Earlier this year, I attended a higher level race coaching course and I had to prepare a presentation on the subject of "Key elements affecting performance of U16/U18 in a competition - decision training vs behavior training". Some of the stuff I learned while researching the subject was quite new to me, honestly, so this may benefit you as well.
In a nutshell, decision training is a set of tools focused on giving the athletes tools to self-coach and engage them cognitively in the training process. Random practice, delayed feedback and other tools are employed as the skill level goes up.
Decision-trained athletes perform better in the long run. In contrast, Behavior Training is based on mindless repetition.
Decision training is especially important in an "open skill" sport like skiing. Open skill sports are those where the environment changes significantly and athletes need to adapt dynamically, as opposed to say swimming, where the environment is static and repetition rules.
These issues are really important in coaching performance athletes. There are many take-aways as a coach in planning training as well as conducting training.
There are also many take-aways as a parent. A coach should setup a parent session and explain DT vs BT, to avoid questions like:
Here are my talking points, summarizing the subject and adapting it to ski racing in particular. Use this to get curious and do your own reading on the subject.
Let's first clarify Behavior Training (BT) and Decision Training (DT), so we're on the same page. Some of this was new to me.
As we walk through those characteristics, we can see some of the key elements that affect the performance of U16/U18 in a competition, in regards to decision training vs behavior training.
So... DT is not "a thing", it's just a way that training should be conducted, how a coach should behave and a set of training tools, like limited feedback, variable training etc. It is also very age specific. A U18 can self-train a lot more than a U10, for sure, although both need to be cognitively engaged in the training process. It is up to the coach to use them accordingly.
The Canadian skill acquisition model is IACRCv, i.e. the stages of skill acquisition:
This roughly maps to the training group ages, but not always.
The application of the Decision Training tools must be in relation with the current skill level.
Using variable training at the I or A levels will retard learning, while not using it at the Cv level will not facilitate improvement.
Let's take a quick look at the seven DT tools and their possible applicability to alpine ski race training.
This is a feedback tool. Athletes should learn to analyze their own performance and compare to others. The coach should use questioning and bandwidth feedback with video as well.
This is not the usual demo of "do this" but using models of all levels of performance, including demos, other skiers, video of WC etc. The idea is to get the athletes to understand differences in performance, so they can better analyze the top skiers themselves.
The athlete should have homework to analyze videos on their own.
By reducing and delaying feedback, the athletes will be involved more and need to think and solve problems.
The idea of "bandwidth" refers to reducing feedback when the performance falls in a bandwidth of acceptable performance, where we reduce feedback. If the performance is not good, then feedback is given.
Athletes learn to self-coach more, to solve problems and think through the elements of their performance and depend less on the coach's presence and a constant feedback and guidance.
Questioning accompanies reduced feedback and allows the coach to maintain a communication with the athlete, while making them think, verifying their understanding, giving them hints etc.
The athletes must understand the technical and tactical elements of the sport, not just "improve skill", otherwise they cannot think through issues and they will not be able to self-coach.
When a single class of skill is trained in variable conditions, like in a race. The skill could be "carving the outside ski" or "impulse" or dealing with this or that gate combination.
Combining more biomechanically different skills or classes of skill and simulate situations expected in racing. This is in direct contrast to simple-to-complex progressions and will teach athletes to combine several skills in this or that tactical situation or context.
The context, the tactical situations should change so that the combination of skills is practiced in different contexts.
Start the season with more difficult elements of technical and tactical training, rather than keeping it simple in the beginning.
Start with challenging the athletes with more complex performance and combinations via either video, modelling or execution in complex environments/terrain.
Even when we have lower skilled athletes that cannot perform the more complex skills, we can still show video of say WC winning runs, point out good skiers and make sure they see this or that combination, understand performance here or there etc.
This is a great intro to the subject: