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A test of the variability of practice hypothes: the acquisition of a gross motor skill Spriddle, Dean


The sport of golf presents the constant challenge of a novel movement problem with every succeeding shot. A novel movement, in this instance, being a new and different movement experience (Schmidt, 1975). The purpose of this study was to test the Variability of Practice Hypothesis (Schmidt, 1975) in a gross motor skill learning situation. More specifically, to assess the effectiveness of varying the initial conditions of a practice method, which was designed to facilitate the transfer of an expanded range of skills to the actual playing situation. 32 adult male and female golfers, who possessed a handicap between 12 and 24 strokes were assigned to one of two experimental groups according to their scores on a pre-practice administration of a criterion golf accuracy performance test. The experimental group undertook a variable practice schedule incorporating a stance simulator which presented a differing lie and elevation on each stroke, whereas, the control group was presented with a constant practice schedule which had every ball played from the same location and lie. The criterion test was administered four times in total, throughout the course of the six week experiment and required each subject to play three 120 yard approach shots from each of six different fairway locations and lies, to a slightly uphill target area (flag stick). The radial error values of each subject were analyzed by a 2 (groups) X 4 (tests) X 6 (positions) ANOVA with repeated measures on the 2nd and 3rd factors. A Chi square test was conducted from scatter plot graphs of each subject's shots, to determine shot pattern similarities. The comments from each subject's self analysis checklist reports were recorded and classified to detect any cognitive activity that reflected action plan recostruction The variable practice group's performance showed a significant improvement in golf shot accuracy, from each ofthe 6 test locations, in comparison to that of the constant practice group. When the test positions were categorized, in terms of severity of lie, an interaction effect was observed revealing that the variable practice group improved performance on the less severe lies as well as the severe lies, whereas the constant practice group had no significant improvement in performance. The Variability of Practice Hypothesis was tested whilst manipulating the initial conditions of practice. Variable practice in this practical field study found definite support for Schmidt's Hypothesis. From a practical point of view the results from this study illustrate the benefits of variable practice in a practice schedule adding strength to the position that the Variability of Practice Hypothesis should be considered as a important guideline to the structure of practice experiences.

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