Characteristics of Skilful Movement and Classification of Skills

Key Definitions

Motor Skill

An action or task that has a target or goal and that requires voluntary body and/or limb movement to achieve this goal. There are two main ways of using the word 'skill':

  1. To see skill as a specific task to be performed
  2. To view skill as describing the quality of a particular action, which might include how consistent the performance is and how prepared the performer is to carry out the task.

Skilful Movement

A skilled movement is one in which a predetermined objective is accomplished with maximum efficiency with a minimum outlay of energy.

Characteristics of Skilful Movements

Characteristics of Skilful Movements


Skilled movements are efficient, this means the performer can complete the skill with no wasted energy.

For example hitting a ball when batting in cricket.


Skilled movements are pre-determined, this means the performer will practice/perform the skill with an aim in mind.

For example a gymnast will know her routine before she starts.


Skilled movements are co-ordinated, this means the performer displays excellent coordination to control the timing of the skill.

For example a footballer jumping to strike the ball on the volley.


Skilled movements are fluent, this means the performer is able to perform a skill that flows.

For example a rugby player picking up the ball and passing in one fluid movement.


Skilled movements are aesthetic, this means the performer makes the skill look good.

For example a dancer performing a pirouette in a routine.

Classification of Skills

Skills can be placed on a sliding scale called a continuum.

A continuum is a visual guide to show where a skill fits into a specific category.

For GCSE PE you need to be aware of two continua, the difficulty continuum and the environmental continuum.

Open vs Closed Skill - The Environmental Continuum

The environmental continuum is labelled with open skills at one end and closed skills at the other.

Open Skills:

  • The skill is effected by the environment (what is going on around them).
  • The performer has to make decisions about the situation.
  • An example is passing in football.

Closed skills:

  • The skill is not effected by the environment.
  • It involves less decision making because it has a predictable environment.
  • The performer can take their time to execute the skill.
  • An example is a golf swing.

Simple vs Complex Skill - The Difficulty Continuum

The difficulty continuum is labelled with simple skills at one end and complex skills at the other.

Simple Skills:

  • Straightforward, basic skills with hardly any decisions or judgements to make.
  • Can be taught as a whole skill by repeating the skill.
  • An example is a handstand.

Complex Skills:

  • The skill involves many decisions or judgements to make.
  • May have to be learned in stages.
  • An example is a lay up shot in basketball.

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