Closed Skill

Closed Skill: What is a closed skill? A closed skill is one that is done under conditions that are stable and predictable. Pretty much every exercise you do at the gym is a closed skill. Strength training exercises are closed skills. Much of gymnastic performance are closed skills. Once these skills are learned, you should be able to repeat them, over and over again under the same conditions without having a lot of variation. The best way to understand what a closed skill is is to contrast it with it's opposite, open skills. This way of classifying movements, as open or closed, was originally presented by the British psychologist Poulton in 1957, who used it for industrial settings, such as working on a conveyor belt but it was later expanded for application to sports.

To learn more about closed and open skills, skill acquisition, and all other aspects of motor learning theory, see Motor Learning and Performance by Richard A. Schmidt and Craig A. Wrisberg.

When you drive in traffic, there are lots of things going on, other motorists, variable road conditions, changing weather and traffic patterns…basically not everything about driving is predictable and you must adapt to changing conditions, whereas with a closed skill, none of this is at work. Now, on the other hand, if you are driving deep in the country down a deserted road, especially a road you know well, and nobody is around, it becomes more of a closed skill. So, closed skills are skills that are not affected by the environment and are mostly habitual, done under predictable conditions. Certain situations can be considered 'semi-predictable', such a crossing a street. In a purely closed skill conditions are always the same and the skill is always performed the same way. Most skills, in every day life, are on a continuum between open and closed, so that open and closed are at the extreme ends of this continuum and most skills lie somewhere in between.

More Examples of Closed Skills

To determine whether we consider a skill open or closed, we not only have to consider whether the environment is variable, but whether the performer has sufficient time to consider those influences and adjust for them. For instance, a tennis serve is a closed skill, for the most part, even though the wind might be blowing when you serve the ball. You have time to consider and adjust to the changing conditions. On the other hand, when the ball is hit back to you, returning it is an open skill. Let's list some other examples of closed skills, or mostly closed skills, but keep in mind that very few in environments are completely stable or completely unstable.

As stated, strength training exercises are closed skills. Deadlifts, squats, lunges, triceps extensions, etc. are all closed skills. Calisthenics like jumping jacks are closed skills. A gymnast doing a balance beam routine…those are closed skills. Chopping vegetables on a chopping board is a closed skill, although cooking itself is a mixed skill. Bowling is more of a closed skill. Golfing lies closer to the closed skill side than open skills. A basketball free throw is a closed skill. A volleyball serve is, for the most part, a closed skill, although most of the game of volleyball consists of open skills. Most track and field events are closed skills, high jumps, long jumps, shot put, discus, and javelin are examples. Signing your name is a closed skill. In archery or firearms, target shooting is a closed skill, and even if the target is moving, if the movement is predictable it is still more a closed skill.

See further discussion of closed skills.

This page created 05 Oct 2011 16:47
Last updated 02 Mar 2016 04:20

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