When you are just starting with photography, you'll have your brand new camera body and one lens. Then you'll spend some time taking pictures of all the little objects around you and probably will drive your friends and loved one's crazy.
You will shoot so much that you end up with a huge pile of photos, some good, some bad, some that are barely called photos. This will leave you wondering, was it worth it taking all these photos? It definitely was, and it still is.
As a starting photographer it is very important to shoot a lot, and to shoot all kids of different stuff. Slowly you will start developing some techniques and you will know what settings work best in different situations. Part of getting better and better results is knowing your gear really well.
Every lens has a "sweet spot" where you will get the sharpest images. If it is a zoom lens, that would be a combination of a certain zoom length, and the aperture setting. Find out what these settings are for your lens by experimenting and doing research online. Take photos at different zoom and aperture settings, then explore the images. Once you know where your "sweet spot's" are, make sure you have them carved inside your head and use them every time you can.
Read you camera's manual a few times to find out what every function means. Also, experiment with all the different settings. Reading your camera's manual could be boring, but it is better than not using some of the sweet features that your camera has to offer. Even if you think you already know your camera inside and out, you'll be surprised by what you can learn just by flipping through the manual.
It's best not to go out and buy a ton of gear at once, especially if you are just starting. When you get one piece of gear and use it for a while, you'll get used to it. This experimentation and learning time will help you understand the benefits and negatives of each particular piece of gear you own.
While learning all the different features of your camera and finding the "sweet spots" of your lenses you will develop intuition for using your camera (your sixth sense). After some time you won't have to wonder if you should turn the zoom ring of your lens to the right or to the left to zoom, you will just do it. Capturing amazing action sports images will require for you to be able to operate your camera without thinking about it, since the action will fly by so quickly.
You have probably heard all this stuff before don't buy it. But, we all gain experience with time, and we learn from our mistakes. So if you are self conscious then take our word for it and get to know your gear one piece at a time!