When I took psychology (as an elective!) back in the early 1980’s, the four stages of competence, or the “conscious competence” learning model, was known as “Four Stages for Learning Any New Skill”
In short, it’s basically a model for learning.
Sprinting fast is all about muscle memory, and the four stages of competence model represents the process you must do to achieve it.
The old expression is true:
Amateurs practice and practice until they get it right. Professionals practice and practice until they can’t get it wrong.
This is why I still do drills, especially the Mach Drills. To read more about Gerard Mach drills, click here.
The Four Stages of competence
The four stages are (cut and paste from the Wikipedia page):
The individual does not understand or know how to do something and does not necessarily recognize the deficit. They may deny the usefulness of the skill. The individual must recognize their own incompetence, and the value of the new skill, before moving on to the next stage. The length of time an individual spends in this stage depends on the strength of the stimulus to learn.
Though the individual does not understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize the deficit, as well as the value of a new skill in addressing the deficit. The making of mistakes can be integral to the learning process at this stage.
The individual understands or knows how to do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires concentration. It may be broken down into steps, and there is heavy conscious involvement in executing the new skill.
The individual has had so much practice with a skill that it has become “second nature” and can be performed easily. As a result, the skill can be performed while executing another task. The individual may be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was learned.
Loren Seagrave & The Four Stages of competence
If you haven’t read Loren Seagrave – Neuro-Biomechanics of Maximum Velocity (Part 1), you should . You can read Part 2 here.
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Here is his take on the Four Stages of competence:
1st Stage: Unconscious Incompetence
The athlete is not thinking because they have never been told to think about anything, and is not very good at new skills. He said that he tells the football players that it is better to look foolish in front of your teammates in practice and get better at the skills than to get embarrassed on Sunday in front of 80,000 people and a TV audience! In this stage, the coach must convince the athlete to lose the inhibitions to looking foolish.
2nd Stage: Conscious Incompetence
The athlete knows what to do but has not mastered the skill; they consciously try to execute it, but are not very good at it yet.
3rd Stage: Conscious Competence
Athletes very quickly progress to conscious competence, where they are skilled but only with conscious effort; they cannot do it automatically and mindlessly. In this stage, unconscious action returns one to previous bad habits. The example Seagrave gave was someone trained in the martial arts would, when confronted by an attacker, most likely revert to ugly, unskilled fighting habits when in this 3rd stage.
4th Stage: Unconscious Competence
The skill is automatic and performed perfectly with no conscious effort. Attainment of this level takes not only practice, but mental imagery and rehearsal. It can take up to 500 hours of practice to achieve unconscious competence with a skill!
The last line from the above paragraph probably stands out, as we all think it’s the 10,000 hour rule that needs to be the norm.
NOTE: Read Lee Ness’ article on Has the 10,000 hour “Rule” been Debunked?
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