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Physical learning 

Getting physical with the new activity is the next phase of learning, after understanding the new idea that has been proposed by your instructor or coach.

Early on in the physical learning, the skier is so busy doing the new content, that very little attention can be given to noticing the result. 

The skier needs feedback from the outside, to support or adjust what he or she is doing. This is where coaches and instructors can really give the learner a big boost. 

Initially, this feedback might be instantaneous, for example, supportive or corrective comments during the performance. 

As the skier’s experience of the new issue develops a little, this might change to supportive or corrective advice after he or she has had a moment to reflect and comment on the performance. 

It seems obvious, but sometimes, thankfully rarely, learners will stubbornly resist this feedback. In this phase, you can accelerate your learning by relying on feedback from a trusted source. 

Golden opportunity 11:
Let the feedback shape your performance, in early practice phase. 

This phase of learning is often called the Practice phase, but the name used by instructor and coach educators, is the Associative phase which gives a clue to the real opportunity here.

That is to explore, through physical experience, the relationships and associations between the elements of the performance: movements, co-ordinations, intensities, outcomes, environmental factors etc. 

The intention here is not to reproduce a narrowly defined replica of a model performance, especially for open skills such as snowsports. 

That would develop a fragile, limited performance, which would break down in difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, this is the approach often used by instructors and students alike. 

“Trying to get it right” often results in narrow, restricted performance which creates very little scope for future growth and development. 

“Just tell me what to do and I’ll do it”, is one way that the ego tries to sabotage physical learning. 

By taking a more open approach, in the true spirit of the Associative phase, your body is allowed to perform lots of different experiments, so that it develops a feel for how things “hang together”. 

Learners need the patience to map out the physical variables and experiment with different coordinations. 

Golden opportunity 12:
Experiment. Be patient as you build up physical experience. 

Later in this phase of learning, the learner will still need to think about some aspects of the performance, AND can also start feeling some the results for him/herself. 

This is a very important phase that is often misunderstood. 

The key issue here is that the learner can feel what is going on and can use this as feedback to shape the performance. 

Golden opportunity 13:
Feel the results for yourself, in late practice phase. 

Importantly, external feedback at this stage will short circuit your sensitivity and put you back into early practice phase. 

This really does obstruct your progress. 

So a skilled instructor or coach will be reluctant to give external feedback at this stage. 

Instead, he or she will help you to do the work of tuning in and becoming a sensitive, self-managing performer. 

Golden opportunity 14: Don’t become a feedback junkie. 

It’s important to ski lots of disciplined, varied mileage at this stage, tuning in to specific qualities that are drawn to your attention by your instructor or coach. 

This will achieve two specific results for you. 

Firstly, the quality of your performance will soar – accuracy, consistency and sensitivity are developed here. This feels great; you’ll start to have even more fun. 

Fun becomes a very important feedback process from here on! 

Golden opportunity 15:
Develop accuracy, consistency, sensitivity and a sense of fun! 

Secondly, the high mileage in this phase moves the management of your performance to the subconscious processes that your body relies on, to produce excellent coordination. 

You’ll begin to think less, while the performance starts to take care of itself. 

A word of caution here: if your ego insists on telling your body what to do, it will block this important transition. Give your ego the job of allowing this transition to take place, rather than trying to control it. 

Golden opportunity 16:
Move it and groove it in the late practice phase. 

To put this in perspective, hundreds of varied repetitions are required, as a minimum. Sometimes thousands. 

There is evidence in the literature showing that grooving and improving techniques continues after millions of repetitions. 

In snowsports, our bodies will probably have worn out before this stage, so take care. But the message is clear 

Golden opportunity 17:
Have a lot of fun with high mileage skiing, to get through to the next level of performance.


That's enough for this article!

We’ll continue with this theme over the next few editions of this newsletter.

You can find other Ski Performance Breakthrough articles, in one convenient place, here.


Best Regards, 


BASS Performance Breakthrough Clinics