Uni of Toronto #3 – “Muscle doesn’t care about transfer (to sport), movement does.”

Last recap of the University of Toronto Strength and Conditioning Summit, and this quote was from Chris McCleod from The English Institute of Sport.

Before I share some notes, I have to give an acknowledgement to Jennifer Sygo, and her presentation “Evaluating Nutrition Trends:  Paleo, Gluten-Free, and Dairy-Free Diets and their Role in Sport Performance” which was stuffed full of humor and was the most engaging and educational presentation on the topic I have ever seen. Since I was familiar with most of the information presented, I must admit I spent the time listening and live-tweeting, rather than note-taking. Your loss, I admit.

Not only did she expertly side-step the usual psuedo-science questions, but she deftly and firmly addressed the main arguments about “What is a paleo diet?” and “Why is it popular?”, “What does it actually refer to, and is there research on athletes?”  etc thoroughly. The fact that no one dared ask any of the usual questions you hear most frequently, was quite impressive. I plan to copy her!

As well as being firm on the evidence and current research, she avoided getting tangled up in explaining “diet fad bullshit” and emphasized over and over the importance of respecting someone’s beliefs regardless, guiding them with professionalism and not “scaring them off” by freaking out over their bullshit.

I was humbled, educated and humored all at the same time. You can easily see why “she is a respected dietitian, sports nutritionist, author, and professional speaker and currently serves as the team dietitian for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Athletics Canada, and also provides services to Gymnastics Canada, Triathlon Canada, and the Toronto Raptors.”

On to Chris McCleod.

Chris’ presentation was my favorite. He talked about movement and mechanics. A topic with just about every level of complexity you could desire, but his presentation was a mix of spirit, simplicity and charts hahaha. He was equally technical, yet, simple in principle and application.

Chris made this point clear by asking us to engage in some hands-on activities. He asked one question right at the beginning that stuck with me.

He asked “How many of you are 30-40% sure of what you are seeing when evaluating movement? Sit down.” I sat down.

“How many of you are 60% sure? Sit down.”

“How many of you are 80% sure? Sit down.”

Well, I sat down at the right time. His point was, that when evaluating movements and mechanics he is never that sure what he is seeing. He avoids overconfidence. There are so many variables. He must look at an athlete with a curious and observing mind, not a highly confident one. Why? To be able to ask better questions and make sure he knows whatever it is he ends up knowing. If you are working with high level athletes, who have spent years moving in certain patterns, and who’s livelihoods depend on working better, and not being injured, insecurity in “what you know” is a good thing. How “right” you are comes when you evaluate results.

With movement, you can never be 100% certain. You can have better questions or worse questions. You can get closer to “right” or further away. But it all starts with being “not sure”, and honing the art of asking better questions.

Another drill he had us do was to get up and do a mini coaching session right on the spot. Our job was to coach someone to do a 360 degree jump and report back if we made it better, and if we could recognize that we did. One of my clients was attending the seminar as well (bit of a cheat there), so I grabbed her, and in under a minute successfully had her land with better balance than the first try. This emphasized the importance of less information to get a better result, and less time to get a better result. All of which help you KNOW that you are getting better at coaching.

Title: PERFORMANCE PROBLEM SOLVING: Understanding the movement puzzle

By: Chris McCleod, Strength & Conditioning Technical Lead for the English Institute of Sport

Three questions he asks to figure out what’s needed:

“What is the performance question?”

“What is the athlete’s preference?”

“What is the athletes profile?”

“Your why’s and your what’s are your context canvas. The context map gives (you) coherence. Coherence tells the story (of what is happening in their movement).” (this was paraphrased slightly from my notes.)

“Muscle doesn’t care about transfer (to sport), movement does.”

What is important in coach education to evaluate movement?:

Structure (physiological principles)

Coordination – intention (motor learning)

Specific skill emergence – purpose and context (learning principles)

Purpose comes from performance needed.

Performance gives you (physical) positions needed.

Positions (good vs bad, poor vs strong)  improve the process (of moving better in sport).

Progress (less injury, better speed, agility etc) is dependent on process.

“Have aim. Have intent.”

“What are athletes paying me for? 7 years of getting it wrong. Be clear on what you’re trying to do from the start.”

What is success?

“When they do something they didn’t think they could do, you are doing your job.”

To give context to this quote above; Chris was talking about giving athletes the ABILITY to react and respond more freely and do spontaneous feats of strength or speed or agility in their sport, which provides not only the “wow” factor for those who watch, but the fulfillment that all athletes crave by doing their sport. It is the production of this “art”, that means he is doing his job as a coach that evaluates and looks to improve the “technical.”


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