Fight Skill Fade

Fight Skill Fade

11 December 2020

By Neil McLaren, Scotland Commissioner (Outdoor and Adventure)

As we continue to live under varying restrictions, opportunities to get out and do outdoor and adventurous activities have been considerably reduced - especially with groups. Unfortunately, this lack of activity will inevitably lead to some skill fade.

What is skill fade?
Skill fade is a reduction in ability or adeptness of a skill when it hasn't been used for a while. Studies on the subject have concluded that the amount of fade is dependent on the type of skill and the individuals’ previous levels of competency and experience.

What effects skill fade?
The largest and most accepted reason for the loss of ability in a skill is the interval between practice - the longer that you go without using a skill, the more likely it is to fade.

Skills that have become automatic, like riding a bicycle, are less likely to be affected than more complex skills that require you to think about them whilst they are being performed. That's where the phrase "it's like riding a bicycle" comes from - you will most likely still be able to ride a bicycle even after a few years of not doing so. On the flip side, you might have been able to use trigonometry at school, but seeing as you probably haven't used that skill since then, it would be difficult to do so today.

Unsurprisingly, people with higher skill levels before the period of non-use show less skill fade than those with lower levels. This is thought to be due to the lower ability individuals forgetting a greater percentage of their knowledge.

What can be done about skill fade?

Fortunately, there are a number of things that you can do to combat skill fade.

Firstly, just being aware that you and the participants will probably be a bit rusty when you return to outdoor & adventure activities is a great place to start!

It's also good idea to try out an activity yourself before attempting it with a group to refresh your skills.

You can undertake some refresher training - if you feel your skills have faded a lot, then do some additional training. This could be an organised course or some peer to peer training.

It's good practice to plan out the activity ahead of time. This will ensure that you have time to think about the activity and compensate for anything you might forget whilst trying to run activities off the cuff.

It may also be a good idea to reduce the difficulty of the environment the activities are run in. Begin with running activities in an easier location than before the period of skill fade. Ideally in locations that you have been to before.

Lastly, you can also think about reducing the ratio of leaders to participants until your skills come back.