This entry is the latest chapter in the blog Complexity, Creativity, and Everything. The addition was made on Wednesday March 22, 2017. The whole blog is here.
Given what I have written previously, it seems appropriate to apply conscious control in basketball games and practices. But it is also commonly claimed that the goal of motor learning is to learn to execute motor skills without conscious control. Where does this contradiction stem from?
To me it seems to stem from the differences in how technical skill is defined in the two different approaches towards basketball. These approaches have been discussed in my blog: complicated systems approach and complex systems approach. Most often the definitions of technical skill are not stated explicitly but become apparent by implication.
Generally speaking, skill may be defined as ”the ability to do something well”. Then the question becomes what this ”something” is when referring to technical skill.
In the complicated systems approach the implied definition of technical skill is that it is the ability to execute well a collection of sport-specific movement patterns. Often those patterns are first learned and only then used in appropriate game situations.
For example, a player practices jump shot trying to imitate a certain pre-determined movement pattern – i.e. ”text-book jump shot” – and then takes the same type of shots in games when opportunities arise.
From the point of view of complicated systems this definition mentioned makes sense because in complicated systems “one can usually predict outcomes by knowing the starting conditions”. In other words, it can be predicted which movement patterns will be useful once learned properly.
In some sports the complicated systems approach works. For example, a figure skater must jump a triple Lutz in a certain fashion strictly determined by the rules. And if he learns to do the Lutz, he will probably be able to install into his program.
But as noted above, invasion team sports such as basketball are definitely not complicated systems but rather complex ones. Therefore the definition of technical skill developed within the complicated systems approach is not valid in basketball. That is for two reasons, both discussed above:
- In complex systems, the future is unpredictable.
- In basketball the technical dimension is subordinate to the tactical dimension.
In other words, a player’s motor behavior is a series of attempts to execute tactical tasks set up by tactical decisions relevant to the present game situations. What those tasks will be is unpredictable because game situations are unpredictable.
For example, even if a player can consistently hit his text-book jump shot from a certain distance, it may not be all that useful for him in game situations. That is e.g. because the opponents will do their best to stop him from using his text-book jump shot.
Additionally, for each tactical task, there is an infinite number of solutions. For example, the ball can be shot into the basket in an infinite number of ways from any position on the floor.
For these reasons it is not necessary for a basketball player to learn certain pre-determined motor patterns (e.g. ”text-book” jump shot). Rather, in basketball technical skill can be defined as the ability to find well viable motor behavior solutions to relevant game situations.
The number of possible solutions is infinite. For example in a jump shot the rules allow any movement pattern for as long as the ball is not punched. Thus the solutions to tactical tasks may turn out to be may be quite individual.