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April 18, 2015

Hacking Movement Quality, Expert Performers and What You Need to Know to Move Like Them

One pattern that has stood out to me recently is related to the idea of movement quality. The term gets thrown around a lot, but how exactly is “movement quality” exploited by expert performers? How can a skills coach teach better skills? How can a strength and conditioning coach have gym “movement quality” transfer to performance?

One answer is: teach the “proximal to distal gradient”

WTF is the “proximal to distal gradient”?

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March 12, 2015

Sequencing: Your Hack for Rapid Improvement

This article is about how I got 400% better at golf in 2 hours.

It’s also about “sequencing”, and why sequencing can hack your learning rate.

In previous articles, I’ve already outlined that the most important variable for success is your RATE of improvement, and that the best coaches give feedback on HOW, not just WHAT. Sequencing is a powerful tool to increase your RATE of your improvement, and also for coaches who are concerned with coaching the “how”.

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September 22, 2014

The Great Wave of Analytics – What is the crest?

I’ve read two books recently (“The Rise of Superman” and “Smart Cuts”), that talked about surfing. So that’s probably what has me using a wave metaphor to discuss the what is happening right now in hockey, in relation to analytics.

Not long ago, analytics were once the crest of the wave. Just last year, analytics were discussed on TSN, CBC, and Sportsnet in a flippant fashion. In the first few NHL talk shows that I’ve watched, I’ve already heard discussion of analytics in a more detailed and critical manner.

Remember that analytics were designed in baseball, and now in hockey, to take advantage of market inefficiencies. This means that they were designed to look at players statistically to see who made contributions to their team’s success in a way that is undervalued by team managers. If someone uses analytics to find these market inefficiencies, and the market inefficiencies exist, then a manager get away getting more value out of a player than they are putting in. The caveat, here, is if the market inefficiency exists.

If everyone is talking about analytics, and everyone is using them, then the market becomes efficient again…there is no sources of untapped value for a manager to tap.

So then, as this wave gathers energy, if using analytics becomes just another manner to keep up, what is a manager supposed to do to get ahead?

Here are two areas to look:

  • Evaluative metrics that inform a development coach how to best improve a player. If a coach can use advanced stats/evaluative metrics/analytics to design a program for their improvement, the coach can identify areas of weakness. We assume that by identifying and working on areas of weakness, we can increase the rate of a player’s improvement. This is like what Darryl Belfry is doing with his players.
  • Physiological measurements. I am making the hypothesis, that there are physiological markers that can predict a player’s performance. Back in the Vancouver Canucks’ Stanley Cup Playoff Run, I had the opportunity to hear from and talk to Dr. Len Zaichowsky. He was their director of sports science. He had the team tracking many physiological values: heart rate variability, sleep quality and quantity, multi-object tracking, T-wave (I’m not sure what that was). I think that they were tracking these values and using them to inform how the players practiced and played. They also had their most successful season as a team…ever. The next year, Dr. Zaichowsky was let go, and they lost in the first round of playoffs. They haven’t made it that far into the post seasons since…
    • What values could you look at and why?
      • In-game heart rate and heart-rate variability. It might be possible to determine what heart rate and heart-rate variability values a player demonstrates when they play at their best. It therefore might be possible to design interventions to more consistently get a player to obtain these values in-game, thereby improving their performance
      • Resting heart rate variability and adrenal stress. Players can sometimes play well when stressed for 1 or 2 games, but their performance may drop off if they remain stressed for games 3 and 4. Perhaps it’s possible to put find and put players in a sweet-spot where their stress levels are in balance to provide optimal performance.
      • Brainwaves and transient hypofrontality. As you know from my previous article on finding flow, turning certain brain structures off is important for getting players into flow. A player who is predisposed to being in flow with a certain neurological state, more often, will be a more effective player. Perhaps by monitoring and informing an athlete, coaches and managers can design processes to more consistently get their players into flow.

I’m suggesting that crest of the wave is a place where there are market inefficiencies. The market is becoming efficient in the sphere of analytics, but might still be inefficient when it comes to measuring physiological values and evaluative metrics that can be used to design a development program.

What do you think? Are there other areas where there might be market inefficiencies in the game of hockey?


August 8, 2013

You’re Wrong. You Can Improve Hockey Sense – Here’s How

We all appreciate the idiot hockey player who has a great heart and works really hard don’t we? Like, he’ll never figure out who to pass it to, and how to not panic when he actually has tons of time, but that’s just how he is and there’s nothing we can do about that, right?


I’m revamping an article I posted in 2013, and it is one of my most popular ones. I’m going to write a more approachable introduction, and then pass it off to my more technical 2013 self to fill you in.

Here’s what you need to know. Decision-making is a skill. Ergo, hockey sense, which is the ability to make the correct decision, is also a skill. The “correct decision” can mostly be reduced down to: 1) creating time and space 2) arriving at the right place at the right time

Why is hockey sense not taught?

In hockey, dumping, chipping and chasing are all valued things by coaches. But ironically, a player who does none of those things moves up in levels. The player who makes plays, scores goals and keeps possession is the player that gets noticed and moves up.

In soccer, a player who kicks the ball away at the slightest sign of pressure is a liability on a team. A player who creates their own options then hits them is valuable. Even more valuable are the players that make themselves options (arriving at the right place at the right time).

I notice that all the players with the best hockey sense that I’ve played with played soccer growing up. Datsyuk was first noticed for his vision on the soccer pitch. The Sedins are very skilled soccer players. And Ovechkin was apparently almost a pro level player. Interesting then that these players internalized these values and developed these skills.

Now don’t get all in my grill saying “causation is not correlation”. I understand that. But it certainly seems plausible that a sport that values and coaches possession can teach decision making skills to players in a sport that doesn’t necessarily.

So I’d like to say that either you should be playing soccer in your off season training as a player, or find a coach who will teach you the same skills of 1) creating time and space 2) arriving at the right place at the right time.

HERE NOW is the 2013 article I published on “Hockey Sense” It is very technical and maybe boring, but it is thorough.

I want to present a conceptual model of what “Hockey Sense” is. Then, I’ll explore how to improve your game using the model as a basis for improvement.

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