NOTE: Before we get started today, I want to offer the premise to let you know that a bit of a soapbox moment may ensue below. Please bear with me through it as I strongly feel it’s something that needs to be said and addressed within the movement skill community.
About a month ago, while in the final week of preparations for NFL Training Camps, a few Emergence team members (Tyler Yearby and Rich White) and I, brought together a number of players that we were helping in the refinement of their movement skill this summer, to join forces and interact in a problem-solving manner with one another (think of it as a movement skill sparring session).
Unfortunately, we still had only six athletes out on the field on the day. However, we wanted to do everything we could to really ramp up the level of representative nature of the learning environment, and we wanted to present higher complexity problems to each player while trying to truly test each one’s grip over a range of affordances. Thus, each of us (Tyler, Rich, and myself) jumped into the given movement activities at various times (sometimes all at once, as well) to be able to layer in that additional complexity and present more information-rich problems with it.
Now, for a moment, let’s disregard the fact that I strained my medial gastroc during this session (in my defense, I was also playing a deep safety role on a few dozen reps back-to-back in what felt like a sped up play-clock thanks to Tyler’s quick twitch on his stopwatch), but I remember thinking several times, “how many other Sport Movement Professionals/Coaches could join in on the problems set within a session to expose the athletes to a wider range of contextual situations?”
Now, it should be said, none of the three of us are overly gifted and talented per se in the movement skill department. Instead, each of us takes our own personal movement skills very seriously and we work on our toolbox relentlessly just as we expect our athletes to do. We do not do this only to set a good example, nor do we do it only so we can jump in to be opponents (or teammates) when the movement problems with athlete training sessions call for it, but we do this because sport movement skill is that big of a part of our lives.
Unfortunately, even at risk of coming across holier than thou, I am not sure that all within the performance community feel this same type of way about it!
If you attend a session at any Strength & Conditioning conference it’s pretty common to see lots of people who certainly take care of themselves, their fitness, and their nutrition. Aesthetically, it’s quite obvious that almost all who are there take great pride in doing exactly that. Additionally, if you were to ask nearly any of them to perform or demonstrate almost any common resistance training exercise, they will jump right up to the table and rattle it off with enthusiasm.
Yet, I have presented at a countless number of these types of conferences, almost always on topics related to movement skill. Very frequently, I will be charged with running a practical application session, and let me just say, it’s like pulling teeth and twisting arms to get anyone from the audience to volunteer to participate and actually move in front of the group (compare that to if you were to ask this same population to perform a squat or Olympic lift).
Even at the Sport Movement Skill Conference a few years back, I had to persuade a number of the presenters ahead of time to assist me in my practical session, just so I knew that I would have enough people when ‘volunteer’ time came around. Otherwise, I’ve seen how this goes: you ask for anyone willing to jump in the movement activity, and you see people panicking in nervousness just hoping someone else will do it. And even when someone may step up to do so, and though I admire their willingness and gumption, it’s quite easy to tell that many are like a fish out of water when it comes to moving fluidly in relationship with other moving bodies in space. And this was at a freaking movement-focused event…where the delegates are all that because of their passion for sport movement skill!
Now, don’t get me wrong, there ARE a good number of individuals across the community, who it’s quite obvious take pride in how they personally move. Individuals like Erwan LeCorre (of Natural Movement) and Ido Portal (of Ido Portal Movement Culture) immediately come to mind. Also, I have routinely witnessed Jimmy Radcliffe (University of Oregon) and Loren Landow (Denver Broncos) both participate in executing their own demonstrations during movement-based presentation sessions.
Even with those few examples, it definitely seems as though the coaches who partake in their own movement skill art, especially from a sport movement perspective, are fewer and farther between.
This just baffles me. Why don’t we have more coaches within the performance community who take their own execution of their movement skill more seriously?! I feel that this is something that has to change!
Think about it this way: would you take martial arts lessons from an instructor who doesn’t actually practice his or her respective art? Of course not! It seems silly to even suggest that you would, doesn’t it? So, why aren’t more coaches capable of moving in more skillful ways? Or, more importantly, why aren’t more coaches at least even trying to move more skillfully?
Now, don’t get it twisted here! I am NOT suggesting that Tyler, Rich, or myself would have fooled anyone into thinking that we were impersonating Barry Sanders or Deion Sanders. Additionally, I am not suggesting that it’s imperative that you, as a Sport Movement Professional, ever reach the same echelons of movement skill that your respective athletes may.
Finally, I am also not suggesting that we cannot learn a great deal from those who aren’t overly capable of moving all that well. For example, I could be wrong but I would speculate that many of the scientists, philosophers, and theoreticians who I look up to don’t have the ability to walk out onto the field and execute a highly evasive agility action.
But, what I am insinuating is this: If you are a Performance Coach (including those across S&C) or consider yourself a Sport Movement Professional, you absolutely should be practicing movement skill frequently.
Now, whatever that practice looks like for you, should be authentic to you. I am not talking about hitting the weights, stretching or rolling out occasionally, or playing a game of pick-up basketball. Nearly all coaches do at least some exercise, but it’s usually to “look the part” more on the surface, to keep one’s health in check, or to “get a sweat on” in staying active. Meaning, very rarely does that individual’s exercise modality of choice intentionally and purposefully attack the gaps within their movement skill-set. And that is what I am referring to here.
It’s not just important that we practice what we preach in hopes that we can avoid the ‘do as I say, not as I do’ mantra that seems all too familiar in coaching dialogue to one’s athletes. Instead, participating in your own personal movement skill art WILL allow you to enhance nearly every aspect of your movement skill coaching craft. Speaking from experience here, the more purposeful you are in the acquisition of your own movement skill, the more your lens will change when you analyze others’ move, or when you attempt to guide and facilitate within your learning environment.
Thank you for sitting through my soapbox rant! Now go get moving!
Co-Director of Education