As we have embarked on the first-ever cohort of The Movement Academy over the last number of weeks, a few points of important contention have routinely popped up regarding how we, as Sport Movement Specialists and Coaches, view skilled movement behavior in sport. Namely, if we are going to view movement skill from a more ecologically-oriented perspective, we must begin to respect the mutual and reciprocal nature of the relationship between an athlete and the environment he/she exists within, and the problems that they may face there which will serve to channel the coordination of their functional movement behaviors (remember: context drives content).

As Araujo & Davids offered in 2011 in their seminal piece, “What Exactly is Acquired During Skill Acquisition,” we should begin to think of skill acquisition not as the enrichment of an entity (such as a program or schema within the brain), but instead, we could view it as the emergence of a more adaptive and functional relationship between an organism and its environment. Furthermore, they go as far as suggesting that the terms skill attunement and/orskill adaptation might be more suitable in describing what is actually occurring within this process of skill acquisition.

As part of the discussions which have unfolded across many of the calls between participants within The Movement Academy, we have attempted to explore how these concepts, and others related to it, not only exist within each individual’s respective context and niche, but also how they would impact the learning environments that practitioners design. It has certainly been an enjoyable experience with numerous thought experiments for all parties involved.

In a nutshell, the above mentioned stance has led to a frequent question that I have inadvertently ended up asking within the interactions in TMA groups: What are they (the athletes) attuning to and adapting around?

Thus, a recurring theme of investigation here has been about the nature and the role of information which links the performer and the environment, as well as the disposition of the problem and potential solutions coordinated, to one another. As many within TMA have begun to realize, this investigation and understanding (about the information present within the peculiar context of the sport), will be imperative for the movement behavior which emerges and how the execution of the skill is regulated. Without at least some understanding of the information which could specify opportunities for action and guide the movement problem-solving processes of the performer, even if that understanding is in the form of educated speculation and informed hypotheses, its highly unlikely that our learning environments would adequately channel more functional (i.e. more attuned and adaptable) movement skills for our athletes. Often, the problems would simply lack many of the specifying informational sources and/or relevant environmental properties (which would be present in the competitive arena of the sport) to connect to and couple our movement in relation with.

Back in March 2020, we released a blog post that I had written which takes a deeper dive into the topic of information and its role in movement coordination within sport. I would highly implore you to check that out now if you’re interested.

All in all, when we are investigating movement behavior in sport, I think the question “what is the athlete attuning to and adapting around?” is a highly relevant one for all of us to continue to ask. We may not have the research to completely back us up quite yet in answering this question to apply under the constraints of contextual sport movement problems of all kinds and types, but by at least keeping it within the back of our heads at all times, it will remain a focus in our own experiences and in the facilitation of more skillful movement problem-solvers in each of our sports.

To say that I am excited about what the next five months of our six month cohort of The Movement Academy holds, would be a tremendous understatement. Based on the group of impressive and committed practitioners we have joining us, I am quite positive that we will embark on many more highly in-depth discussions which rival the one I briefly summarized here regarding attunement and adaptability within movement skill.

Are you interested in participating in the second cohort of The Movement Academy? Stay tuned and watch for much more information in the months ahead!

Shawn is the Co-Director of Education & Co-Founder of Emergence. He developed content for the educational brand, Movement Mastery, from 2014 till the formation of Emergence, with the sole purpose of helping to enable a deeper understanding of the processes involved in the acquisition of more masterful movement for athletes in sport. Shawn has served primarily as a Personal Performance Advisor & Movement Skill Acquisition Coach for National Football League (NFL) players since 2008, working with approximately 12 players each year.