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How Important is Pre-Skill?

"If a tackle takes 2 seconds to complete, and you do 15 tackles in a match, that is a total of 30 seconds of tackling. So if we are on defence for 40 minutes, what are you doing for the other 39:30?" (Rugby Coach to Players)

We as coaches will likely spend a fair amount of time on ‘skill development’ within our practice environments. And more often than not we will focus on the action of the skill, such as the forehand swing in tennis, tackle in rugby, chest pass in netball, jump shot in basketball etc... These examples are dynamic skills that have a fair amount of variability and require some movement. So have you ever considered how important the pre-action (everything that happens prior to executing a skill) is for dynamic skills such as these?

Could the ‘pre-action’ be more important than the hitting, tackling, passing, shooting actions for dynamic skills that require movement? If we use closed drills or activities, our players may get a fair amount of success of the 'action', however, in a game or match, that success may be reduced somewhat as there is variability and movement required. Do we need to spend more time helping our players get into positions to execute skills?

Depending on the skill, it may be worth considering how important the movement is prior to completing that action. For example if success in completing a skill was 50% pre-action and 50% action, or 75% pre-action, 25% action, then how would that be reflected in practices? It would likely require more time practicing the pre-action, potentially through randomised activities and games.

And of course it may be worth considering how important the post-action is, but that

conversation can wait.

For those keen beans out there, look up “Perception Action Coupling”


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