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Tip 7- Observational skills

The value of observational learning to skill development

Learning is often based on observation and imitation. Children learn many behavioural responses such as reaction to failure (getting out in cricket or missing a shot in tennis) or how to respond to a coach or referee from their parents, their siblings, peers and sporting idols. They will also learn about a sport and its technical and tactical elements from similar observations.

Observational learning is a valuable tool for aiding skill development. It occurs when watching sport (including in the backyard or at a club) or a sporting hero or mentor and then imitating techniques and mannerisms.

A common trait of elite athletes is to be a ‘true scholar’ of the sport. They diligently observe and study sporting idols competing and try to mimic their techniques or routines. Sometimes they even imagine they are their sporting idol. Below is quote from a former Australian Test batsman on how he utilised observational learning at the elite level.

When you watch guys like Brian Lara [former West Indian batsman] or Sachin Tendulkar [former Indian batsman], Ricky Ponting [current Australian batsman and captain], you just pick up little things. I remember clearly I scored a Test [international] hundred . . . and I think it was at that stage the third fastest ever hundred by an Australian Test batsmen . . . and I was actually [imagining] I was Brian Lara.

Pin icon TIP: Don’t underestimate the power of observational learning

  • Foster observational learning of your child by allowing them to watch sport live or on television.
  • Allow them to imitate the techniques, routines and mannerisms of their positive sporting idols or contemporaries.
  • Support their scholarly interest and craving for information for a sport.
  • Be a positive role model! Always endeavour to provide the appropriate behaviour modelling to your children and young people. Consider the way you react to success and failure, show respect to coaches and officials, demonstrate good sportsmanship, respect and integrity, exhibit good character and upholding personal excellence and a strong work ethic. For excellent guidance on these aspects, access the ‘Play by the Rules’ resources hosted on the Australian Sports Commission website.

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Did you know?

Gold Coast 2018 is the 5th Commonwealth Games to be hosted by Australia.

Quick numbers

11.6 million Australian adults participate in sport or physical activity three or more times per week.
3.2 million Australian children participate in organised sport or physical activity outside of school.
$10 billion is spent annually by Australians on fees for participation in sport or physical activity.
17 million Australian adults participate in a sport or physical activity every year.