Last week I took part in a Google Hangout with Mark Upton and Al Smith, who run the sports coaching blog 'My Fastest Mile' and who are generally all about getting sports coaching and training to be more ecological and dynamical. The recorded hangout is here - I assume it's good, I can't watch myself on video without cringing :) I've fleshed out some of these ideas below; please comment below or on Twitter if there's anything you want more on.
We talked perception, affordances and a little about what makes the ecological approach different from more cognitive approaches. There's a lot of detail sitting under the discussion; see, well, the rest of the blog to get a sense of where I'm coming from! I'm not a sports scientist, and so my particular research programme isn't specifically about applying the ecological approach to sports. However, I do study some sports related activity (specifically throwing; see my latest paper, blogged here).
The main thing that gets applied to sports from the ecological approach is the concept of affordances (which is the topic of that paper). Affordances are cool, obviously, but the thing that makes an approach 'ecological' is a focus on information; how things like affordances are perceived. I wanted to briefly sketch how I see ecological psychology feeding into sports, which I think it's a great idea for everyone involved.
A disclaimer: I am also not a coach. I'm just a scientist. I like to let people know that I know this, because I've found that whenever I interact with practictioners of any kind (coaches, but also occupational therapists, physios etc) there's a real resistance to listening to people like me. I mean, what do we know? We aren't in the trenches, working with the athletes or patients, and our wonderful ideas might simply not apply to the messy real world. I've also chatted to people who felt worried I would be judging their messy actual practice, the one they've put together over years of experiencing the actual needs of the people they help.
I understand this concern entirely. Let me say, for whatever it's worth, that I am not trying to waltz in, figure out what you're doing wrong and save you with my wonderful theory. I always see my role as just 'the scientist in the conversation'. I'm going to listen to what you actually want to know, and I'm going to see if there's anything I know from what I do that can feed into that process. It will either work or it won't, and that's ok. I get to think about ways to make my science work in an interesting applied high stakes context; I hope you might get some insights into how learning works that help you make sense of what you see in the people you work with.
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