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Skill Adaptability

I have discussed previously skilled intentionality, which is the best part of sport in my opinion. I have also discussed how skills pay the bills, and how to develop skilled athletes. My own definition of skill is the ability to adapt goal directed behaviour to the surrounding constraints. Skill acquisition is generally the term given to motor learning in sport, but better terms might be skill adaptability or skill attunement (Araujo & Davids, 2011). Luis Suarez was one of the most adaptable players I've seen, and his range of goals for Liverpool in the 2013/14 season demonstrated this.

Viewing skilled behaviour through the constraints-led approach (CLA), I will look at some of the constraints that cause athletes to adapt their behaviour. Therefore, it important to clarify what a constraint is:

  • A constraint is an information source that regulates action (Davids, 2010).

In other words, rather than looking at the constraints that cause athletes to adapt their behaviour, we can simply look at the information that regulates action. The CLA could also be termed the information-driven approach. Within the CLA, there are 3 categories of constraints: individual, task, environment (for further reading, see here). In a nutshell, variability in the individual, task, or environment forces/causes an athlete to adapt their behaviour.


Given the many degrees of freedom that are present within the body, it is virtually impossible to repeat the same movement twice in any skill. Take kicking the ball in soccer as an example:

  • How close is the plant foot to the ball?

  • How flexed is the plant leg?

  • How far back is the kicker leaning?

  • What is the rate of muscle tension throughout the body?