A Comparison of Two Instructional Methods for Teaching the Racquetball Forehand to Novices

By Jeffrey McClung and Kelly Ambrose.

Published by The Sport Collection

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Introduction: Common practice in teaching motor skills involves verbally describing the desired motor patterns as these skills are being demonstrated. Recent findings in neuroscience suggest that this may not be the optimal method for teaching skills. The discovery of mirror neurons suggests that pure imitation may be a more natural cognitive strategy. Purpose: To investigate whether the common instructional practice of “show and tell” is superior to imitation in teaching an effective racquetball forehand shot to novices. Methods: 42 students (23 males, 21 females) with no racquetball experience were recruited from a college Wellness course. The subjects’ forehand stroke of a ball dropped from a 200 cm height by a researcher were videotaped before and after instructions. One group received the common show and tell lesson from an expert instructor. The second group was asked to observe the same instructor with the goal of trying to later imitate what they had seen in their own forehand stroke. After collection of data, biomechanical factors important for sequential segmental rotational skills were measured using Dartfish biomechanical analysis software. Variables measured were: ball contact height, relationship between ball contact position and the front foot, racquet and arm position during preparation and follow-through. Results: For all the variables measured (except angle of follow-through which saw no change from pre- to post-test in either group) there was significant (P<.05) improvement from pre-test to post-test in both groups. There was no difference between groups (p>.05). Conclusion: Verbal instruction while demonstrating motor skills does not improve the performance in novices compared to imitation alone.

Keywords: Motor Skills, Mirror Neurons, Imitation, Racquetball, Biomechanical Factors

The International Journal of Sport and Society, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.71-76. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 559.620KB).

Dr. Jeffrey McClung

Associate Professor, Department of Physical Education Health and Dance, Berea College, Berea, Kentucky, USA

Dr. McClung is an associate professor of physical education at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. He teaches courses in exercise science, anatomy,designs for human movement and several activity courses. His research interests have turned to practices that increase the amount of physical activity of all citizens that may help reverse our world-wide decline in health. He previously has taught at Eastern Illinois University, Western Carolina University, and Georgetown College. He has also served as CEO of a cardiology research foundation in Charleston, WV, and worked in pulmonary research at the University of Kentucky.

Kelly Ambrose

Assistant Professor, Health Physical Education and Dance, Berea College, Berea, Kentucky, USA

Kelly Ambrose is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Physical Education and Dance at Berea College in Berea, KY. Kelly specializes in the preparation of teachers of physical education. Other areas of interest includes outdoor leadership and winter sports.