In the final of our ten-part series about the physical components of fitness, we look at one of the most important of all – accuracy. Whether you throw darts, hit a ball, tee-off, or shoot a gun, accuracy and being accurate is what keeps us on target and on track. Some call it wizardry, others mastery – whatever your take, we can all think of a skilful athlete that delivers with controlled movement and accuracy; Pele, Beckham, Radcliffe, Bolt, Bristow, Woods, Holmes, Lewis, Murray.
To bring all our chapters in this series together, we look at how accuracy is the final piece of the puzzle.
Yes, athletes need to have explosive power, coordination, cardiovascular fitness and much more, but it’s accuracy in sport that takes skill to the next level. In this feature, we explore the role of accuracy in sports performance.
What is accuracy?
Those who have undertaken sports coaching courses, will be aware of the significance of accuracy in sport.
This has been defined as “the ability to control movement in a given direction or at a given intensity.” In other words, this means asserting control and being able to respond with immediacy.
Although accuracy is very similar to precision, it is still defined in different terms, as follows: ”Accuracy indicates proximity of measurement results to the true value, while precision is a measure of the repeatability, or reproducibility, of the measurement.”
For instance, Cristiano Ronaldo is well known to be an incredible striker. His skill has not gone unnoticed – he was found to be the most ‘on target’ penalty striker during the World Cup in 2018. Meanwhile, 19-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer is known for his precise serve. This is accuracy demonstrated at its best.
Why is accuracy important?
In sport, there is always a winner, often times it’s the team or individual that was most often on point. And this is why accuracy is important. Whether you partake in football, basketball, ballet or any other sport, being accurate helps you get over the line, and with precision.
In sport, where it’s important to be on target – to hit a bullseye or serve a ball, being accurate means that you will deliver your shot flawlessly, and usually with grace or fluidity. This means you’re likely to score higher more often. And when points make the difference between first place and last, this is ever important.
In some sports, this is more significant than others, these are often precision sports, such as snooker and darts and even football and basketball, where there are targets to be met. But in any case, the ability to perform accurately is crucial for success in all sports.
Accuracy in sport is something that sports coaches pay great attention to in order to hone the skill set of their athlete. With practice and focus, this can be enhanced over time.
Testing your accuracy
Testing accuracy can be achieved in many different ways. This is best worked through with a sports coach who will devise the right test for your chosen discipline. Since accuracy is very specific to each sport, it’s best to consider what success means to you, and how you hope to achieve it.
For instance, if you’re a tennis player, accuracy might mean the perfect serve. While if your sport is archery, accuracy might mean hitting the bullseye every time. In football, this might translate into striking the perfect ball at the back of the net, or perhaps in ballet it might mean striking and holding the perfect pose with fluidity and grace.
Therefore, accuracy should be tested against the goal you are best trying to achieve. Take for instance the example of a football player. Target practice is one of the main skills they have to rehearse as part of their daily training programme. This encourages players to hone their skills and improve the precision in which they strike. Overall, it is used to encourage trial and practice to improve upon accuracy.
So, if you are a footballer wishing to test your accuracy, you might set a task of attempting to take a penalty over 20 times, noting how many you were on target. This can become a benchmark for future tests.
Improving your accuracy
The best way to improve accuracy in sport is to practice, practice, practice. Malcolm Gladwell once wrote that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve success in any given field. Whilst current research suggest that the hours per discipline every greatly, it cannot be understated that this is the best way to improve overall performance.
Working with your sports coach however, there are techniques that can be adopted. One of these methods is making the target smaller. This is used in sports like tennis, golf and football, as a way to improve accuracy. This can elevate a game by helping to fine-tune focus and concentration. This requires other skills as well, such as coordination and stamina too.
Research by Singer (2000) found that using an external focus of attention could help levels of accuracy too, described as “the use of physical targets external to the athlete in which focus his/her attention. The use of this focus of external attention helps to create an inner state in the player that is optimal for the performance.”
As we have learnt, accuracy in sport can be improved with practice over time. It’s the reason why sports coaches at times perform repetitive actions in training programmes, since rehearsal and focus play a central role in one’s development, performance and accuracy.
When looking at the physical components of fitness accuracy is one of the most important factors determining an athlete’s success.