Saturdaymorning playtime. Always love those moments without any clear program or blueprint, but instead just moving for the sake of it and having fun while coming up with various stuff and challenging each-other. Yes, movement should be fun and challenging. Then it is one of the biggest medicines. It is through play that we learn, it is through play that we develop and the rules of the play can develop along.
I’m always looking for new alternative games and exercises to implement into our practices and program. And it is through these moments where I am actually not forcing anything to come up, but just enjoying some movement playtime that eventually new exercises or challenges pop-up. Often these sessions lead to new challenges that I can provide my athletes with. When I think; ‘This was awesome! This one combines both fun, challenge and relevant movement patterns.’ I know that I have found something good. It is where succes / failure depend on a clear goal-outcome and hard work becomes engaged play. Just apply a few simple rules as instructions and for safety and let the constraints do their job.
The big paradox
Only when we take the play seriously we get the most out of it. That is the big paradox, because often playing and being serious is seen as two opposites. But actually they go together. Always do your best, give your fullest, but never forget to see the play in it. More fundamentally, movement emerges from of the inter-play between the constraints of the organism, environment and task. The big question for movement optimisation is; how can we modify those constraints to enable better movement to emerge?
Add clear goals to your training where possible! We move intentional and are goal-oriented. The traditional way of putting all of our focus on movement technique is providing the athlete with an internal focus of attention and this causes him/her to think about their movement (I need to bend my knee). However, our movement system is designed to think about our actions (what goal do I need to reach, what target do I need to hit). This shift in attention acts like ghost-riding on our nervous system pathways.
When we focus on the movement outcome (how hard did I throw the ball and did I hit the target) we shift towards an external focus of attention and this is more in line with our movement system. In particular when the goals are clear and the boundaries between success and failure are really obvious for the athlete and built in to the exercise (needing to hit a certain target). This way the training leads to a better learning effect and has positive effects on motivation. The learning will be more subtle and might even not be visible during the training, but it will be visible over a longer period and it will provide better retention. And the great thing is, you actually enable the athlete to perform when the stakes are high. Because we haven’t filled the head of the athlete will all this information about internal postural cues, there will be less paralysis by analysis because of overthinking things and less choking under pressure by reinvestment (trying to think about the movement). Simple rules drive complexity. The rules for optimising movement are simple. Let the movement do the talking and just play full out with purpose!