Soft skills versus hard skills and becoming a better skier Subscribe Pub

In the awesome training book The Little Book of Talent, the notions of hard skills versus soft skills are contrasted.

Hard skills

The fundamental movements are the hard skills - those that require repeatable precision. These are the basic movements and techniques you master with slow drills repeated ad-nauseam, like:

These skills are built like a "careful carpenter", carefully building each individual skill, blending them to obtain the ultimate repeatable precision in execution. Nothing left to chance, a focus on positive results versus mistakes etc.

Precision especially matters early on, because the first reps establish the pathways for the future. When you learn hard skills, be precise and measured. Go slowly. Make one simple move at a time, repeating and perfecting it before you move on. Pay attention to errors, and fix them. Daniel Coyle, Little book of talent

Decomposition of complex skills and techniques into simpler skills is important. The simple skills are then learned individually and then recomposed back into the longer sequence.

Soft skills

There is a category though of soft skills, "those that have many paths to a good result", especially around tactics, which cannot really be well defined and/or drilled into the brain with slow drills:

  • line selection
  • timing
  • (re)balance and recovery

In contrast to the careful carpenter, the soft skills are built by playing like a skateboarder. A skilled coach will set environments where you can play with timing, coordination, line selection, recover from mistakes in a safe environment etc.

So, what's the point?

The point is that soft skills can really only be built by repetition and trial-and-error. You need external cues to quickly identify the mistakes and give your brain the necessary feedback loop: a drill with external cues where you can identify errors instantly and coach yourself is much more effective than a hundred explanations of some fuzzy "timing" concepts.

The challenge is blending the two approaches. You can't quite work on "hard skills" for an entire season and then "soft skills".

Take a look at this:



This skiing does not result from an exclusive focus on technique, i.e. hard skills. Tactics play a role, but keep looking. The re-balancing and quickness and other soft skills present there are not normally trained, at least not at a small club. Yes, we can make up for them with certain gates layouts, drills, free ski in glades etc.

It is very important, as a coach, not to erase the soft skills or under-develop them with a focus on technique. You will realize you need to build them when it's too late. Look at the athlete development model and see where the related skills are best developed and do not skimp on their development. Quickness, agility, balance, creativity etc

Playtime - developing soft skills in skiing

Lots of moguls and glades. Lots of playful drills and setups. Lots of balance challenges: ski on one ski, boots undone etc.

Setting stubbies in a mogul field.

Skiing backwards. Doing the stubbies backwards. Doing stubbies backwards in a mogul field.

Drills and technical skiing

  • lane changes: slalom turns, every 3 turns transition across the slope, see video

    • develops soft balancing skills, staying with the skis, allow long turns at will
  • random turn shapes

    • also with given pattern, like 2-3-2 etc

Give me more...


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By: Razie | 2014-09-30 .. 2016-11-14 | Tags: post , coaching , technique , soft skills , improve-skiing


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