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Want to know more about the movement world and  jump into what’s going on in our minds on the regular? Perfect- you came to the right place as we dive into a taste of the current and most talked about topics.


February 17, 2020

Big Words

I remember sitting in attendance at the Sport Movement Skill Conference in 2019 (an event I have hosted each of the last three years) and, like clockwork, each presenter and thought leader in attendance who were not in favor of utilizing an Ecological Dynamics framework seemed to continually rehash a recurring rhetoric which usually involved a similar argument created established by two main points:

  1. Those advocating for an Ecological Dynamics point of view are making sports movement behavior more complex than it needs to be (both in regards to explanations of motor control as well as how the process of motor learning/skill acquisition should be undertaken).
  2. Why do those in Ecological Dynamics feel the need to use all of these big or foreign words? “They must be hiding behind all of those words to try to feel smarter than everyone else.” Thus, these terms and ideas certainly have to be unnecessary.

Because of this overall stance, it led these individuals to propose that many of the concepts which form an Ecological Dynamics framework just isn’t as needed and/or isn’t adding as much value as those within EcoD believe that they are.

Let me be quite frank here – I feel as though anyone who fits in this camp, while utilizing those arguments above, are being flat-out lazy when it comes to furthering their understanding of sport movement skill. So, refusing to succumb to the pressure and just oblige to those on the ‘other side’ without any semblance of a fight, let me clap back for a moment here.

We are all trying to get closer each day in understanding the most pertinent ideas for investigating movement behavior. We (within EcoD) do not profess to have all of the answers. In fact, we have more questions than answers! Yet, I firmly believe that the questions that we are asking, because of the scope that our theoretical lens allows us to see movement behavior through, is getting us closer than we were when we refused to open our minds and step away from some of the more traditional, often dogmatic ways of viewing movement skill.

Next, though some refuse to believe it, sport movement IS more complex than it is often presented to being. Systems, nonlinearity, emergence, constraints, and self-organization are all realities of human movement behavior and though they messy the waters a bit, they are necessary for us as Sport Movement Specialists to investigate, explore, and use in explaining what is unfolding in the dynamic, chaotic world of sport.

Second, to those who say that the novel or unfamiliar words aren’t needed…words like affordances, attunement, degeneracy, and a whole host of others that leaves a crowd of traditional thinkers flustered…yes, they can sometimes be confusing and even daunting to use and unpack, it does not mean that we should rid our vocabulary of them. In fact, once you elect to empty your cup a bit, learn what each of those terms and their related concepts mean at a basic level, and then start to chew on the words as part of your language, you will actually find that they are quite necessary to us as Sport Movement Specialists; in fact, they will allow you to see movement behavior in sport in a completely new light.

To add fuel to this fire, I find it almost comical that people are so resistant to learning new words or concepts which could offer great meaning to one’s craft, especially when it’s these same individuals who have no qualms about learning or using jargon-filled words that have become common nomenclature in the athletic performance community. Just think about it, once you immerse yourself in any community, what topics those within the community talk about, and the ways that they talk about them, will almost certainly be foreign to you unless you choose to dive in and figure out what it all means.

And that’s the thing: these words have been used in movement science for decades. Now, just because they are first starting to infiltrate our collective performance community, and they also may represent topics that challenge your preconceived notions or dogmas, doesn’t mean you should resist learning them. In doing so, you could very well be also missing out on the tremendous value that their related concepts could add to your lens. 

That all being said though, I don’t want to be one to present criticisms without offering any sort of potential solution. This is precisely why Emergence was formed as a movement skill education company in the summer of 2019. Myself, along with four other highly passionate individuals who truly believe in the value of some of these ideas came together as a system of component parts to lock arms in sharing some of these ideas with the world. We have put them to use in our own practical work with athletes for years, and because we have been inspired by many thought leaders in the movement community who have come before, we felt as though it was necessary to try to bring some clarity to these ideas by furthering the discussion around them.

That all said though, if some of these ideas intrigue you, we have put together a new mini-course entitled ‘Ecological Dynamics for Dummies’ as a means of assisting and facilitating a deeper conceptual lens for understanding movement behavior in a simpler, more concise, introductory step for Movement Professionals of all kinds. Our hope is that after interacting with the content there, you will be less apprehensive when you hear someone utter some of these ‘big words’ within an Ecological Dynamics framework and, instead, help you choose to accept the reality of the complexity of sport movement behavior.

It should be said, that even before the team at Emergence put together this content, there were resources which we dove deep into ourselves personally, written by many of the thought leaders who became giants in the field by pioneering work related to these concepts, which helped set-us on our way. Here are just a few of them that could get you started on our path!

Shawn Myszka

Co-Director of Education

For more reading:

  1. Davids, K, Button, C, and Bennett. Dynamics of Skill Acquisition, 2008
  2. Chow, J, Davids, K, Button, C, and Renshaw, I. Nonlinear Pedagogy in Skill Acquisition, 2016
  3. Renshaw, I, Davids, K, Newcombe, D, and Roberts, W. The Constraints-Led Approach, 2019


Click to expand previous blog

No natural phenomenon can be understood without carefully considering how it emerged.”

These famous words of kinesiological wisdom were delivered by the late and great movement scientist, N.A. Bernstein, and forever changed our lens on how we should view sports movement behavior. It’s funny how a standalone quote is capable of doing that, isn’t it? In fact, if you read Bernstein’s words and the idea(s) it conveyed a number of times through, you will quickly realize that its influence could extend far beyond the study of movement behavior in sport, or even just moving in everyday life…instead, it can apply to almost all matters of the world.

Of course, that’s what great words, uttered by incredible thought leaders, can truly do. They can shift the paradigms within a particular Form of Life for generations to come. Words have that kind of power in standing the test of time. In our field, this is how the ideas of those Movement Giants who have come before us are able to live on forever.

This is also why the team at Emergence has decided that here, in early 2020, is an appropriate time to begin to put together a blog. We are not doing this implying that our words are anywhere near the same extraordinary level and magnitude as those from the likes of Bernstein, Gibson, Brunswick, Newell, Davids, and others who have inspired us. Instead, we want to use this blog here as a living, breathing, ever-evolving record of where our thoughts currently stand while taking the time to expand upon many of the ideas housed in the educational content we put together.

Additionally, we also feel as though it provides a certain challenge point for us in how we aim to take part in this learning journey with all of the members out there of the movement community. We place tremendous importance on being able to more effectively articulate these ideas that we hold near and dear to our hearts to each one of you. We aim to communicate in such a way that the words and ideas resonate within your craft; to do that, we know that we must get better and that’s precisely what we intend to do through the writing that is delivered here.

We know it is all of us together, acting as a coupled dynamical system with reciprocal relations, that will allow these concepts, theories, principles and practical applications to have life breathed into them. Additionally, we know that what our collective Form of Life looks like in 2020 is going to surely evolve further and get us all closer to the truth with each passing year (and hopefully each passing blog post!).

So, with all that said, we stand here at a new sort of beginning. We hope that what will emerge from here, will be nothing short of phenomenal.

To get a grasp as to where we currently are (or rather, where we were), those of you who have picked up Underpinnings know quite well that it is a comprehensive resource of the thoughts and ideas that we felt needed to be understood to pay respect to those thought leaders who have shaped our craft. Countless hours went into its compilation and creation and we are humbled by the response of this project across the community. For those who have yet to check out, ‘Underpinnings’ you can do so here.

Additionally, if you are looking to advance your craft and hear some of these words from the horse’s mouths themselves, we would highly recommend diving into the following resources. We feel that this would represent some of the careful consideration that Bernstein spoke of in his quote above.

Shawn Myszka

Co-Director of Education

For more reading:

  1. Gibson, J. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception, 1979
  2. Bernstein, N. On Dexterity & Its Development, 1996. In: M. Latash and M. Turvey (Eds.), Dexterity & Its Development
  3. Davids, K, Button, C, and Bennett. Dynamics of Skill Acquisition, 2008