Autonomy and Skill Development

“What is going on when performers develop their skills through play and exploration? When what they have done in the past starts to break down and they find new solutions beginning to emerge? It looks ugly – because at the heart of what these athletes are doing is a movement into their Ugly Zone!

On 19th February, we gather to explore questions around autonomy and skill development. The presentation will be short to leave as much time as possible available for discussion.

Participants wanting to prepare for the session are invited to dip into the these podcasts and articles around autonomy and skill development. Please bring questions to the session!


Knowing When Learning Has Happened

Podcast with skill acquisition specialist & co-founder of Movement & Skill Acquisition Ireland Dr Ed Coughlan on how to design coaching sessions to help participants and athletes retain learning – before it’s then transferred to a performance environment.

Coaching to Support Skill Acquisition

Podcast with Dr Will Roberts and Danny Newcombe exploring skill development and putting theory into practice for children through to elite athletes.

Skill acquisition transformed my coaching

Podcast with Olympic Canoe Slalom coach Craig Morris asking what makes the best athletes in the world: ability to deliver a plan, or ability to adapt within the performance.


“Skilled performers all seem to be happy, even passionate, about operating at the edge of their ability. They make mistakes, explore options and seem to delight in engaging at the edges of their ability; trying, failing, trying again, failing again.​ Like children playing, they are exploring while they are practising: intently focussed, moving and perceiving, making decisions and problem-solving. All the time they are building on what is necessary for skill development in the context in which they are operating. ​

The Becoming Skillful Articles

This series of articles looks at how do we learn to become skilful at moving, perceiving and making decisions. The key one is Learning in the Ugly Zone.

The Motivation and Optimal Learning Environments Articles

Parts I and II of this series look at ways of creating learning environments that lead to more self-motivated, happy, healthy, individuals. Part III: Why motivation changes how we learn.