Sports Coach Logo Sports Coach Logo



text Translator



site search facility





Skill, Technique & Ability

A question often asked is what is the difference between skill, technique and ability?

What is a skill?

Skill is an athlete's ability to choose and perform the right techniques at the right time, successfully, regularly and with a minimum of effort. Athletes use their skill to achieve athletic objectives e.g. sprinting a 10.0 second 100 metres. Skill is acquired and therefore has to be learned.

Types of skills

  • Cognitive - involves thought processes
  • Perceptual - involves interpretation of information
  • Motor - involves movement

Psychologists have categorised human behaviour into three broad domains:

  • Cognitive skill (knowing) - know and understand the vital aspects of the sport
  • Affective behaviour (feeling) - success at the sport depends on mental attitude and developing psychological skills to cope with stress
  • Psychomotor skill (doing) - excellence in sport requires the execution of precise, fluent and effective movement patterns which require the combination of perceptual and motor skills

What is a Technique?

Techniques are the basic movements of any sport or event e.g. a block start in a 100 metres race is a technique. We combine a number of techniques into a pattern of movement e.g. triple jump - running and then the hop, step and jump phases.

What is an ability?

Ability is the make-up of an athlete that we inherit from our parents. Abilities underpin and contribute to skills. Abilities can be essentially perceptual, essentially motor or a combination of both. Most abilities to do with action are a combination and are referred to as psychomotor abilities. Now there is no definitive list of psychomotor abilities.

Stallings (1982)[1] identified the following psychomotor abilities: Muscular power and endurance, flexibility, balance, co-ordination and differential relaxation (selective adjustment of muscle tension).

Fleishman (1972)[1] identified the following nine psychomotor abilities (referred to as gross motor abilities): Extent flexibility, dynamic flexibility, explosive strength, static strength, dynamic strength, trunk strength, gross body co-ordination, gross body equilibrium and stamina.

If you are of average height, strong, good co-ordination and have an abundance of fast twitch fibres in your legs then you have the natural ability to be a sprinter.

The relationship between skill, ability and technique



  1. STALLINGS, L. M. (1982) Motor Learning: From theory to Practice. USA: Mosby
  2. FLEISHMAN, E. A. (1972) The structure and measurement of psychomotor abilities. In: ROBERT, N. The psychomotor domain: Movement behaviors. Philadelphia: Lea and Febiger. p. 78-106

Related References

The following references provide additional information on this topic:

  • STEVENS, M. J. and CAMPION, M. A. (1994) The knowledge, skill, and ability requirements for teamwork: Implications for human resource management. Journal of management, 20 (2), p. 503-530
  • SCHMIDT, R. and WRISBERG, C. A. (2004) Motor learning and performance
  • SCHMIDT, R. and LEE, T. (2013) Motor Learning and Performance, 5E With Web Study Guide: From Principles to Application. Human Kinetics

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2001) Skill, Technique and Ability [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: