The level of co-ordination is reflective of an ability to perform movements of various degrees of difficulty very quickly, with great precision and efficiency, and in accordance with specific training objectives. It is considered that an athlete with good co-ordination is capable not only of performing a skill perfectly, but also of rapidly solving a training task to which he/she is unexpectedly exposed.
The physiological basis of co-ordination lies on the co-ordination of the nervous processes of the CNS. A human’s body is a unitary whole composed of various organs, systems and functions. The complexity of the organ’s and system’s functions are constantly regulated and co-ordinated by the CNS. One of the main CNS functions is the selection and execution of a fast and accurate response to a stimulus through the efferent (away from nervous centre) nervous path to certain effectors (Mittra and Mogos, 1980).
Athlete’s movements, be they voluntary or reflex, simple or complex, are the result of muscular contractions, which may act to facilitate the movement (the agonists) or inhibit it (the antagonistic muscles). Movements of a more complex nature, which have not yet been automized, are limited by certain factors, especially an unco-ordinated excitation, which might affect the ratio of agonist and antagonist involvement, resulting in an uncontrolled and poorly co-ordinated movement. The regulation off the motor activity implies the differentiation of and reaction to a stimulus with high precision and quickness. As a result of many repetitions of a skill or technical element, the fundamental nervous processes of excitation and inhibition become properly co-ordinated, resulting in stable, well co-ordinated, efficient, and fine motor skills.
The Classification of Co-ordination and Its Degree of Complexity
1. GENERAL COORDINATION governs the capacity to rationally perform various motor skills, irrespective of sport specialization. Every athlete following a multilateral development should acquire an adequate general co-ordination. Since multilateral development must commence with the initiation into a sport, by the time of specialization general co-ordination has to be well assimilated. Under such circumstances general co-ordination represents the basis from which specific co-ordination can be developed.
2. SPECIFIC CO-ORDINATION reflects the ability to perform various movements in the selected sport very quickly, but also with ease, (lawlessness and precision. Thus, specific co-ordination is closely linked to the specificity oif motor skills, and equips the athlete with additional abilities in order to perform efficiently in training and competition. Specific co-ordination is achieved as a result of performing, throughout an athletic career, many repetitions of specialized skills and technical elements. Consequently, a gymnast may be extremely co-ordinated in his/her sport, but unco-ordinated in basketball.
Specific co-ordination also incorporates the development of co-ordination combined with other biomotor abilities, according to the characteristics of the selected sport An athlete may be said to have co-ordinalion of speed like in slalom skiing,’freestyle swimming, or hurdling, when he/she is able to perform a skill very fast subject to a specific rhythm and tempo. Co-ordination of speed is dependent upon three main factors (Mitra and Mogos,1980):
- the time necessary to acquire a complex skill with the specific and required precision, and tempo (rate of speed or rhythm).
- the time necessary to react to a signal or an opponent’s actions. (Since such co-ordination is closely linked to reaction and movement time, their development or a high innate ability is essential to performance), and
- the time necessary to adapt or adjust individual skills or movements to newly created situations or impeding actions. The degree of precision attained during such quick changes occurring throughout a competition (i.e., team sports, alpine skiing) and the time elapsing from the time of a signal or an opponent’s action to an athlete’s reaction are often determinant to the final outcome. A high degree of co-ordination of speed is required in order to rapidly and correctly respond to a challenge.
Sports requiring strength necessarily require a development of the co-ordination of strength as exhibited by the performance of wrestlers, weight lifters, hammer throwers and gymnasts. In such sports the precision, ease, and rapidity of a movement or skill requires high co-ordination, strength and power, A less co-ordinated athlete usually performs with exaggerated strain, rigidity, and wasted energy. And finally, co-ordination of endurance implies the ability to perform highly co-ordinated skills oyer extended periods of time, as in team sports, boxing, and judo. For this particular type of co-ordination, endurance is an essential component, since a lack of it elevates fatigue which, as a result, affects some of the CNS functions including co-ordination.
A skill, according to its pattern, performance over time, and orientation in space, has various degrees of complexity, Zatzyorski (1980) proposed the following criteria to qualify co-ordination:
- degree of difficulty: a skill, or movement may be easy or difficult. Basically, cyclic skills are less complex, and thus easier to acquire, as opposed to acyclic ones. Therefore, those learning an acyclic skill may claim to be exposed to more difficult tasks.
- precision of performance: A movement may be performed with a high degree of precision when it matches the challenge of a motor task in time, angles, and dynamics. Usually, a skill performed with high precision is biomechanically sound and physiologically efficient. In other words, it is very economical.
- duration of acquisition: The complexity of a skill is also associated with the time required to acquire it. A well co-ordinated individual acquires a skill much faster than someone with inferior ability. Similarly, in sports characterized by a rapid alternation of rhythm, situations or performance requirements, as well as a high variety of skills (i.e., team sports, boxing, wrestling) the time span between opponent action and individual reaction to solve a technical or tactical problem, is determinant to the technical result Under such circumstances the athlete is required to have a high degree of specific co-ordination and adaptability as well.
Factors Affecting Co-ordination
1. THINKING or athletic intelligence. An outstanding athlete docs not impress only with amazing and superior skills or tremendous biomotor abilities, but also with his/her thoughts and ways of solving complex and unforeseen motor or tactical problems. This is not possible without a specialized thinking based on years of training and experience. In many sports skiilfulness and cleverness are the result of precise, and quick-thinking. A determinant factor is the ability to analyze; to select multiple information collected by motor, visual, and sensory analyzers. Following a quick analysis (separation of the information received by the CNS into elements) the significant information is retained and synthesized to produce the optimal reply. Through a fine co-ordination of contraction and relaxation, the muscle chains are selected and ordered to perform according to the specific time and situation of performance. The quickness of implementing tlie selected action often may ensure the superiority of an athlete/ team over others. On the other hand, the suppleness of thinking is the result of the balance between the fundamental nervous processes (excitation and inhibition) and the rapidity originating from the, power of those processes.
2. FINESSE AND PRESICISION of THE SENSORY ORGANS, especially the motor analyzers and kinesthetic sensors (the sensors of movements), as well as balance and the rhythm of muscular contraction also represent important factors (Mitra and Mogos. 1980). Through systematic training kinesthesia improves, resulting in an ability to perform more co-ordinated, precise, efficient and quick skills.
3. MOTOR EXPERIENCE, as reflected by, a high variety of skills, constitutes a determinant factor in co-ordination ability, or the ability to learn quickly. Co-ordination is developed and perfected through a long process of learning varied skills and technical elements. Such a process, during which the athlete is continually exposed to new situations and environments, enriches motor experience, facilitating a fine coordination.
4. THE LEVEL OF DEVELOPMENT OF OTHER BIOMOTOR ABILITIES like speed, strength, endurance, and flexibility, impact upon co-ordination, since there is such a close relationship among all of them. A poor ability in one area represents a limiting factor on the perfection of co-ordination.