Don’t Get Good At Being Average
In life there are things that we are good at and things we are not so good at – sometimes we are naturally good at things and other times we have to practice. In movement, practice might be thought of as acquiring technique or skill but sometimes it’s easy to become too focused on an outcome – faster time, more weight, more reps – and we end up practicing an average skill.
We often only consider how we move when we need to produce better performance or we have an injury and if either of these are true learning how we move can be the first step in helping us move differently.
When analysing our movement we can break down any movement into a sequence of bones, joints and muscles and when we perform a movement task (like run, squat or throw) there is a neuro-muscular firing pattern that is executed that enables us to perform the task – this is known as a skill.
If we perform a task with the same skill enough times then we will form a movement habit. This is why we all have our own walk, our own run and our own squat.
When looking at how we perform a movement there is a hierarchy:
- A good skill performed well
- A good skill performed averagely
- A bad skill performed well
- A bad skill skill performed averagely
At this point I must credit my mentor John as Faster – this is out of one of the first courses he wrote!
A good skill performed well is something you see when you watch a professional play sport. A good example is a professional footballer taking a free kick – the player will often produce a lot of power with a very short run up. This shows the execution of an efficient skill – minimum effort, maximum effect.
A good skill performed averagely might be a footballer at an amateur level taking the same free kick – they may be able to kick the ball a similar distance but the movement may require a longer run up and more effort all round. Similar power output, but with less efficiency.
A bad skill performed well on the other hand is when you have somebody that’s able to produce the end result but they do so in an inefficient way. In our example a footballer may be able to kick a ball quite far but they might do so through inefficient mechanics. The execution of power without efficiency would definitely stop the player progressing to the next level with their kicking.
A bad skill performed averagely is when someone uses poor mechanics and gets low results.
Clearly the goal is to perfect a skill and then be able to perform that skill efficiently and consistently.
To improve a skill we must practice, and practice is an interesting subject. There is a common notion that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Whether this is true or not is a good topic of conversation but if you are going to practice a skill, you should do so meaningfully.
Meaningful practice is essentially striving to attain good skill and then be able to perform that skill in the desired environment.
If you are at the stage where you don’t have good skill and you don’t know what a good skill looks or feels like it’s time to get a coach. A coach will guide you towards the right technique and then they’ll help you perform that technique well.
If on the other hand you are at the stage where you know what a good skill looks and feels like practice might be about refining that skill or learning to deploy that skill in challenging environments or under fatigue.
What isn’t good is when a poor skill is practiced without an eye for improvement. This could be seen as ‘going through the motions’. When this happens all your practice is doing is reinforcing the poor movement pattern so it becomes more ingrained. In this situation there is a definite danger that you’re getting good at being average.
The best way to practice meaningfully then is know that the technique your using to perform your chosen movement is a good one. This is where your coach comes in, and if you don’t have one, get one, especially if you want to take your skill to next level.
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