Looking at my sport for the past 15 years, it has been a lot about managing expectations. The expectations to perform, to be of the best conduct, to bring the glories and the medals. The longer you are in the sport, you are expected to be better in terms of the skills, the hours invested equating with the results. However, that is different for every individual in every sport. If you are a fast learner, it will definitely help with attaining the progressed performance. There will be a point where the learning curve will begin to plateau as learning is no longer the stage of increased performance.
The 4 stages of competence as described by Abraham Maslow suggest that individuals are initially unaware of how little they know, or unconscious of their incompetence. As they recognize their incompetence, they consciously acquire a skill, then consciously use it. Eventually, the skill can be utilized without it being consciously thought through: the individual is said to have then acquired unconscious competence.
- Unconscious incompetence
The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
- Conscious incompetence
Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
- Conscious competence
The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
- Unconscious competence
The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending on how and when it was learned. (Learning a New Skill is Easier Said than Done”. Gordon Training International.)
Once we have attained unconscious competence, it’s where some say 10,000 hours have been practiced. In sprinting, it would equate with being able to react to the starting gun anytime of the day. For example, if I were to wake up at 0300 to sprint, my neuromuscular stimulus should be accustomed to reacting off the blocks as quickly as at 1300. An average quick reaction time will be from 0.120 sec to 0.150 sec. The ability to transfer the knowledge on the sprinting mechanics and ability to spot the difference and to correct a technique will require an indepth knowledge of sprinting mechanics and the ability to discern what is most appropriate for each individual.
Managing progressive competitive expectations for me has been a challenge even though sprinting has been established as an unconcious competence. I am able to inspire and teach others on the periodization of the stress level, managing the arousal level. However, at times when the body is not ready for peak performance and the situation forces you into it, I would wallow into a series of doubts and anxiety that limits my performance. Some would say, “half the battle is won in your head”.
What are some of these battles that you are struggling with today?