If Babies Could Talk First, They Might Not Learn To Walk!

by Randy Sullivan
in blog

Until I met Frans Bosch at the 2014 Texas Baseball Ranch Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp, my coaching style was unremarkable and, in retrospect … suboptimal.  It was what I call TWT coaching.
Tell the player how to do something.
Watch them do it.
Then, tell them how to do it better.
And, when they don’t get it right, label them “uncoachable” and move on.

It’s typical …

and it’s highly ineffective.

According to Bosch, one of the world’s most preeminent experts in skill acquisition and motor learning science, “The body shows remarkably little interest in what the coach has to say.”

That’s because when learning and refining movement skills, a couple of truths exist.
First, you cannot repeat a movement. Every repetition will result in a subtle deviation from the previous trial. “Repeatable mechanics” are a unicorn! Instead of being a guy who “repeats” his mechanics, you should strive to be a world class, in-flight adjuster to the deviations you make. And those adjustments have to occur subconsciously — without thought. You see, when we measure the amount of time it takes for a neurologic impulse to travel from the brain to the muscles and back up to the brain again, it becomes clear that there isn’t enough time for any adjustment in the pattern to occur by way of conscious thought.

Our players are required to perform skills that don’t allow time for thinking. Therefore, we can no longer continue to coach them with methods that demand conscious thought all the time.
“On your next pitch, I want you to focus on …”
“Ok, on this one, you need to think about …”
“When you get right here in the motion, you need to concentrate on …”

Listen to us!! Can we please stop? There’s no time for thinking, or focusing, or concentrating!!

Trying to enter a motor learning domain via a cognitive input is a futile endeavor. If words, verbal cues, and cognitive thoughts are the primary means of coaching, they can interfere with learning and erode performance.

When you were a baby, and you learned to walk, we couldn’t use verbal cues to teach (thank goodness). Instead, we used one of the six different motor learning techniques we use at The Florida Baseball Ranch® to elicit the necessary movement pattern. we created a safe environment and gave you a goal — “Come to mommy (or daddy)”. Then we let your infinitely intelligent body self-organize until you accomplished that goal.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
If babies could talk before they could walk, they might not ever learn to walk! As parents and coaches, we’d probably screw them up with verbal cues.

We get banged on a lot about self-organization. Critics call it “FIO (figure-it-out) coaching” and when they do, it shows a gross misunderstanding of skill acquisition and motor learning science. Self-organization is far more complex than traditional explicit, verbal cue-laden coaching. It requires a lot more creativity and thought than “TWT coaching.”

Here’s an infographic showing some the various ways we can influence a movement pattern without using verbal cues.
Choosing and executing the right technique, on the right athlete, at the just the right time, and under just the right conditions — that is the art of master teaching.

This is what I’ll be speaking on at The Florida Baseball Ranch®/Dutch Baseball Skill Acquisition Summit on Sep 8-9. I’ll be joined by several of the leading skill acquisition scientists and the most progressive thinking coaches, physical therapists and athletic trainers in the business. The scientists will lay out the theory and the coaches will show you exactly how you can implement it into your practices.

It will be the first time ever that skill acquisition science will be applied specifically to baseball on such a grand scale.

To Learn More or To Get Signed Up, Click Here.

We can’t wait to see you at The Ranch®

Randy Sullivan, MPT, CSCS
CEO, The Florida Baseball Ranch®

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