January 28, 2018
Darryl Belfry is the leading skill coach in hockey right now.
Listening to an interview with Belfry, he remarked that the top 6 players on NHL teams are something called “Feel Based Learners”. This means that they would ask how a movement should feel. The bottom 6 asked to be told what to do visually.
So it made sense to research this idea. Then to develop guidelines for players to follow.
At Train 2.0, we call this style of learning the Feel Your Body Learning System.
We turned up a couple interesting concepts that support the Feel Your Body Learning System.
Idea #1: Conscious vs Unconscious Learning – How it relates to feel-based learning
The research says that unconscious learning is better than conscious learning for three reasons:
- Unconscious learning leads to better performance under pressure
- Unconscious learning leads to better performance over time
- Unconscious learning leads to improvements in related tasks
(Note: When I say conscious vs unconscious learning, I’m actually talking about extrinsic vs intrinsic motor learning – that’s what it is called in the literature. I am simplying for clarity)
When a player learns through feel, they MUST learn unconsciously. When they get the Magic Mechanics correct, they immediately FEEL it. And they cannot unfeel it. I’ve tried using words to explain the “feeling” – but until you can get an athlete to actually use the Magic Mechanics they just won’t understand.
Since the “feeling” doesn’t seem to be something a player can think their way towards, I’d suggest that it is an unconscious learning.
Idea #2: Learn The Way Your Perform
(Specificity of learning hypothesis)
Success in hockey relies on a player using the correct body movements. We call these the Magic Mechanics.
When a player uses the Magic Mechanics they are more balance, in control, and effortless. This provides them with the ability to pick up more information with their eyes. And it also provides them with more options to use.
When a player is playing, they do not have time to internalize verbal commands. They have to “think with their body”. Hockey players have two main sources of data: visual and kinaesthetic. Visual data is used to make decisions. Kinaesthetic data is used to monitor body position – so for skill execution.
When a player uses verbal data to determine their movements (skills) – they may be able to make adjustments in a controlled practice setting. But they cannot use that data in a game setting. It’s like a pilot who only wants to use their windows to get around, but it’s foggy. It’s smart to use the flight instruments because you don’t have any other sources of information about where the plane is. But the pilot still wants to look out the window.
When a player uses kinaesthetic (feel based) data to determine their movements – they always have their preferred data source on hand. Like a pilot who loves using their instruments to fly the plane. Even when it’s foggy, the pilot can land the plane no problem.
Players who Feel Their Body Learning learn the way they perform. So this leads them to have stable performance in both games and skill development sessions. And they always have their preferred data source on hand – their FEELING.
Idea #3: Drone Coach Resistance
Players who use Feel Your Body Learning naturally have a special gift. The gift is that when they Feel Their Body doing the Magic Mechanics – it feels SO GOOD they never want to do anything ever again. Take for example shooting. Great shooters with the Magic Mechanics often do the opposite of what many coaches teach. The coach might seek to “coach” the players by giving them helpful advice. But this helpful advice is the exact opposite of what the coach should be saying.
Luckily for the player who Feels Their Body Learning, they’ve felt the Magic Mechanics of the shot. And they can never unfeeling that feeling. And it feels so good that nothing else feels natural.
So they nod politely and accept the coaches advice. But shortly after, they go back to shooting the way they always did. Because it felt right.
How To Use The Feel Your Body Learning System
Step 1: Choose a simple movement you want to learn. Let’s say a slapshot.
Step 2: Take a slap shot. Pay attention to how it feels. Where did you feel tension? Where did you feel free? Where did you feel blocked? Where did you feel powerful?
Step 3: Take another slapshot. But this time, completely differently. Ask yourself the same questions about tension, freedom, blockages, and power.
Step 4: Take another slap shot. Again different. Ask yourself the questions again.
Step 5: Now start optimizing. Don’t think about how to shoot. Forget everything you’ve been told. Just shoot. And FEEL it. Really FEEL it.
Step 6: Feel your body learning automatically. Keep asking yourself the questions: freedom, tension, blockages, power. Don’t think about how your body “should” move. Observe it as it moves.
Step 7: Treat each shot as an experiment. How good can you make each shot feel?
Step 8: Once your shot is feeling really good, repeat again and again. Make sure each shot feels great!
Step 9: When it feels right, stop shooting for the day. That’s probably what your body can learn today. Now give it a rest to incorporate all the changes it made.
The Straight Path and the Perfect Skill System
The key to Feel Your Body Learning is to experiment with many different styles of moving. Often players heard some Drone Advice and can’t get it out of their head. And they don’t even think about it anymore. It’s so ingrained. And they don’t realize how badly it is holding them back.
So you need to really do different things and test how they feel to break the Drone Coach spell. We call these movement experiments.
Another way is to use the Straight Path and Perfect Skill System. With this system, you compare your movement with NHLers visually. You might rightly point out that this stops becoming a Feel Your Body Learning System if you’re looking at visual information. But the key is that the visual information is used to give you hints on your next movement experiment. Instead of testing 12 really different and weird hand positions, you test the hand position that you see Ovechkin using. Then you test the one that Kessel uses. Then you test the one Matthews uses. Your NHL inspired movement experiments are more likely to generate the right FEELING faster than if you tried 12 random movement experiments.
Use the steps of the Feel Your Body Learning System to become a feel-based learner. On the way, you can become a more consistent performer under pressure. Meanwhile, you become Drone Coach Resistant.