- Demonstration's that are done at full speed may not allow players to identify the key mechanics of the move.
- Changing the demonstration to slow motion allows players to create a path to success (albeit slowly).
- As the player repeats the technique (correctly), the brain starts to automate the process which will speed things up over time.
- If mistakes are made, players can take their time, find them and fix them so that they can build their path to success and then automate it.
Usually I am a fan of demonstration's at full speed (show the player the desired end product). However, sometimes is more beneficial to slow things down and demonstrate in slow motion. This way, players are able to identify and break down the mechanics of the move and take their time in getting the skill correct. This is especially true for technique and skill development for the first time - I'm thinking specifically about the number of adjustments needed for a player to perform the Cruyff turn for the first time. A very real issue I've faced recently.
It's possible for players to look at a coach doing their demonstration at full speed and become disillusioned straight away. "That looks difficult" "I'm not sure I can do that move, I'll stick to the one I already know". This is an unfair comparison because the coach has typically had years worth of practice that the player hasn't seen and can't possibly know about. The player's unfair comparison holds them back from trying the move and refining it.
The coach can help here by removing this bias for the player. Firstly, be sure to mention just how long it took you to acquire the skill and refine it over time. Secondly, use slow motion demo's in order to allow players to mimic it in slow motion and create a path to success.
Automation and Creating a Path to Success
Once players are able to slow the technique down and perform it slowly (but correctly) this creates a path they can follow again in the future. I found a great analogy for this below:
The "gold mine" is the skill that you want to achieve e.g. the Cruyff turn. The "faint, little path" at the beginning is that slow demonstration the coach used to show you how to get there. And by "deciding to go find it" the player has started to create their own path to the gold mine (or the Cruyff turn).
As players repeat and refine the move and use that path to get there, their footsteps go over the same ground over and over again making a very clear path to come back to in future. Scientifically, the players brain paves it's neurons with myelin. The more myelin the neurons are wrapped in, the faster the signals in those neurons can go. So over time, the more players repeat and refine the move and make that path clearer, the faster they'll be able to do it in future. This is the process of automaticity. The brain takes those paths that the player has created by practicing over and over again and makes them automatic.
The Fix-It Focus Approach
There are some complications though. The technique has to be the correct one otherwise you're solidifying a technique and making it faster and more automatic, even though it might not be correct. These mistakes need to be identified, and it's your role as the coach to find them and help the players fix them. By demonstrating slowly, players may even be able to identify them for themselves. But it has to be done slowly so that they can identify and refine their own practice.
In order to make sure you're on the right path to the correct technique, players and coaches must take a "fix-it focused" approach. This means working slowly enough to ensure that you're getting it right. No rushing. No guessing. Demonstrate slowly, try it slowly, hone each part of the move.
Is my standing foot planted next to the ball? Have I turned my foot inwards? Am I chopping or caressing the ball through? Which part of the foot makes contact with which part of the ball?
If you take your time at this stage, you can find any mistakes, fix them immediately and get back to creating that path to success, that correct technique, that gold mine!
As coaches and players start to understand the benefits of slower demonstrations, the path to successful technique and the fix-it focused approach it becomes apparent that mistakes are your new best friend. A mistake is any result that you didn't want to get and it's a highlighter pen showing you exactly where to apply the fix-it focused approach in order to tweak, hone and refine in order to get the technique right.
This approach is primarily for early stages of development and new skill acquisition. As players become more technically proficient, I believe it is imperative that demonstrations are done at speed in order to paint the picture for players. This helps keep things game realistic and sets high practice standards and environments for players to train in.