Skateboarding is undeniably thrilling. Back in the day, I would enjoy virtual stunts in Tony Hawk Pro Skater on my PC, a safe haven compared to the real world where I often found myself more on the ground than on my board. These maneuvers appear flashy, but how are such foundational movements embedded within our system?Read more: Mastering Skateboarding: How Motor Skills Are Stored
Diving into Rodney Mullen’s Techniques
Ross and Alloway took the opportunity to interview Rodney Mullen, the mind behind renowned skateboard tricks. Viewing his skills in action is indeed breathtaking. Consider the ‘Ollie,’ executed from a standstill or mid-motion. Mullen describes the trick as a sequence of actions: crouching, popping the board, leaping, sliding the front foot to the board’s nose, and lifting the back foot, maintaining contact. Astonishingly, all these are performed in less than a second. By practicing each element separately, Mullen mastered the move.
Scientific Insight into Skill Development
Larry Vandervert’s research suggests that conscious practice of individual actions engraves them in the motor cortex. The cerebellum, our coordination center, adopts these routines through repeated sessions, forming layers of learning. As time progresses, these layers accumulate. Mullen likens this to “stacking blankets, perfecting each ‘blanket’ or movement before intertwining them.” This translates to countless hours of practice. Initially, Mullen leveraged his working memory to grasp the movement. Yet, as it became second nature, he no longer needed this cognitive aid.
Breaking Down Sport-Specific Movements
It’s highly recommended to master sports movements individually, breaking down the overall action and refining each subset before integration. This principle applies beyond skateboarding, such as practicing tennis serves without a ball. It might be tedious to repetitively practice individual components, but once solidified in the brain, your working memory becomes available to strategize under pressure, ensuring dazzling, efficient performances.