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Closed Motor Skills vs Open Motor Skills

Updated on November 12, 2012

Open Motor Skills

An Open Motor skill is a skill which is performed in an unstable environment, where the start point is determined by the environment. In other words, the performer of the skill is NOT the one who choses when the skill and movement actions neeed to be peformed and executed, this is decided by other people or the environment. In team based sports this is most commonly determined by the movements and actions of both the members of your team and the members of the opposition team, with some influence from environmental factors. In individual sports, it is more likely to be determined by such environmental factors as wind speed and terrain.

Closed Motor Skills

A closed motor skill is a skill which is performed in a stationary environment, where the performer choses when to start the skill. This is typically a skill which is performed individually in a non team based situation. The performer is able to dictate when they choose to perform the skill and execute the actions required to produce the movement and they aren't required to take environmental factors into account when performing the skill.

Closed motor skills are typically easier to peform as they involve less variability and complexity of factors to be accounted for. It may be a good strategy to reduce a Sporting situations complexity, in order to make it a Closed motor skill, allow the performer to become accustomed with the skill and movement in a Closed environment first and then progressing the skill by introducing environmental factors and things which the performer must respond via their feedback senses and then alter their movement patterns to fit the new situation/variation applied by the environment.

Example of a Closed and Open Motor skill in Sport

A good example of this is in Baseball; the skill of swinging the bat in order to hit the baseball may be extremely basic and easy to a proffesional or even most people who have ever played Baseball recreationally, however for a child first encountering this skill and situation, it is not so routine, they must learn the sequence of movements of the individual limbs required, if this wasn't complicated enough when they've never done it before, then also having to judge the flight of the ball and learn how to time the swing, so that the bat makes contact with it, is another layer of complexity, take it further and the ability to strike the ball correctly and at the correct time is not neccasarily sufficient to success within the Sport of Baseball, for you may hit the ball correctly but if its trajectory takes it straight towards the hand region of an opposition player who is fielding, then it will be classified as a failure in relation to your goals to hit as many points as possible and the outcome goal of winning the game, likewise if the ball doesn't have the required velocity to prevent it being caught or reach the desired distance to score higher, then it may be short of requirements.

It was simple before as a closed skill but now as an open skill, the presence of the opposition players, influence the way that you approach the execution of the skill and you may feel you need to execute your swing differently to ensure that the ball does not go towards the opposition player.

Open or Closed?

Well if we assume that there is NO team or oppositional players in the environment at all and that the surface and conditions are stable, then this is a Closed motor skill, as the batter chooses when they swing for the ball and don't have to time the swing in relation to their perceptual feedback of the flight of a ball being pitched from an oppositional player.

This IS a Closed Motor Skill!

Open or Closed?

Here, the batter still has no oppositional players, but this does NOT mean that this is also a closed motor skill as with the first example. In this instance the balls are being pitched the performer by the machine, therefore the performer must use his perceptual feedback, primarily from his vision, to instruct him that the ball is in motion and then he must time the swing of the bat correctly in relation to this... Therefore this IS an Open Motor Skill!

Open or Closed?

Ok once again we have the performer batting from a stable stand, he is able to chose when he hits the ball as with example 1, however this does NOT mean that this is also a Closed Motor Skill, as you can see that there is still oppositional fielders, which means that he must react and potentially modify the execution of his skill to the actions of the oppositional players, should all the fielders position themselves on the right hand side, then the performer of the skill may choose to shape his body and the bat itself facing towards the left hand side, to make the balls trajectory go to the left, where he will have a greater chance of success, in relation to the goal of scoring points and winning the game.

Therefore this is an Open Motor Skill

Game Situation = Open Motor Skill


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