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Essay: Juggling – skill aquisition

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  • Subject area(s): Education essays
  • Reading time: 4 minutes
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  • Published: March 12, 2021*
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  • Juggling - skill aquisition
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Juggling is a fundamental motor skill that has been around for many years. It has been part of many ancient cultures and is still used today. (Wall, 2019) Not only is juggling used for entertainment purposes but also to improve one’s movement, learning and control. Juggling is not a natural skill. It takes thoughtful consideration and the acquisition of the skill takes time and adjustment in order to move from a novice to an expert.

We use the process of skill acquisition regularly in our everyday lives to learn new skills from walking or running to hitting a baseball with a bat; all require slow and progressive changes in someone’s capability to perform the new skill or task.

Skill acquisition comes in 3 stages; cognitive, associative and autonomous. The earliest stage is cognitive. During this stage, the individual begins to understand what is needed to perform the skill. In the cognitive stage, errors occur very frequently. A great amount of feedback and learning is sought and needed during this stage. As understanding is built, the individual moves into the second stage; the associative stage. In this stage, the individual is able to understand and complete the skill with fewer errors. Within the associative stage, the performer gets more fluent with the skill and starts to enter the autonomous stage. The autonomous stage shows the individual progressing to a more automatic level with the skill being learnt. The performer gains extended levels of smoothness, efficiency and accuracy when reaching the autonomous stage of skill acquisition.

Juggling is classified as a manipulative and non-locomotor skill. A manipulative skill is when the performer takes control over a piece of equipment such as the three balls used in juggling. A non-locomotor skill is generally performed from a stationary position. When an individual is learning how to juggle, they may move their body to get under the balls. Juggling is still considered a non-locomotor skill however as the performer is not moving their body from one place to another like in running, cycling or swimming.

Juggling is also known as a fundamental motor skill as it uses three of the twelve fundamental movement skills; catching, throwing and balancing. (Ectarc.com.au, 2019)

In order to learn the skill of juggling, one must know how to complete or learn these three movement skills.

At the beginning of the assignment, I wasn’t able to juggle at all. When beginning to learn the skill, the highest number of consecutive throws and catches I would get was two or three throws and then all balls would fall to the ground. As I understood the process more and practised more, I was able to get to higher quantities of throws and catches. I started to record data over the span of one week. My early attempts were frustrating, and I spent a lot of time considering how to improve my results. I decided to try two sets of balls to see if a difference in weight, size and density would create a difference in the results. I tried a set of ‘purple’ balls were much heavier, squishier and smaller than the other set of ‘orange’ balls which were larger, harder and lighter.

How I felt while juggling
Day 1 unmotivated
Day 2 content
Day 3 satisfied
Day 4 satisfied
Day 5 lucky
Day 6 satisfied
Day 7 proud

The chart on page one, shows data recorded over the course of one week. This chart shows the highest amount of successful juggling throws I managed to get each day before dropping the balls.

Each day I felt more and more satisfied with how I was progressing. When first recording the data, as shown in the table above, I was very unmotivated as I wasn’t having a successful time, but by the time I reached day 7, I was very proud of how I had gone and on one occasion, reaching a top score of 26 throws in one attempt.

Each day, I recorded the amount of throws and catches I reached in ten juggling attempts. To find the average, I added up my results per day and divided that by ten. This is shown in the chart below. As you can see, on most occasions I increased the number of throws and catches which improved my confidence and led to greater development and the final skill acquisition.

As seen in both charts, the orange balls look as if they were easier to juggle with. The purple balls were heavier and squishier, and I found that the purple balls helped to teach me the skill of how to juggle because of the weight. Once I began to master the skill, I moved more confidently back to the orange balls, which were lighter and denser, being easier to juggle with after having the experience with the heavier purple balls.

My chosen method of practice was part practice. Choosing part practice meant that I could break the skill down into small parts and study them all separately. I learnt from each mistake, altered how I was moving the balls from hand to hand and worked to develop the skill. Whole practice was also used. Being familiar with what effective juggling looked like was helpful as I had an idea of how to juggle, but it took time to get the hang of the completed skill. Part practice definitely helped at the beginning of the practice period as I had an indication on how I could complete the whole skill but needed to break each part down to have an easier and better idea. Feedback was a big part of how I improved on the skill as well. I practiced in front of either one of my parents and they would give me feedback on what they were seeing. They made comments such as “throw higher” or “slow down” which assisted in getting me to the stage I have reached now.

In conclusion, I feel as if I have reached the associative stage as I’m not completely skilled at juggling but have improved a lot since I first started out. The use of part practice at the beginning helped to prepare myself for where I am now, being able to complete full cycles using whole practice. My skill acquisition has improved a lot as well as my coordination was forced to increase in order to complete a difficult skill such as juggling.

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