Sport Memory: Coaching Tips

Principles for learning motor skills are based in psychology and applied to movements used in performance. The following techniques can facilitate sport skill memory and retention:

1. Help athletes learn skills correctly the first time. Initial learning is most impressionable. Coaches should monitor and guide athletes as much as possible in the early stages of learning. A skill learned incorrectly is often difficult to re-pattern after neurological pathways are established. The more engrained the motor program becomes, the more difficult it is to change.

2. Teach skill rhythms first, then refine the movements. Athletes can learn and recall rhythmic movements more quickly than isolated movements, just as rhymes are more readily remembered in verbal learning.

3. Chunk movements. Movements can be learned and processed if they are “chunked” or grouped into larger movements. This grouping increases an athlete’s capacity to learn and perform sport skills. Break skills down only as much as is necessary.

4. Make new skills meaningful. Explain and demonstrate new skills so that the athlete understands what the skill requires and why it is executed that way. Also make clear how a skill applies to sport performance.

5. Associate new skills and concepts with well learned skills. Athletes learn new skills more quickly if key movement concepts are relevant to them. Knowing an athlete's previous experience is helpful for creating associations.

6. Point out specific cues or concepts that require the athlete's attention. Intention to remember alerts an athlete to important aspects of a skill or situation.

7. Overlearn skills to correct errors. Overlearning means practicing skills beyond what was necessary to learn them. It is effective when incorrect movement patterns are engrained.

Whatever your sport, improved reaction time and response time a.k.a. reflex speed will be vital. Learn how to improve your reflexes ...

It can go with out saying that whatever your sport, improved reaction time and response time a.k.a. reflex speed will be vital.

Even the slightest improvements in this skill can have astonishing results on your game. Think about it for a moment … even if you could shoot, move and jump like Michael Jordan, you'd still be at his mercy if you didn't have his eyes.

Meaning react unexpectedly, see defenders before they move and beat the head fakes. Again this carries over to most every sport imaginable.

Take the boxer, his whole game, the entire fight is react as fast as possible before your opponent does and don't get faked out!

I want to clarify a couple things.

There Are 3 Phases Of Speed:

  1. Reaction Time: This is the perception of an attack, or rather the interval between stimulus and the beginning of response.

  2. Response Time: This is the time it takes to choose an appropriate response to the initiation of the actual movement.

  3. Movement-Speed: Quite simply how quick your counter punch is or how fast your body moves getting out of the way of trouble, etc.

I can't think of an easier drill to start doing that requires no training partner for enhancing coordination shooting & reflex speed.

Once you've learned how to appropriately identify stimulus and speed up the recognition, or need to do something, the next phase of training deals with programming your nervous system with a proper response. This will just as easily improve your overall speed.

If you see things even before they happen, what good is it if your body clumsily tries to move? You need to have a storehouse of nervous "memory" responses that are quick, smooth and graceful.

Let me close by saying a lot has to do with what you're tying your brain up with at the moment. So put all those pesky thoughts away during your next game, and just BE THERE! Absorb yourself in your tactile senses just like a feline would!

Bionic Plyometrics

Discover how your brain reacts to stimuli and how to improve this to get even faster.

Improving Reaction Speed

Reaction Time

Reaction time itself is an inherent ability, but overall response time can be improved by practice. Coach and athletes need to analyse the type of skill and the requirements of their sport and decide where overall response gains can be made. Consider the following:

  • Detecting the cue - in a sprint start, focusing on the starter's voice and the sound of the gun and separating this from background crowd noise and negative thoughts

  • Detecting relevant cues - a goalkeeper learning to analyse body language at penalties

  • Decision making - working on set pieces and game situations

  • Change in attention focus - being able to switch quickly from concentration on the opponent to concentration on the field of play in invasion games

  • Controlling anxiety - which slows reaction times by adding conflicting information

  • Creating optimum levels of motivation - 'psyching up'

  • Warm-up - to ensure the sense organs and nervous system are ready to transmit information and the muscles to act upon it


Anticipation is a strategy used by athletes to reduce the time they take to respond to a stimulus, e.g. the tennis player who anticipates the type of serve the opponent will use (spatial or event anticipation). In this case, the player has learnt to detect certain cues early in the serving sequence that predicts the potential type of serve. This means the player can start to position himself or herself for the return earlier in the sequence than usual and thus give themselves more time to play the shot when the ball arrives. There are dangers for the tennis player in anticipating in this way, but the advantages of getting it right are great.

Factors influencing response time

Response time is the sum of reaction time plus movement time. Factors that may influence the performer's response are:

  • Gender and age (see diagram - Davis (2000)[1])

  • Stage of learning

  • Psychological state

  • Level of fitness

  • Number of possible responses

  • Time available

  • The intensity of the stimuli

  • Anticipation

  • Experience

  • Health

  • Body Temperature - colder the slower

  • Personality - extroverts react quicker

  • State of alertness

  • Length of neural pathways

Reaction time is an ability often overlooked in sport. It simply means how fast an athlete is able to respond to a stimulus. Think a sprint start in running, returning a serve in tennis or dodging a punch in a boxing match. But that’s not all it’s good for. Quick reaction time is required in almost all sports and in everyday life. And the good news is, it’s a strength that can be improved.

So, if you’re someone who often trips over when you’re out running or never catches the ball playing team sports, read on to find out more about reaction time, how it evolves and what you can do to think and act faster.

The basics

So what is reaction time? Our reactions are determined and controlled by our nervous systems: the central nervous system (consisting of the spinal cord and brain) and the peripheral nervous system (nerves not part of the spine or brain).

When your body senses a stimulus it has to react to, a signal is sent from your visual sensors (the eyes) via neurons to the brain. These signals are then processed by the central nervous system and a decision is made. The signal from the brain is then sent through the efferent motoric neurons to the muscles, which then execute the instruction. All of this happens almost instantly.

Reactions and reflexes

Is there actually a difference between a reaction and a reflex? In short, yes. Whereas reactions enable us to respond to all kinds of stimuli, reflexes are specifically designed to protect us from harm. Since these need to be processed faster than an actual reaction, the signals go directly through the spinal cord and do not involve our brain. In contrast, our reactions need to be processed through the brain first.

How to improve reaction times

Quick reactions aren’t just useful for sprinters; being able to react quickly to stimuli is a helpful skill for many sports and activities. And the good news is that it’s a strength you can improve. Here are four ways how:

1. Sprints on signal

Get a friend or training partner to help you practice sprinting from an explosive signal. Keep the timings irregular to really test your reactions. Over time, your body will learn to process stimuli faster.

2. Technique training

When you practice exercises slowly, your body gets used to the movements and remembers them. When it comes to performing them at speed, your brain and body already know the drill; you don’t even have to think, you just react.

3. Plyometrics

Being explosive is important for good reactions. Plyometric exercises like Squat Jumps and Split Lunges force your muscles to exert maximum force as quickly as possible, developing explosive strength and power.

4. Forest runs

Running on uneven terrain is an effective way to train your brain to react quickly to obstacles. With branches, rocks and unstable ground, your body will be forced to respond process signals quicker, speeding up your reactions.

Let’s recap:

Reaction speed is a crucial, if often-overlooked skill. Whatever your sport, fitness level or age, improving reaction times can have myriad benefits. Try including one of these four strategies in your training and see the benefits for yourself.