousand other neurons, communicating among themselves using axons. Said axons are capable of emitting signals, also known as the action potential, targeting specific recipient cells.
Now let’s take this almost infinite number of neurons and add the five traditionally recognized senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch; some muscles and you have developed an intelligent and complex system that is capable of emotions, learning, thinking, and memorizing – a human being!
When an individual wants to learn a new skill or improve an existing one information needs to be brought to the brain via one of these channels or a combination of them. And even though neuronal circuitries differ slightly for each of us, they remain similar in terms of how we learn.
The use of different channels when learning skills
Let’s have a look at the different senses we use when learning:
- Sight: A visual learner responds to a task using sight.
- Touch: A tactile learner responds to a task using touch and feel.
- Hearing: An auditory learner responds to a task using the sense of sound perception.
- Gustation: A gustatory learner responds to a task using taste.
- Olfaction: A olfactory learner responds to a task using smell.
Knowing that most athletes learn using all these channels helps draft a coaching technique that is effective for all of us. An experienced coach will create an environment for his athletes where they will train using the style(s) they prefer.
Furthermore, establishing an efficient form of communication, whether it is providing technical feedback on perfecting a known movement or giving instructions on how to execute a novel movement, is critical for the coaching process.
Match your athlete’s specific learning style?
As we have mentioned above there are different types of learners. A closer look at these three will gives us a good overview.
Decoding information through careful observations and their detailed presentation is the most common and dominant way we learn. Watching another gymnast execute a movement or a video of the previous scenario is highly effective.
These learners easily process information that is transmitted in a spoken form. Providing these athletes with a verbal explanation and sounds, such as audiobooks and podcast, is the path to choose.
Tactile learners absorb information through touch and feel. They need to experience the movement with their own body to fully understand what kind of motion is required and necessary. To them, it is very important to perform the whole series of moves. A coach should break up the movement to-be-learned into smaller, more specific fragments and let the athletes run through them one by one slowly until the whole movement can be performed at once. Any correction should be done immediately and during training.
Coaching with paired modality
To boost the learning process, coaches should go for a mixed-method involving more than one of these techniques. The more channels of information perception are included (check out it if you haven’t yet) in the coaching cycle the easier it will be for the athletes to attain and reproduce any given movement or skill.
First, the coach could show his student a movement. This could be done via a physical demonstration on the spot or via video. Apart from that, the coach should incorporate at least one more sensory channel. He could help the athlete execute any given movement or skill by breaking it up into smaller bits. Furthermore, it should be noted that a single coaching style for an entire group of athletes is not feasible.
Remember: Different people mean different learners. They each have a channel or combination that works best for them and only them. Additionally, a coach should also adapt his training style to the pressure of competition and performance pressure as this will significantly impact training success.
What does this mean for the sport of golf?
Striking a golf ball into the distance with precision is a skill. One not easy to learn and challenging to master. As comforting and relaxing this sport may be for many it remains a highly competitive one for most. As with most things in life, practice makes perfect, or at least better.
Same goes for golf. If one wants to enjoy the sport or even compete at it, there is no way around practice. There are countless movements, rules, and skills that must be learned, remembered and perfected. This ranges from the proper posture when going for a putt to the flexibility of one’s Latissimus Dorsi. Swings must be accurate and drives flawless. With proper coaching and guidance, however, this can be achieved a lot quicker. Teaching anything correctly comes down to what perception channels are used, in what combination and for whom it is meant. It’s essential to build coaching classes and lessons according to these parameters.
There are five traditionally recognized senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch.
To shape the coaching of athletes as effectively as possible, one should include at least sight, touch, and hearing. A variety of different perception channels should always be used at once to simplify an exercise and reduce the time it takes to master it. It is important to tap into the capabilities of our brains and develop these new techniques that boost learning skills.
Here at SensuSport, we are dedicated to this mission. SensuGlasses are a thought-through training device that allows coaches and athletes to include multiple perception channels into their training schedule. Because the dominant sense of sight is taken away, our brain is forced to adjust and develop the other senses.
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Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), 2019. educationplanner.org. [Online] Available at http://www.educationplanner.org/students/self-assessments/learning-styles-styles.shtml
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Sorabji, R., 1971. Aristotle on Demarcating the Five Senses, Richard Sorabji. The Philosophical Review, 80(1), pp. 55-79.