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In this topic, you will develop knowledge and understanding of the psychological factors
that can affect performers and their performance in physical activity and sport through the
following content. The topic guide will be linked here.

Classification of Skills

Classification of Skills

Skills are classified as either basic or complex, open or closed and/ or high or low organised. However, they may vary and can be organised on the following continua:

Basic and Complex Skills

Basic Skills

These are simple skills requiring little concentration to execute (they are quite generic and can be applied to many activities).

Examples include:

  • Running

  • Catching

  • Jumping

  • Throwing

Examples include:

  • Shot Put

  • Serving in badminton

  • High Jump

  • Taking a penalty

Complex Skills

These are skills requiring a lot of attention/concentration (they are usually specific to a sport and have complicated movements).

Basic and complex skills are based on the difficulty of the skill. Easier skills are basic and harder skills are complex.

Open and Closed Skills

Open Skills

These are skills performed in an unpredictable environment where the performer has to react and adjust due to the changing nature of the situation.

Examples include:​​

  • A pass to a teammate

  • Release of the stone in curling

Closed Skills

These are skills performed in a predictable environment. The performer would be in control of the next move.


Examples include:

  • A gymnast's routine 

  • A trampolinist's routine

Open and closed skills are based on the environment of the skill. Open skills are usually team skills, as a performer must rely on their teammates. Closed skills, on the other hand, are usually individual skills.  

Low and High Organisation Skills

Low Organisation Skills

These are skills that can be broken down easily into different phases so each part can be practised separately

Examples include:​​

  • A tennis serve

  • A front crawl swimming stroke 

High Organisation Skills

These are skills that cannot be broken down easily and practised separately because the phases of the skill are closely linked

Examples include:​​

  • A cartwheel

  • A golf swing 

High and low organisation skills are based on how easily the skill can be broken down. A skill may need to be broken down in order to learn and/or perfect the technique. 

Practice Structures 

Practice structures are various methods to teach or improve a skill. There are four types:



Massed Practice

This method has no breaks between each component of the training session. It is repetitive and good for improving


This method, in contrast to massed practice, has breaks throughout. These breaks are useful as they allow the performer to recover and receive feedback if needed.

Distributed Practice

Fixed Practice

This method repetitively practices a whole skill within a training session. This is used to improve fluency in a specific skill.

This method includes frequent changes of task so that the skill can be repeated in different situations. This is effective for beginners practicing open skills.

Varied Practice

SMART Targets and Goal Setting

SMART Targets and Goal Setting

SMART Targets 

SMART stands for: 

Smart targets can be used to optimise performance and to set goals.
Goal-setting can be beneficial to the performer as they can:
  • Motivate them 
  • Show progression 
  • Record development 
  • Allow adaptations in training 
  • Highlight strengths and weaknesses.

Guidance and Feedback on Performance

Guidance and Feedback on Performance

Guidance on Performance

Guidance is Information to aid the learning of a skill. There are four types you must know about:

Visual Guidance:

This is showing the learners how to do a skill.

It can be done through a demonstration. The demonstration must be accurate and have full attention from the learners, or they may pick up the wrong technique. It can also be done through showing images and videos.


Verbal Guidance:

This is telling the learners how to do a skill.

It may not always be efficient if instructions aren't followed. An example of this can be a teacher describing where to aim when taking a penalty.


Manual Guidance:

This is when a coach physically moves a performer into the correct position or supporting them as they perform a skill. This method can help beginners learn the correct technique but may lead to them becoming dependent. An example is spotting someone whilst they bench press.

Mechanical Guidance:

This is using equipment to help a performer learn a skill. This can be used to improve confidence in dangerous skills. However, this may be expensive and could lead to the performer becoming dependent on the aid. For example, a rock climber, using a harness and a helmet for safety purposes. A harness can also be used in trampolining, when learning sommersaults and to gain confidence.

Types of Feedback 

Feedback is information received during or after a performance about the performance.

  • This is feedback that comes from the performer themselves.

  • An example of this is an elite athlete reflecting on their performance and providing ways to improve.


  • This is feedback that comes from the other people, such as a performer's coach and peers.

  • An example of this can be a coach explaining a complex skill to a beginner.


  • This is feedback takes place during the performance and allows the athlete to improve their execution

  • An example this can be a coach shouting to a team of footballers from the sideline.

  • This is feedback takes place after the performance

  • An example this can be a elite athlete receiving 



Mental Preparation for Performance

Mental Preparation for Performance
Arousal is the level of alertness the performer experiences. Arousal levels may affect performance and can either be low, medium or high. The 'inverted U theory' explores this:

 Low     Medium     High

I               I               I





Low arousal levels means boredom. This means that the quality of the performance will be rather low because of the lack of interest towards the activity.
For optimum performance, the theory suggests that the performer must have medium arousal levels. This means that the performer is focussed without being in a state of panic.
If a performer has high arousal levels, this may affect the performer's decision making as they may be in a state of panic.
Some may object to this, as arousal levels fluctuate. For example, arousal levels may be higher when making a tackle in handball but lower when taking a penalty.       
Warming Up
Warming up prepares you physically as well as emotionally. It's important that the performer is relaxed and has a good mindset before participating.
A good warm up should include time to: 
  • socialise with teammates
  • focus on their personal goals
  • physically warm up to increase confidence.
  • positively self talk.
Warming up allows the performer to regulate their arousal levels to its optimum.

Mental Rehearsal

This is when the performer pictures themselves executing a skill and practices the the skill in their mind, specifically using imagery to focus on a skill and its technique.

Examples include:

  • A footballer visualising themselves scoring a penalty.

  • A runner seeing themselves passing the finishing line in their best time.

  • An ice skater listening to their music as they complete their routine

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