The skills that a person acquires in a sports or any fitness program can generally be subdivided into these three, according to the degree of experience or expertise: beginner, intermediate, and expert. All skills and techniques that an individual can learn about a particular sport can fall under any of these three depending of course on the degree of difficulty in performing the activity and other factors such as its effectiveness on the playing field. The objective of this paper is to create a comprehensive comparison between the three different types of athlete: novice, intermediate, and expert and how each type of athlete acquires motor and other types of skills in the sport of football, particularly in the free kicking aspect.
In summary, a novice is someone who is a beginner at something. The term novice can actually be applied to a wide variety of sports and disciplines, not just in soccer. In the field of weight-lifting for example, a novice is someone who, among the three types of athletes that will be described in this paper, will respond to basically almost any form of stress or challenge. In terms of training, there is really not that high a demand for specificity when it comes to formulating their training programs, simply because of the mere fact that they are beginners and their body can respond to almost any type of simple physical activity. The same principle can actually be more or less parallel to motor skill and acquisition in soccer, even in more specific aspects of the sport like free kicking. A novice free kicker will almost always learn faster and more things than an intermediate or expert free kicker simply because his performance plateau is considerably lower than that of an intermediate and expert player. An intermediate free kicker is obviously someone who lies between a novice and an expert free kicker in terms of the ability and the ease to improve the demand for program or training specificity in order to realize significant improvements in the sport. He is someone who has a higher performance and improvement plateau than a novice free kicker and a lower performance and improvement plateau than an expert player. Meaning, an intermediate player will require a greater deal of training intensity and complexity than a novice player in order to attain significant results. Lastly, an expert player is someone who sits on top of the demand for training specificity and complexity hierarchy. An expert free kicker would require a considerably higher level of training intensity and complexity in order to achieve significant training results. That is also to say that the level of exercises than an expert free kicker does would pale the training and activities performed by novice and even intermediate players. This can be due to the fact that they really have to push their limits higher because if they have already reached the expert performance benchmark and would still continue their training by doing training programs designed for intermediate and novice players, then there is some very good chance that their motor skills and ability related to their sport—which in this case is soccer would not only reach a plateau but would also regress.
Soccer is a very interesting sport to discuss if the aim is to create a clear delineation between the different things that a novice, an intermediate, and an expert soccer player can accomplish in terms of free kicking. Surely, one of the major, if not the only, difference that we can refer to in differentiating these three types of athletes aside from their sports capabilities, is the intensity, specificity, and complexity of their training regime.
Skill and Expertise: Kinesiology of the Muscles involved in Free Kicking
Whenever the term motor skill and acquisition is hear, the first two body organ systems that should come into the mind should be the musculoskeletal system and the nervous system. This is because whenever a person moves or performs a functional or any sports-related activity, these two systems, if we refer to the muscular and the skeletal system as a single organ system, integrate to create motion. In free kicking for example, the most obvious or noticeable movements would be the hyperextension to flexion movement of the right or left hip—depending on which lower extremity the soccer player would use to kick the ball; the movement of the knee from flexion to extension; and lastly, the movement of the ankle from dorsiflexion to plantar flexion. The stronger the output of the muscles that are required for these general body movements are, the stronger the free kick would be. But then again, being able to hit the ball with the foot hard may not be enough to do garner a point out of a free kick. The soccer ball would of course have to hit the target, which is what makes it harder to learn how to free kick successfully. It is not all about muscle strength, because free kicking also incorporates special senses that would answer the practical questions: how much farther to the right or left should the free kicker kick the ball towards and how forcefully would he do the kick to ensure a higher likelihood of free kicking success. There are of course practical techniques as to how to perform a point-garnering free kick but motor skill and acquisition fundamentals would dictate that as long as a player knows how to kick hard and point his kick towards the right direction—which is the goal, everything should be perfectly fine. Obviously, simply because of the differences in the specificity, intensity, and complexity of training between a novice, an intermediate, and an expert free kicker, it can be safely assumed that an expert free kicker would be able to kick the ball harder and farther; and would also be able to hit targets that are farther, compared to a novice and an intermediate player.
The muscles involved in the flexion of the hip are of course the hip flexor group of muscles. These are the muscles located on the anterior part of the thigh namely: the Ilio-psoas muscle, and the quadriceps femoris (from the root word “quad” which means four, because it is actually a group of four muscles namely: vastus medialis, vastus medialis oblique, vastus lateralis, and vastus intermedius, plus the rectus femoris muscle). The group of muscles responsible for moving the knee from flexion towards extension are of course the knee extensor group of muscles composed of the popliteus and the quadriceps femoris (the quadriceps femoris is a two-jointed muscle group and is thus responsible for both the flexion of the hip and the extension of the knee) which have insertions on the patella or the knee cap bone. Lastly, the muscle responsible for moving the ankle from a plantarflexed to a dorsiflexed position is the tibialis anterior muscle. As mentioned before, formulating an exercise program for a novice would be relatively easy because any form of exercise or training program that would simulate the three gross body movements required to perform a simple free kick would already stimulate the novice player’s body to make significant improvements. A training regime focusing on increasing the strength of the kick to make sure that it touches the target would for example be a good start for a novice free kicker. That training regimen would most likely be composed of resistance exercises such as the leg press. To be able to perform this exercise, the athlete would have to have an adequate eccentric strength of the hip flexor group of muscles (according to studies, eccentric contraction exercises are more effective than concentric contraction ones in increasing muscle strength ), and the concentric strength of the knee extensor group of muscles. Every time the trainer increases the weight load on the leg pressing machine, the novice, intermediate, or expert athlete would of course have to make the necessary adjustments—which can either be an increase or a decrease, in the eccentric and concentric contraction strength to overcome the load set by the weight. Doing these exercises would already cause significant improvements on the free kicking skills of a novice player, lesser but still significant improvements for an intermediate free kicker, and little to no improvements for an expert free kicker because as mentioned before, as an athlete progresses from being a novice towards being an expert, the intensity, complexity and specificity requirements of his training regime tend to increases to realize significant, no matter how small, improvements on his motor skill which in this case is kicking the ball .
Skill Level Comparison
Now, it is time to shift the focus on the training regime requirements of an expert free kicking athlete. An expert free-kicking athlete would normally need a significant higher level of exercise specificity, intensity, and complexity in order to achieve his training goals and to progress to higher levels of training. He is going to have to do trainings that does not only strengthen the muscles involved in the free kicking activity but also in activities that compromise their control. Work simulation is a type of activity or exercise that simulates the work or activity that the trainer or the athlete wants to improve . The trainer may introduce some additional challenges on the work simulation exercise program depending on how aggressive he wants the training regime to be. The more aggressive the training regime is, the larger the improvement yields would normally be. One important thing to note about athletes who are already considered experts in their sports or activities is the fact that as an athlete progresses from being a novice to an expert, it is not only the specificity, intensity, and the complexity of the exercise program that would have to be increased but also the rest periods between every session of training . This only makes sense because every time an athlete undergoes training and performs activities that are strenuous to the muscles, he practically damages the strands of muscle fibers responsible for doing the gross body movements in his exercise. Now, it is important for the newly-trained athlete to give his body enough time to recuperate and recover; otherwise, he would be basically exposing himself to risks of being injured, which nobody would really want simply because that basically defeats the purpose of training.
A novice kicks a soccer ball for a shot at a free score for the sake of kicking, nothing more and nothing less, generally. He is not really concerned about whether he will be able to hit or miss the goal, or even miss the ball. He is not concerned of the kinesiology, and other micro-things about properly kicking the ball compared to the intermediate and expert players who do.
Intermediate. Below are pictures showing how a novice free kicker would normally approach and then kick a free kicking opportunity in a soccer game.
What can be seen from the picture is a novice football player who tries to do a free kick with mere lousiness. The person who is about to kick the ball in the picture is also obviously not aware of the proper initial distance between the kicker and the ball, and the proper trunk, and upper and lower extremity motions that should come with a satisfactory free kick. He only kicks the ball just to move it and nothing else.
An intermediate free-kicker is one who is aware of the different motions involved in a properly executed kick, which would all be shown in the picture below.
However, the problem with an intermediate kicker is that he can only do a properly executed free kick consciously. In other words, the kinesiology of executing a free kick is not yet an engram of his body. He has to consciously approach the ball, swing his kicking limb, plant the contralateral foot, flex the hip and knee, have the foot come in contact with the ball, and follow through, just to execute a free kick properly. What can be usually seen from an intermediate free-kicker is the simplicity and the correctness of the execution such as what has been exhibited by the soccer player in the picture below.
An expert player is probably someone who has played soccer for years, and has done a lot of free kicks in his entire soccer-filled lifetime. He knows the dos and don’ts of free kicking a ball, giving him more flexibility as to the techniques he could use and the variations and modifications to the execution norms he could make. He knows that a free-kick can be unique but still correctly done, correct enough to gather a score for the team. An expert free-kicker may often think outside the box and so people may often see them doing all sorts of variations in free-kicking that for some intermediate and novice players may be hard to imagine or even wrong. The important thing about these expert soccer players is that they know the dos and don’ts and they are not bound by any norm or rule because they know how to get the kick done. They do not have to consciously think about the individual movements involved in the free kick because it has already been programmed in their nervous and musculoskeletal system; properly executed free kicking has already turned into an engram. In the picture below, notice how simple it is for the player’s body to form into a kicking stance.
In the picture below, an expert soccer player shows how to properly target a ball to make sure that it hits the target. What he does is he points his foot towards the direction of the goal after the foot touches the ball, adding a spinning element to the kick, which would theoretically help propel the ball towards the goal—something which only experts can be very good at, and which novice and even intermediate players cannot.
It has been successfully identified in this paper that the main difference between a novice, an intermediate, and an expert free kicker, soccer player, or basically any type of sports player, aside from the things that they can perform in the playing field, is the specificity, intensity, and the complexity of their training programs. In fact, these three factors are the main reasons behind their ability to perform better in the playing field—or in this case, in free-kicking in a soccer game, compared to other novice and intermediate players. A novice player would be able to improve much faster because he has less training demands and thus can respond well to almost any type of exercise regime. As an athlete progresses from being a novice to an expert, the complexity, intensity, and specificity training demands increases; otherwise, there would be little to no improvements on the athlete’s training performance.
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