Remember me? Sorry I've been away so long - I've been writing a book (out soon) and I needed a bit of a rest.

I'm back and I come bearing something I hope is of interest.

I recently got back from a block of work near Chicago with a U16 soccer team (that's means "football" to the rest of the world). My work covered a few different aspects of sports performance - learning, psychology, skills training, rehab, fitness and movement.

One of the players I worked with felt sluggish in his ability to change direction so we set out to make a difference in his turning ability. Our session was split into two shorter sessions (as our floodlights died). After warming up at the start of both sessions to ensure we could safely test quick changes of direction, not much running went on. I mostly had the player walk very slowly to a line and change direction very slowly, over and over again. Sometimes, I asked him to pay attention to various parts of his normal turning process. Other times I asked him to change a detail in some way, try that out a few times and notice how it felt. Importantly, I didn't once tell him that any way was better than any other. Instead, I asked him to perform movements in different ways so that he could create a sort of contrast for himself; so that he could learn to feel the difference between movements and detect what felt better and worse for him.

After hundreds of walked-through changes of direction, we took another look at his full speed change of direction. Here is a before-and-after video of our 45 minutes of Athletic Upgrading.

The difference you see, which I'm hoping you will agree is a significant improvement, is the result of zero technical input on my part.

Telling an athlete what to do to help them improve their performance is commonplace. I have done it myself many times. I also believe that it is often inappropriate and has limited efficacy.

Firstly, technical input is given predominantly verbally. We process language predominantly through our linguistic systems. Changes in like the one you see in the video above come from a different set of systems than the linguistic ones. Movement doesn't speak verbally.

Movement speaks movement.

Secondly, let me describe a common "educational" scenario. There is an exam at school. Many people don't really understand the material being tested on the exam. They are given lots of examples of the sorts of questions on the exam. They are given past papers with example answers to practise. They are almost told what will be on the exam. They pass the exam. Shortly after the exam when asked a question about the exam, they can't answer. They never really understood it. They could merely parrot it, giving the illusion of understanding.

Telling somebody the answer and somebody finding the answer for themselves are very different things.

The retention of an answer you have actively found for yourself versus one you have been passively handed is far better. Having somebody learn to be more agile (even if it takes a while) rather than telling them how to be more agile leads to agility that really sticks. 

Welcome back,


Arton "Movement speaks movement" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Performance and Rehab Consultant 

AuthorFloat Sting