Perspective: Skills vs. Competences

In this second perspective article I want to talk about skills and competences. I know that skill is often used interchangeably with competence, so the following is simply my definitions of the two words:

A Skill: Knowing how to do it and being able to do it.

A Competence: Actually doing it under pressure in real life situations (games).

There’s a big difference between “being able” to do something and “actually” doing something, and I think this distinction is very important to understand.

At some point your focus should shift from learning a skill to utilizing said skill. That’s when you go from having a skill to having a competence.

Hockey Analogy

A hockey player can have the world’s hardest and most accurate slapshot, but it’s completely useless if he’s not using it. In this case the player needs to learn how to get open, and his teammates need to learn how to set him up. Otherwise, the slapshot will remain a skill solely for hardest shot competitions.

Learning a skill requires technique and physique – Learning a competence also requires instinct and hockey IQ.

Development steps

For you to reach a competence, you will typically have to go through 4 steps:


As shown above, skills/actions can be performed consciously or unconsciously. Instinct is simply the things you do without thinking. Ideally, you want players to have great instincts – do all the right things without thinking about it.

Sometimes you put players together and they have instant chemistry. This is when their hockey instincts fit together, and they don’t have to make adjustments to their game.

What words to use?

I use the word competence because it’s what I use in Danish… But there may be a better word to use in English. In the end, it’s not really important. It’s all about your definition and interpretation of the word.

That’s it for my second perspective. I purposely didn’t talk much about conscious and unconscious decision-making as I will get into that in the next perspective.

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