Athletic development specialists dedicated to the art and science of excellence in movement

Notes from 2011 National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Arizona State Clinic: Day 2

Only one session on Day 2, but there was so much good information flowing that the program ran more than an hour long.  One of the unique things about this conference was that each presentation complemented the others.   

Please see Day 1 and Day 2 if you have not done so already.

Nick Winkelman: The Science of Coaching - Applying Theory in Practice

How does what we say affect the athlete?

10 coaches....10 different outcomes in same program

“no touchy feely”; not about motivational talks!!

Look down the rat hole to ask “Why?”

How can you create an environment for learning without saying anything?

Motor control theories – How can you create environment for learning without saying anything

Bernstein’s “Degrees of Freedom Problem” – lots of ways to move but we move in tangible, specific ways

Learning is about unlearning

Coordination = Patterns of head, body, limb movements relating to patterns of environmental objects and events

Baby has many possible ways to move but eventually puts it all together – How?

Motor control theory #1 – “memory based construct that controls coordinated movement”

Generalized motor program – Class of actions with common movement features

Schema theory – set of rules that provide basis for motor skill

Closed loop model – Original program sent in “desired state” compared to “Actual state” sent to “CNS”.  CNS modifies based on what is observed

Reaction time = ID stimulus --> long term memory -->action

Dynamic systems theory – Body works against constant state of reaction to environment

Self organization of a motor skill – Sport expression of a motor skill in response to specific tasks, environmental conditions, and biological factors.  (Example: Walk vs. Run)

Attention and memory are limiting factors to learning.  Can’t multitask.  We can only switch our attention. 

Attention is a limited resource.  What you say as a coach can affect amount of attention to the task

Cueing takes away limited resources from the task!

Attention leads to memory

Short term sensory store - Short term memory - Long term memory

Selective attention = Better quality of input

Motor control learning

Practice design = Create environment for better learning without saying anything

Practicing well does not mean we will play well!!  Importance of practice design

Games don’t occur in sterile environment

Contextual interference – Performance disruption that results from performing multiple skills in variation in the context of practice (Blocked vs. Random practice)

Contextual interference effect – Improvements in body’s ability to react with environment

Follow progression: Blocked - Serial - Random

Move through progression as fast as athlete’s abilities will allow

Regulatory conditions – Surface, rules, etc.

Non-regulatory conditions – Crowd, score, game importance

Closed skill (i.e. track and field, swimming) – Vary conditions based on what is seen in the sport.

Open skill (team sports) – Example variation: smaller soccer field (fustal in Brazil)

Verbal cues create image; Visual cues create outcome

Verbal cues: 1-2 cues at most, minimize volume, focus on what we want

Visual cues: watch perfection (mirror neurons); watch novice performer (improves problem solving); combine both!

Task intrinsic feedback = visual, audbile, tactile, proprioreceptive

Augmented feedback = knowledge of results, knowledge of performance

Higher the task intrinsic feedback, the less need for augmented feedback (and vice versa)

Guidance hypothesis – Too much guidance creates over-dependence

Feedback strategies

  • Bandwidth – Only give feedback when performance is outside certain range (good or bad)
  • Summary – what is average and what is variant
  • Fading – more feedback in the beginning, then decrease
  • Self selected – athlete chooses when they want feedback; do they ask when they do it right or when they do it wrong?

Novices want feedback when they do it right; experts want feedback in the middle range (they know when something is really bad or really good)

Telling what not to do gives too many options: many ways to do something wrong; not many ways to do something right

Direct feedback at the weakest link

Future studies: movement quality (current studies only look at quantitative outcomes, not quality…did person cheat/compensate to get result?)

Discovery learning – Combining expert with novice.  Extremely beneficial for novice.  Expert can benefit so long as other expert players are involved and the novices don’t drain coach’s attention

Video learning – 100pct of time use for coaches; can create attention overload for athlete

Ideal – “Coaching under the table”


JC Cole: Long Term Athletic Development and Skill Acquisition Design

Looking at how USA Skiing addresses LTAD

Problem with USA NGB’s...not enough info from the top down

More USA problems: age based, antiquated system design, based on immediate success, overcompete and undertrain; adult models used for kids; early specialization

Son’s soccer example (Age 11) – Eight game tournament in one weekend; only 3 x 30 min practice during week.  Now wants to quit the sport to play lax…..

Lindsay Vonn – Top Gun theory.  After Top Gun came out, Navy pilot apps increased.  After Lindsay Vonn’s performance in 2010 Games, interest in USA skiing increased.  Parents didn’t realize her success was product of many years development. 

Vonn was playing soccer and other sports as a kid = well rounded, no specialization

USA Skiing facility in Vail is building a soccer field

Consequences of USA system – athletes fail to meet potential, high injury rates, lose love of sport

LTAD not mutually exclusive to short term success…CAN get short gains due to hormone jumps.

Build foundation for next level coach – “How can I give the next level coach the best product!”

High school athlete – 14 to 18yrs old is HUGE! 

College athlete – not always coming from solid foundation.  Just because someone makes D-I doesn’t mean they’re ready

Example of poor collegiate coaching – One of his skiers went to Harvard and was given a weight program for the football team

Educate – Make parents allies, not enemies; Debunk myths

Teach athletes to become their own best coaches

Example of psycho parents: couple who tried to get kid born at optimal time for sports (January)!

Average US ski medalist = 35-38 yrs old

Measuring PHV is easy – Track on doorframe!

Move stamina later than normally recommended to avoid high training volume in PHV years

Fast learners = accelerate opportunity

Slower learners = isolate, innovate, innervate

Don’t assume a foundation is there!

Pyramidal model vs. Vertical model

Pyramidal model = set times for advancement.  Problem = less ability to ID talent

Vertical = allows more range upward and downward.  Problem = requires intensive communication among coaching staff

Expose to higher level but not full time, in cases of fast learners (good example = Lindsay Vonn; Michelle Wie, Freddy Adu = too much high level exposure)

Vonn at age 13…trained mostly with her peer group but also trained with senior level skiiers

Funnel plan = loosely construct 10k hour rule and see where it takes you

Know whether they are able to move up based on skills needed to move up.  Create skill acquisition worksheet.

Technical statement – lays out foundation

Philosophy. Foundations.  Strategies.  Coaching language.  LTAD and skill acquisition.

Keep rebuilding system

Don’t confine…refine!


Guido van Ryssegem: Movement Variability - What is in it for Us?

Movement is the only reason we have a brain

Systems appraisal that is constantly changing

Think beyond the musculoskeletal system -->BRAIN!

Motor learning = same with grandma and elite athlete

Several attempts at same activity lead to different paths of performance

Tasks – Movements – Motor skills

Brain does not care how we move; it just wants to get the job done

Automaticity removes variability to create optimal control of tasks

His son had a confirmed 2,432 yard shot as Army sniper…6 yards short of world record

Motor control…not strength

Don’t want too much or too little movement variability

Fat people aren’t lazy…would you be excited to exercise if you were carrying 100 extra pounds on your body?

Neutral zone (Janda) – most optimal position for the joint to be in  = homeostatis

ACL tear = can’t control internal rotation

Keep it simple

  • Strength = lift heavy
  • Power = lift fast
  • Mass = lift a lot

Changing perspective on unstable surfaces…may be useful for variability

Variability used to be seen as random; Instead it may have important data based on chaos theory

Central nervous system acts based on chaos theory.  Make order out of chaos

Task specific practice optimizes accuracy and efficiency of associated motor pattern (not client’s fault if they can’t figure it out!)

Dynamic systems theory – Learn to figure it out. (“Learn to shut up” as a coach)

Sport specific, culturally biased, time driven – Cueing considerations

Self organization – We interfere too much too early

Tim Lincecum – Father wouldn’t let anyone touch his son.  Mechanics evolved when he got to majors on their own.

Self organization in nature – Bats, fish

Why is self organization important -> Anthropology.  Better chance for survival

But ironically…we have better recovery and training but squat worse than our ancestors!

USA has lost the art of play.  We have been scared since 9/11 (note: Guido is from Belgium initially). 

Problem of reduced playtime especially notable in females.  Female ACL injuries in USA basketball players 4x that of other countries. 

Anecdotal example: had room full of female college basketball players.  Asked all to stand.  Then told those with ACL injuries to sit.  Asked those still standing if they described themselves as tomboys growing up.  All said yes!

ACL injury indicates lack of complex mapping

Kids are “motor morons”.  Variability of movement decreases as we become more proficient with a skill.  Let kids explore their environment.

Elimination of physical education curriculum has created “motor morons”

Swiss ski team asked for beach volleyball court access when visiting US training facility in Vail

However…as skill becomes more proficient, variability can go up in a good way.  Example: Michael Jordan.  Once proficient with basic dunk, he could move on to inventive dunks. 

Brain is made to do incredible things (Pele, Michael Jordan)

We can lose the ability to do the simple if we focus on the complex too much.   Add variability once motion is controlled.

Para-athletes stabilize differently than able bodied. 

Unorganized random movements are the basis for postural control. 

Movement variability and rehab – Degrees of freedom compress through self organization of the brain

Kids pull themselves up way too early – Parents make competitors out of kids before they know their names!

Turkish getup – Similar to how babies get up

Variability prevents decrease in performance – Soccer on a golf course, using balls of different sizes

There’s a child inside all of us!

Post-rehab – load em up as fast as they can (Siegler 1996).  Fewer ways to lift a heavy weight wrong than a light weight.  Light weight allows too much variability in someone who was never strong.

Variability starts high (many different ways to move); decreases (movement proficiency); increases (proficiency allows for greater variation)

Great ideas alter the power balance in rehabilitation, that’s why they are initially resisted

Three types of constraints – Task, body, environmental. We spend the least time with environmental (a mistake) 



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