Does Learning Require Chaos?

In my first few years of college and during my student teaching, I clearly remember being told by my teachers to always break down skills into smaller parts so students could understand how to build the skill in their minds. For the first couple years I followed that concept. I wasn’t really sure why because it didn’t always lead to success.

Free Play

Many years later, I am coaching movement in the form of strength training patterns, multi-directional speed, and just about everything in between. What I have found is by watching bouts of “free play” and sport games athletes are performing many of the speed skills and strength pattern movements randomly and very efficiently. Of course there are always poor patterns being exhibited by some athletes, but for the most part it is very good. The aspect of this “free play” and sport game movements that I put my focus on is the randomness of so many movements in a short span of time. Athletes moved based on their need at that moment.

Pick Up Games

I have always had this propensity toward randomness as a vital tool in teaching specific patterns. My primary resource for this is my childhood and that of my friends. Growing up we didn’t have skill coaches for our sports, yet we were very skilled. Because we had hours and hours of exposure to many movement patterns and specific skills in our various sports we made significant improvements. Several of my friends and I played tennis, As we all know, it is a very difficult sport to just “pick up”, however we were very good. As a matter of fact we played in several tournaments, not to mention college, and won at a fairly high level. We did not have a tennis specific drill coach. We just played against better players and learned through exposure. I could go on and on with examples of my past experiences growing up, but the main point is the fact we simply used our experiences in live games and activities to teach us. We learned to adapt or lose.

I have vivid memories of playing small sided games of football in small backyards and having to learn how to dodge to avoid being tackled. Again, adapt or lose. By having more exposures and experiences we all figured out what worked and what didn’t work. This experience built our ability to react and move.

Parts and Whole Movements

We didn’t need to have parts of the movement skill broken down to figure out how to avoid. Experience taught us and more exposure gave us the odds of figuring it out.

The nervous system likes chaotic situations when it comes to learning how to move. The reason I believe this to be true is because reactive movement is something we have used to survive since the dawn of man. Our existence depended on being able to fight or flight. The randomness of footwork, although reactionary, is very precise to move our bodies quickly to “survive”. I believe the nervous system is wired to handle unpredictable chaotic moments that require a quick escape or attack. Isn’t that sports and life.

Babies learn to walk through a series of whole movement patterns. These movement patterns may not be totally walking initially, but there are extension patterns, flexion pattern, and rotational patterns based on need or curiosity. Over time, babies learn to walk based on a series of reactions to sensory input based on where they are in space. If they start to tip they will step to gain balance, start to lean sideways, and shift their hips and feet. We move to accomplish something. Athletes move to accomplish something. Athletes move in whole movements not part movements.

A whole movement might not be hugely dynamic (moving the head to avoid a jab in boxing). The movement isn’t always big, however it is whole. If we compartmentalized the movement, then it would be void of reaction which innately doesn’t makes sense to the firing pattern of the nervous system based on fight or flight reactions. I am not saying we should never compartmentalize to re-educate a poor or inactive muscle group (nervous system firing). I am simply talking about learning gross movements as it relates to multi-directional speed.

My Approach to Movement Training

For many years, I taught the breakdown movement patterns (Parts) of multi-directional speed skills as an early approach to teaching speed. For many years now, I have taught the breakdown or parts as a corrective measure only after seeing the inability to perform whole skills correctly at first. Again, I am talking about multi-directional movement skills not sport specific skills like shooting a ball, punting a football, etc.

Chaotic training pushes the nervous system to selectively drive reactive movements of our legs, arms, and core to adjust immediately, which sounds a lot like sport and life.

So, why would I want to take such a beautifully designed intricate system that understands how to make me learn how to walk without help and break it into parts when I am being chased or chasing? If my system of movement fails me after several exposures, then I will break down the parts. That is only if needed.

This belief system is why I use competitive drills as a conduit to gaining reactive speed in my skill training. For example, if I want to work on five yard acceleration ability I will have my athletes attempt to catch a ball on first bounce or chase a partner. This strategy uses the fight or flight mechanisms build in us all. Through this method I can now give feedback, such as if I want more arm action or better body lean. The reason this method is so effective, in my opinion and experiences, is the athlete is in the moment and felt what it was like to run without proper arm action or body lean. When they do use more effective technique on the next repetition it instantly feels right. Had I broke down all the techniques I wanted the athlete to use prior to them having experienced it and given feedback, it would not have had the same connection.

If you can develop your training systems around live active competitive situations, then with feedback, you will have physical and mental compliance much easier. Not to mention you will know what tools to use to fix the issues. If you try to fix the problem preemptively, there is no “past experience” for the athlete to base the corrective techniques on.

Many of my videos are based on progression you can use to feed you athletes from a corrective standpoint.They are tools that allow you to know what you should see and what you should allow to happen naturally. My videos are as much of an assessment tool for what movement should be then they are a progressive system. Every situation is different, this is why you need to understand what you are looking for then you will be able to fix it when you see the need. For more info click here

Yours In Speed,

photo credit: oemebamo via photopin cc

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