Automatic learning works for all sports

I met an elite runner yesterday. He has ran the 100 metres in a tick over 10 seconds which is not too shabby. I love meeting other sports people and learning from them. They have plenty of stories to share and their experiences are invaluable.

We were halfway through our lesson when he stopped, looked at me and said my teaching reminded him of his running career.

He went on to say that he spent five years working on his running technique. A time that he found boring and led to some injuries. I asked him when he ran his best times. He replied without hesitation that this happened when he stopped thinking about HOW to run and he just did it. When he thought too much he was never at his best.

He mentioned a time when he was running against an Olympic Champion. The Olympian was quick (obviously) but also natural and graceful. My man said he was so concerned about his arms and motion that he finished “miles behind”. I’m not surprised.

In an age where we are obsessed with form it seems to me that many athletes are having their unique styles torn apart and replaced with something less effective. This approach is boring, tedious and potentially dangerous (injuries).

There is currently an epidemic of poor results in AFL goal kicking. In what should be an easy skill (kicking a ball between two posts) it has been over analysed and critiqued. The very best young footballers, who have to stand out from thousands of others to “make it”, are forced to change a style that got them to the top in the first place. It doesn’t make sense to me and the poor results don’t surprise me.

Would automatic and natural learning solve the problem for these other athletes? To me the answer is yes. It’s a no brainer – but I’m not sure if the establishment is ready to change. We shall see.

Good playing,

Cameron Strachan

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