Sunday, 17 June 2018

Very Stable Idiot Week 25: June 11-17 2018


"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently." - Warren Buffett


I’m a big fan of Brad Stulberg’s writing.  He wrote a good book with Steve Magness called Peak Performance.  You should read it.

Brad and Steve also write a Peak Performance blog. The following is from this past week’s post.  

In the very least, this is a topic that all athletes and coaches should give some serious thought to. 

- Brad Stulberg

Elite athletes are abnormal. Elite anything is abnormal. Otherwise, it's not elite.
In psychiatry, crazy drive toward something improbable without self-awareness is typical of a personality disorder. Out in the world it's called being a fearless entrepreneur, a big-firm partner at the age of 33, or an elite athlete.  

It's worth reiterating: none of this is bad until it is. 
But that line between "none of this is bad" and "until it is" is a very, very fine one. If this sounds super serious that's because it is. But it's also super common. And I think it's worth talking about more openly and more often.

The Shayne Parrish blog Farnam Street is one of the best on the web. I’ve read pretty much every word on the site.  This past week, Parrish shared the Farnam Street Five Core Principles.

In his words:

“All that we write about, think about, and strive to achieve is inspired by one or more of the following principles. We hope they offer some clarity about what our community believes, and perhaps some direction as you carve your own path.”

  1. Direction Over Speed: If you’re pointed in the wrong direction, it doesn’t matter how fast you’re traveling. 
  2. Live Deliberately: create space to cultivate a life and mind of purpose—outside the influence and dictates of others
  3. Thoughtful Opinions Held Loosely: As our understanding increases, we must be willing to adapt and change if we are to learn and grow to position ourselves to lead the life we want to live.
  4. Principles Outlive Tactics: By understanding the principles that shape your reality, your “why” will more accurately guide your thoughts and actions.
  5. Own Your Actions: one of the most powerful ways to make giant leaps forward in our lives is to not only accept that we’ll screw up, but to actively seek out correction when we do.


In Olympic Stadium on a cool Canadian night, with salsa music in the upper deck, Duran's people -- his true kin or those here who have adopted him -- cheered with raw conviction.
After a lifetime of hard work but almost effortless success inside the ropes, Leonard finally came face to face with the core of boxing: suffering. He passed the test of personal courage but, because he was so intent on that examination of character, he neglected the tactics of his art and lost a crown. 
Experts will argue interminably over why Leonard fought what appeared to be a brave but hopelessly stupid fight. Why didn't he jab? Why didn't he dance? Why didn't he circle? Why didn't he slide when Duran tried to cut the ring? Why didn't he clinch or push off more to avoid the in-fighting? Why did he stand toe to toe countless times and exchange hooks to the head and uppercut digs to the gut? 
Only Leonard had the absolute and unarguable answer.
"I had no other alternative," he said.
Early in the fight, when Duran was fresh, and late in the fight, when Leonard was tired, Duran made certain that the fight would be conducted only one way -- his way.-
  • Thomas Boswell

Bullies can dish it out, but they just can't take it. This is an ancient boxing rule of thumb: a seeming psychological paradox that really is a straightforward truth. 
Sugar Ray Leonard proved the verity of this maxim again tonight as he humiliated 
Roberto Duran with flashing combinations, glorious boxing skills and audacious courage.
Leonard, who depended on a complete change of tactics to regain his crown -- and prove himself to be a fighter for the ages in the process -- was ecstatic, but gracious in his greatest moment.
"I beat Duran more mentally than physically," said Leonard, accurately. 
"The things I did, especially in the seventh round, demoralized him."
 "Killed in a duel." 
That is the epitaph for Duran tonight. This evening, Sugar Ray Leonard had the feet of a Bourbon Street tap-dancer, the blended combinations of a fine Dixieland jazz band and the punch of Ramos gin fizz.
  • Thomas Boswell

Going into their first fight in Montreal, Sugar Ray Leonard was considered the better boxer, and a slight favorite (he was listed as the 9-11 favorite just prior to the fight) to beat Roberto Duran.  Leonard was expected to use his superior boxing skills and outclass the ‘brawler’ Duran.  But in the lead-up to the fight, Duran reportedly goaded Leonard - insulting him, and his family.  Leonard’s ‘emotional’ reaction led to him ignoring the advice of his trainer Angelo Dundee - instead brawling with Duran.  
Duran had clearly gotten under his skin, and eventually outpointed him in a close decision.  

It has often been argued that Leonard learned his lesson - and rather than brawling with Duran in the rematch in New Orleans 5 months later, he instead set the tone from the outset - boxing, moving, jabbing - frustrating Duran, and eventually forcing him to quit in the middle of the 8th round.  This would go down in history as one of the most epic of boxing matches - the ‘No Mas’ fight (although it is doubtful that Duran ever actually said this - but he DID quit).  

It is easy to argue that Leonard was ‘too emotional’ in Montreal - and it was his refusal to be drawn into Duran’s taunts that won him the famous rematch.  

In New Orleans, Leonard ‘controlled his emotions’, and took it to Duran.  Right?  

“The best coaches I’ve met are calm on the sideline.  Athletes take emotional cues from their coaches, so a coach who displays calmness and confidence inspires the same with their athletes” - Fergus Connolly

Emotion was the topic of an interesting discussion this week at an ALTIS Apprentice Coach Program Pool-side Chat.  

While I don’t disagree with the above comment from Fergus, I don’t think ‘controlling emotion’ is as simple as it sounds.  As discussed last week in regards to ‘coordination’, I feel the word emotion in sport has lost its meaning somewhat - or has been co-opted into meaning something else entirely, existing now on the ‘negative’ side of a false dichotomy fallacy between rational and emotional.  

What do we even mean by “too emotional”?

We tend to use ‘emotional’ as if it has a single meaning, but it’s not a single thing; it’s a state of mind, that can range from fear, to anger, to disgust, to happiness, to surprise, to excitement.  Does what we mean by ‘emotional’ apply to all of these ‘emotions’?  
  • You’re too happy
  • You’re too excited
  • You’re too sad
  • You’re too proud 

These are all very different things - but we tend to lump them all together.  

Generally, and in sport - having ‘emotion’ has traditionally been described as a good thing, but is increasingly being seen as now a negative.  In both coaches and athletes, we are now told how important it is to stay calm - to be relaxed - to be in control - to be rational

Again - what is really meant here?

What is important is an athlete can perform under situations of heightened arousal that is often present at major competitions.  
The question being - does this heightened state make an athlete react - and perform - worse than in a state of lower arousal?  

Does an increase in pressure make us react in a way that is different?  

Generally - the answer is yes.  

Some athletes perform better.  Some perform worse. 

Some athletes require this increase in pressure - this increased arousal - to perform optimally.  

What exactly is the emotion that they controlling here? 

And how is it controlled? 


On September 24, 1994, I remember watching American boxer Oliver McCall make his way to the ring to fight Lennox Lewis.  McCall was in tears the entire time.  Clearly, ‘emotional’, McCall would go on to say after the fight: “I usually cry when I go to the ring.  So I can pump myself up emotionally.”

McCall beat the heavily favored Lewis - knocking him out in the 2nd round.  (This fight actually changed Lewis’ career, as he responded by dropping his trainer in favor of McCall’s - Emanuel Steward.  The rest, as they say, is history)


Prior to Sugar Ray Leonard’s fight against Roberto Duran in New Orleans: 
"I've never felt about anybody the way I feel about Duran. It's no one thing, I just dislike everything about him: the way he walks, the look on his face, the way he disrespects people he doesn't even know, flipping the finger at nice people on the street, all because he knows what he is and can't respect himself. He wants everybody to kneel down to him. That's not right." 
Does it sound like Leonard’s ‘emotions’ were really that different in New Orleans than they were in Montreal 5 months prior?  

Duran, on the other hand, was described as relaxed, and “as close to happy as he is capable of being - as contrasted with his mood of perpetual menace in Montreal” (Boswell)

Like I said - I don’t think it is as easy as ‘controlling your emotions’.  

To be continued …

An example of the kind of ridiculous advice that is given in response to our supposed need to control our emotions:

- Brianna Wiest

People who are controlled by their emotions typically have something in common: they tend to only do what feels most comfortable. In other words, their emotions are organized into “feels good” and “feels bad,” not “feels good” or “does good.” 

If you let feelings control your actions, you will never progress in life. You will wonder why you keep circling the same patterns, habits and unhealthy relationships. 

This is because you haven’t learned how to organize, or process, how you feel in relation to what you should do and how you need to think.


“Top” (however u define it) t&f coaches love giving away their knowledge 4 free. There’s nothing noble about it. It hurts the sport. Their = in football or basketball doesn’t give away the farm 4 likes & retweets. Scarcity implies value. The only free cheese is in the mouse trap. - Latif Thomas

My response (as I - and ALTIS) give away a lot of free information):

First - as we can see by the number or responses, it is an interesting question, and one worth pondering - so thanks for stating it.  As we see it, there are four specific motivations:

  1. Marketing: building an interested-engaged audience, in order to potentially later sell to them.  Examples of this are numerous, both generally - as well as in our industry.  Godin, Altucher, Ferriss, all built their ‘brands’ through giving away free content (as, in our industry, BTW so did Kelly Starrett, Brian Mackenzie, and John Berardi)
  2. Altruism: we are genuinely interested in sharing information with the population.  T&F is small-time for a reason.  A more-educated population is our only chance at bringing legitimacy to this sport. 
  3. Knowledge is cumulative: we follow the Harold Jarche SEEK > SENSE > SHARE framework.  The more we share, the better we become
  4. Working out Loud: sharing our thoughts - holding them to the light - and thus opening them up to increased critique helps us better define our own thoughts, and forces us to better understand what we share. 

More generally - the growth of the amateur (us), fueled by the democratization of distribution, has disrupted every form of digital content.  Music is free.  Papers are free. Most books can be found for free.  A lot of art is free. Most University Courses can be taken for free.  This is our reality - there is no going back from it. 

There is free content on the web for literally any subject under the sun.  Education Programs, like what you put out, or what we put out, are simply little more than curated syntheses of information, packaged in a more digestible format, and communicated in a way that a maximum of interested people can understand.  


(Fergus Connolly posts a lot of really interesting articles on Twitter.  He’s a great follow if you’re interested in sport and-or performance.  The following are brief quotes from three articles he posted this weekend))


In 2016, at £193, Darmstadt had the highest priced season tickets in Germany – still considerably lower than the cheapest seat in the Premier League (Stoke City at £294) – while Bayern Munich fans were seen refusing to enter Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium during the opening five minutes of play, claiming to be disgusted by the extortionate prices for football tickets that takes advantage of loyal fans. 

The Bavarian giants have some of the cheapest season tickets anywhere in the world, with an adult one in the standing section at the Allianz Arena costing just over £100. A club representative was quoted as saying: “We could charge much more than £100. Let’s say we charged £300. We’d get £2m more in income but what’s £2m to us? In a transfer discussion you argue about that sum for five minutes. But the difference between £104 and £300 is huge for the fan. We do not think the fans are like cows, who you milk. Football has got to be for everybody. That’s the biggest difference between us and England.”


Throughout his career, Messi has been criticized for walking. After an El Clasico match between Barcelona and Real Madrid in December 2017, there was widespread coverage of the fact that Messi walked 83 percent of the roughly 5 miles he covered that game. Despite this, he scored and assisted in Barca’s 3-0 trouncing. 

We’ve known this trait of Messi’s for quite some time: In 2014 World Cup coverage, Ken Early remarked that “only Messi has figured out how to win matches by moving less than everyone else.” Benjamin Morris wrote about the phenomenon for FiveThirtyEight after Argentina lost to Germany in the final. The most popular explanation has been that Messi walks to conserve his energy for critical moments, like a perfectly efficient machine. But even when he’s walking, new research suggests, he’s far from idle. 

Whether Messi consciously decides to go against the run of play with his movement is difficult to ascertain. “Can we say Messi gets a lot of his space by not chasing the play? Yes, that’s precisely what our research shows.” Bornn said. “Is he doing it deliberately? To answer that, you’d probably have to ask the man himself.”


The system wasn’t working. 

By 2000, the Belgian national team had been stuck in a rut in international play for years. It had been two decades since its runner-up finish in the 1980 UEFA European Football Championship. The team’s best finish in the World Cup—fourth place—was in 1986. In its most recent showings, in the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship, the team failed to progress beyond the first rounds. 

After the 2000 debacle, the Royal Belgian Football Association convened a working group to devise a plan to return the country to football prominence. Among those involved were Michel Sablon, then the technical director, and Werner Helsen, a former footballer turned sports scientist at the Catholic University in Leuven, just outside Brussels. Helsen was the first academic to apply the 10,000-hour rule, made popular by Malcolm Gladwell, to sports. Performance, he found, was linked to the number of practice hours. At the time, teenage footballers in Belgium practiced four or five times per week. (Games were often played on the weekend, which amounted to some 12 hours per week.) It wasn’t enough, Helsen thought. “We need to double the amount of practise,” he said. 

They worked to establish “Top Sports Schools” across the country, where flexible curricula allowed students, beginning at age 13, to train for three hours every morning except Wednesdays. “The football training is integrated in the school plan, which means that these students can have a normal graduation,” Helsen said. Players would meet the threshold of 20 weekly hours—school and club commitments included—that Helsen believed was required for success. The schools would incubate a number of the current national stars, including De Bruyne and Napoli striker Dries Mertens, who attended Genk and Leuven, respectively. 

The Belgian squad has marketed itself as a group of friends coming together to play for a common cause. Hazard has been teasing his #REDTOGETHER campaign on social media as a means of gathering support. Lukaku has expressed his thanks to supporters as well, perhaps to drum up more enthusiasm. 

Whether the family campaign will pay off is anybody’s guess. The kinship is surely there. "If I have something to say to Romelu— Romelu, stop scoring goals now. Score goals for Belgium in the national team for the World Cup, please," Hazard told Sky Sports in March.


"In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it." - Robert A Heinlein

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Very Stable Idiot Week 23: June 4-10 2018


“Contrariwise,” continued Tweedledee, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain't. That's logic.” — Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

From an interview with Naval:

“I think eventually we will start also viewing social media, at least parts of it, as a disease — a real disease, because I think it’s just — over-reliance on social media is making people unhappy, where you’re just comparing your best self as — you’re creating your actual self, sorry. Your worst internal self to everybody else’s best self. At the same time the kids will be used to it, so maybe they’ll be a lot less shocked and outraged. Right now, every time I go on Twitter, there’s an outrage mob. There’s outrage over something trivial and they’re ready to lynch somebody over it.
I think our kids will have gotten over it. They’ll realize that, if you’re well-adapted to modern society, you can’t treat everything that you read as if it’s happening next door to you. The world is just too big of a place to get outraged over everything. I think the next generation will have learned how to be on social media and be a lot calmer. I think, as a society, we’ll hopefully stop tolerating people who get outraged over every little thing and create drama about it.”

I made a couple of comments on my friend Brett Bartholomew’s Instagram page last week.  I generally tend not to engage much on social media - I just post once in a while, and that’s about it; I have found I really don’t have the disincline to stop engaging once I start; so I know enough to stay off of that slippery slope altogether.  

Anyways - I had a few free minutes one morning this week, and I decided to weigh in on Brett’s assisted sprinting post.  My specific comments are not interesting, but when I went through and looked a few of the other comments, it motivated me to write a more general response.  Here it is, in it’s entirety:

“I don’t want to come across overly strict, here, but a vast majority of the comments are along the lines of “I believe it ”, or “I think”, etc.  Understand that Brett is an experienced coach, with a variety of experiences, who is very-well read, and puts a ton of work into what he does.  I’m sure his objective in posting and asking questions is not so other coaches can simply parrot and implement within their own group - but to actually begin a more reasoned discussion within the community.  I, for one, applaud him for his efforts, and feel this is a great example of how social media can be used for the good.   But this doesn’t happen unless those who engage are also critically asking THEMSELVES questions.   We have to understand that while we MAY be entitled to our opinion, it is dishonest for a coach to act upon it if  1) this ‘opinion’ is not based on an objective understanding of that which we are offering it upon;  2) it is costing someone else money-time; and 3) it is potentially injurious.  Because you ‘believe’ this, or ‘think’ that is not reason enough for any coach to prescribe a training intervention, and for that matter, ‘because Brett posted it on social media’ is also not a good enough justification.  Base decisions on first principles, what we KNOW to be true to the best of our ability, and prescribe interventions based upon CURRENT level of understanding.  If our only reason for implementing overspeed sprinting into an athlete’s training is because we ‘think’ something, then that is an opportunity for us to go and learn more about it.  For example - someone wrote something about “priming the NS”.  Does anyone know what this really means?  This type of terminology shouldn’t really exist unless we can accurately define it.  If we can define it, then lets do that, and use the opportunity to help others. Someone wrote about faster hamstring contraction speeds.  Is this assumption based on research?  Or conjecture?   It’s one thing to ask questions, another to offer thoughts on these questions, and another altogether on putting the time and effort into offering more than simple ‘opinions’.  This is how the industry ends up with ‘gurus’, fads, and gimmicks. Athletes deserve better from our coaches.”

We see this a lot in our industry.  We too loosely throw around words or phrases that have been used for decades, and we take them for granted, without a true appreciation for what they mean anymore.  I referred to one of these phrases above: “Priming the CNS”.  

That same day, I got a text from my friend Shawn Myzscka.  Here is the short conversation, as it relates to the above:

Shawn: “Last night I was at some teaching sessions with my jeet kune do guy, watching him teach as well I talking through ideas for his work that he does annually for my NFL guy's coming up. He was leading a group of high level special forces guys through a fighting skill session and said, "we are going to do this for coordination"...then paused, "wait, is this really for coordination because there's not even a contextual problem included here?!" He paused again...he then turned to me & said, "Shawn, what really is movement coordination??" So, in your view, I pose the same question to you cuz I know you enjoy these things...How do you personally define coordination?”

Stu: “This is not easy … and I still don’t have a good definition.  Off the top of my head: coordination encapsulates both rhythm and timing; intra- and inter-individual and group dynamics.  It is an emergent, self-organizing process of pattern formation that ultimately describes how elements interact with each other -  working together to realize an objective.  

Q to you: how does coordination differ from ‘dexterity’, as defined by Bernie?”

Shawn: “It's funny cuz everyone thinks they know...yet have such discrepancies when they attempt to articulate it...& when we look at the ideas those various definitions contain, there's so many differences between everyone's viewpoint on a concept that seems pretty important for us to come to common ground on. It made me realize how I can't just go through presentations or conversations using the words coordination, control, organization, optimization, or even skill (& technique!), without first highlighting how I personally view those topics/"entities"

Turns out, Shawn and I had both been thinking about this for a while.  And Shawn actually did something about it, as I recommend above within my response on Brett’s IG page.  He went back into the research, he asked a bunch of his friends, and then emailed all the responses, and his thoughts to these friends.  Out of respect for their privacy, I will leave out the definitions provided by these guys.  But I have permission from Shawn to share his thoughts here below:

Anyway, let’s also include a few of the heavy hitters in motor behavior history (with bias from an ecological dynamics framework) offering their hat in the ring for a few swings at the definition:

Nikolai Bernstein himself: Having discussed the topic extensively throughout his form of life (including writing a book which exhaustively covered the topic from his perspective entitled ‘Co-ordination and Regulation of Movements’), Bernstein poignantly chimed in with his most concise description of coordination on page 41 of ‘Dexterity & It’s Development’ under the heading, “What Is Motor Coordination?” where he said, “Coordination is overcoming excessive degrees of freedom of our movement organs, that is, turning the movement organs into controllable systems.” These degrees of freedom, to him (aka Bernstein’s problem), could be both kinematic (mobility of the body) and dynamics (which is more commonly known to most of us as kinetics…forces). Obviously, Bernie’s view at the time was very motor-centric…maybe that’s adequate for our context but maybe it’s incomplete and there’s something more to it as many of you began to highlight in your responses…as Bernstein began to acknowledge that the latter may be the case on the remainder of page 41 and over the next few pages, as well, as he dove into some early thoughts on information and movement coordination (before JJ Gibson & others in ecological psychology were really offering any of their thoughts on how affordances may be playing into the coordination we find). In fact, Bernstein later stated on page 238, that “motor coordination is realized with the help of so-called sensory corrections that is, the processes of continuous correction of movement based on information…”and began to reflect on some ideas of the psycho-physiological mechanisms of coordination which would, at least in my interpretation, begin to intertwine more perception and intention into a more holistic, integrative movement solution (as opposed to a coordinative structure being thought of as simply a motor pattern). In fact, as he began to describe skill, he said it (skill) is “a coordinative structure representing a developed ability to solve a definite type of motor task.” In his viewpoint, TO SOLVE was the goal within any movement action, after all. This again speaks to my personal thoughts regarding that which I believe would have been true had Bernstein lived longer and continued to go down the path he was with his studies & movement behavior theories…he COULD see the importance of the information and perception side of the movement solution (as he pointed out in various ways), he just so happened to focus more of his efforts on studying/understanding/explaining the more mechanical motor processes.

JJ Gibson: Obviously, he was the first to truly make the link between movement coordination and information (in the form of affordances within) in the environment. He considered coordination as “actions emergent in the temporary couplings formed among the individual and the environment.”

Karl Newell: (noting that we are talking about a guy who in his own proposed stage of motor learning concept used “coordination” as the main aspect of the first stage) “Coordination can be viewed as the function that constrains the potentially free variables (degrees of freedom) of a system into a behavioral unit (sometimes he referred to this a functional movement pattern).” Newell has also routinely claimed that coordination and control must always be linked with one another in complimentary roles in that “coordination always occurs with control and vice versa” so in this view we wouldn’t be able to talk about one without mentioning the other. Control to him is, “parameterizing (scaling or tuning) of the relationships of the coordination pattern formed between parts of the human movement system.”

Finally, certain ecological dynamics-oriented minds of today…Davids, Araujo, Seifert, Chow, Button, Bennett, etc, routinely combine the word coordination with the idea of it as a solution. Namely, coordination being a property of the solution that emerges from each individual’s movement system in response to the constraints the system is facing. In sport of course, this means that the coordination an individual displays varies as a consequence of the context in which it emerges (thus, these individual’s philosophical approaches towards perception-action coupling and the creation of representative learning environments).   

Okay…as expected, I am rambling. But, to be honest with you, in my 200+ pages of movement meditation brainstorming notes from just 2018, the idea of “clarifying coordination” has come up probably 5+ times. Thus, it’s something that has been on my mind an awful lot. This won’t come as any shock or surprise with me being true to a more ecological dynamically-minded lens, but I personally feel as though the only way to really dive into the idea of coordination is to view it from a systems perspective (it occurring between and within components and levels of systems). So, though we can talk about coordination between the component parts of the motor system and it’s subsystems (muscles, joints, connective tissue, etc), and often that’s a key factor of consideration for not only those in biomechanics but also some in motor control, that is not really what it is about and should be limited to when we really investigate all aspects of motor behavior at a multi-level especially in sport…so, I think to myself, what exactly are we coordinating? And what exactly are we coordinating in response to (or with)?

Thus, to me, coordination is: 1) how the human movement system maintains functional (i.e. purposeful) contact with a particular problem it intends to solve AND 2) how the various component parts of the human movement system (as a complex, adaptive system with self-organization properties) assemble & integrate into a behavioral unit during that goal directed activity (to solve the problem).

A key to this, as Stu said in his definition, is that coordination is emergent…and it (the coordination and the control of the movement solution) is self-organizing based on how the constraints at-hand are interacting (organism-task-environment). In this way then, movement coordination for the organism has component processes that are constantly interacting with circular causality occurring at sensory-perceptual, cognitive, and motor levels. Meaning, no matter the task, I believe coordination is the human movement system’s organizational product from how it connects movement to information and action to perception (hence I tried to simplify this for people by always talking about the 3B’s of movement skill…it actually could have been about the 3B’s of movement coordination). People will say, how is it that I am not talking much about degrees of freedom in my definition when it was my hero’s ‘problem’, well, when we think about what I just brought up from a systems-standpoint, I really am…it’s just that I strongly believe we as a movement community must start discussing the harnessing of the degrees of freedom at the perceptual and cognitive level as much as we talk about it at a motor/biomechanical level. Additionally, getting a little deeper, coordination (or coordinative structures or coordination solutions) has attractor states which give it stability as well as fluctuations which allow it (the solution) to be flexible depending on the control needed.  

Now, onto Stu’s question for me (especially knowing how often I talk about dexterity being the hallmark characteristic of masterful movers), how does coordination differ from dexterity? Well, for a reminder, Bernstein claimed that dexterity is, “the ability to find a movement solution for ANY external situation…that is to adequately solve ANY emerging movement problem correctly, quickly, rationally, and resourcefully” (‘Dexterity & It’s Development’).  The key difference between coordination and dexterity lies in the word I capitalized there – ANY.

As Bernstein so often noted throughout this works, the demand for dexterity is not in the movements themselves but in adapting to changes within the surrounding environment. So, if the environment and task is more dynamic (in that it is changing more frequently or across a higher bandwidth), the demand for dexterity is inherently higher. Thus, though dexterity and coordination (or possessing high levels of coordinative skill) are interconnected, they are not two in the same because for the dexterity to be displayed, it will most often relate to both degeneracy/abundance (variability in the coordination modes utilized) as well as adaptability (employment of precise controllability & adjustability needed…Bernstein called it switchability & maneuverability) when in an individual is adapting to both changing internal and external demands. Meaning, the individual can easily and effectively adjust the movement solution (at both the coordination level and the control level) according to various, changing constraints. In this way, a sprinter could have much higher levels of coordination (based on how he solves the respective problems for his task/environment which has higher amounts of stability within it) than an NFL player…but the NFL player would have higher levels of dexterity (b/c of what each of their respective organism-environment interactions consists of).

All in all, like I said, this should’ve been an easier task than it made itself out to be (or I made it more complicated than I needed to). I think the whole issue at-hand when we discuss being able to define coordination is to understand how we can facilitate the emergence of coordination/control for our individuals more effectively…especially if we believe that it is context-dependent & task-specific, and if we believe that it depends on the state of the system at that moment in time…meaning, how do we ensure that we assist the individual’s coordination solutions which emerge to be more functional to the tasks that they must solve?

Awesome stuff Shawn!  I wrote some brief thoughts on dexterity and Bernie last year.  I mistakenly conflated dexterity with coordination - and as Shawn wrote above, they are related - but not the same, so I will need to revisit this short piece below:

The motor capacity that Bernstein valued over everything else was dexterity.  Defined as the ability to discover a motor solution for any given external situation, Bernstein felt that dexterity was more important than strength, speed, and endurance. 

As previously discussed, as more traditional loading parameters reach a level of diminishing returns, and the more elite the athlete, dexterity (or coordination) plays an increasingly important role.  It is the most coordinated that reach the highest levels within sport - not (normally) the most powerful. 

Bernstein opined that the ability to solve a motor puzzle …

  • correctly (accurately),
  • quickly,
  • rationally (economically), and
  • resourcefully

… is the key to efficient movement.  This encapsulates Bernstein’s central tenets, including the role of action-intention and the variability within both the movement and the task conditions. 

What is left out of Shawn’s notes above is something we discussed afterwards - and was a part of my own definition.  That coordination has to be seen as inter- as well as intra-.  As Shawn continued in a later response: 

“Yes I completely agree with you. That aspect of interpersonal coordination is a topic at least being explored more lately in ecological dynamics (performer-environment scale of analysis, shared affordances, etc) since the Nonlinear Pedagogy book was released in 2016”

One question this brings to mind then is not only how coordination and dexterity differ, but where does entrainment fit in?  

A reminder of what entrainment is:
“The term ‘entrainment’ refers to the process by which independent rhythmical systems interact with each other. ‘Independent rhythmical systems’ can be of many types: what they have in common is some form of oscillatory activity (usually periodic or quasi-periodic in nature); they must be independent in the sense of ‘self-sustaining’, i.e. able to be sustained whether or not they are entrained to other rhythmical systems.” - Clayton

This is a very deep rabbit hole …


“You don't stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” - George Bernard Shaw