News & Updates
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.
April 19, 2016
Many people are in conflict about the nature of talent. Some believe that talent is made. These people believe in the 10,000 hour rule – that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice leads to talent. Others believe it is innate – you are born with it. Still others believe that talent requires master coaching to be developed.
I’ll tell you right away where I stand.
I believe that talent is made. I also believe that your talent is largely determined by how you use critical periods in your development. So if you miss a window to develop body awareness as a youngster, you may be shit out of luck for being athletic. Then I believe that deliberate practice is a foundation, but not the only thing you can rely on. You must have a force guiding your deliberate practice. Otherwise, you may spend all that precious practice time on the wrong things, in the wrong way. Effort gets you in the door. Intelligent work keeps you there. I’ll suggest that you don’t need to be an intelligent person to do intelligent work. Sometimes a pathway to intelligent work lands in front of a player. Sometimes that pathway is a master coach, Sometimes it’s an ideal competitive environment.
A lack of fairness in this process stands out. A player may be willing to put 10,000 hours of deliberate practice into an activity – but they may not happen to be coached by a master coach. If they are lucky, they develop just fine. If they’re not, despite all their hard work, they may not develop at the same rate as others.
If anyone who is reading this knows me, you may recognize that I am 100% talking about my own plight. I do not think it was fair that I put in way more time than other players, but had less success. Knowing what I know now, I know it was because I spent some time learning the wrong things in the wrong way. I compounded this by practicing my poor patterns EVEN MORE to compensate for my lack of success. I’ve already talked about learning how to shoot the wrong way because a non-expert coach gave me a pointer on shooting that was wrong. Is it fair that an 8 year old screws himself over by practicing too much? I don’t think so.
I see this all the time with other players. It upsets me. It also drives my passion to help the player who wants to put in the time and effort. But as it stands, the player that wants to put in the time and effort does not always get rewarded. The best player gets rewarded regardless of their effort they put in. That’s the way it works.
But what if there was a system that provided master coaching to anyone, anywhere? A system that didn’t require you to roll the bones on your development. That if you wanted to put in the time, you were carefully guided down the right path.
By automating a skill development system using principles of operant conditioning, we could do that. The technology is right there. It just needs to be put together.
We’re putting it together.
April 19, 2016
Yesterday you may have noticed a number of problems with my solution. Today, we discuss mitigation strategies.
- Problem 1) Don’t you need a lot of coaches?
- Problem 2) Isn’t this a little subjective?
- Problem 3) How do you know if it works?
The solution to all three problems is automation. We discuss exactly how we are already creating that system. Let’s explore how automating this system solves the three problems that I brought up.
Problem 1) Don’t you need a lot of coaches?
If it’s an automated system, you just need a wide enough camera to capture all the players. Now, you no longer need one coach per player. You only need one system per game so long as each player has a wearable device to signal the positive reinforcement.
Problem 2) Isn’t this a little subjective?
Yes. Right now it is completely subjective. But so is coaching. Automating the system reduces that by nature. With automation, we can systematically split test what the best habits to reinforce are, what timing we should use, how many habits to reinforce, etc..
Problem 3) How do you know if it works?
We have tons of anecdotes suggesting that it works great. But as any good scientist knows, the plural of anecdotes is not data. We know we need data in order to fully validate the method. What we know for sure is that the players enjoy using the system, they believe it helps them, and they ask to use the system more. We also know that they don’t feel reliant on the system and report improved play after using the system even when they are not currently using the system.
Like I said, the plural of anecdotes is not data. By automating the system, it allows us to gather more data points to tweak our methodology and make a bigger difference.
We are creating the automated system. While this might not be available to players right now, the opportunity to get involved with what we’re doing…is.
If this interests you, you may want to learn more.
April 19, 2016
Today we solve two common problems for hockey coaches. We recognize that games and practices are far away from an optimal learning structure. So we seek to use Flow Theory and Operant Conditioning to come up with a way to move hockey games and practices towards an optimal learning structure.
I think I’ve come up with an elegant solution to this problem. Here is what I came up with.
Here is the problem:
- There’s a physical distance from coaches to players in game
- Psychological processing capabilities of a player is limited
- Ability to conceptually understand feedback and then apply it is limited depending on intelligence level and age
- Ability to process auditory feedback quickly and unconsciously is limited
- Distribution of coach and players (coach to player ratio) is low
- Time lapsed between skill and feedback is large
Here is what I cam up with for a solution:
Do a video analysis or game analysis on a player to determine 3-4 key areas that need to improve. Those key areas should be specific and measurable. They should also be attainable based on the players skill level. 3 or 4 things seems to be about the right amount based on some basic testing I did.
The key areas to improve should be “translatable” or “keystone” habits. This means that by fixing one habit, it increases the odds of success in a game. One example of a “keystone” or “translatable” habit is shoulder checks. By creating a shoulder check habit, many other good habits follow. For example, players “see” the ice better. They can also make plays quicker. I suggest that Darryl Belfry is the best in the world at determining which habits lead to the biggest differences.
Once you have determined the 3-4 key habits to improve, you get a remote vibration device. Also known as a remote vibration dog collar. This is where most of you start laughing uproariously. You can get these things at any pet store. (You’re not buying a shock collar – it is a vibration trainer). Then you attach the dog collar to a player’s leg.
You can then watch the practice or game and provide a vibration when the player executes one of the 3-4 key habits. The vibration serves as POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT – not a punishment. Players already know when they mess up. That’s why I don’t think that a punishment needs to be executed. I think that it is often less clear when a player has done something well. So by identifying it and reinforcing it, you help to make it clear to the player.
That’s it. That’s the solution.
This solves a number of things:
- Immediate feedback: check.
- Clear goals: check.
- Match challenge to skill: check.
- A little “out there”? Check that too
Here are some other solutions. I’ll explain why they don’t work as well as my solution.
I believe that Darryl Belfry is the best in the world at this. He has tons of experience and distills the key “translatable” habits that players should adopt to improve their odds of success. What makes him unique is his ability to isolate the “translatable” habits. Whereas other coaches might just huck stock advice at players after looking at video, Belfry seems to be very precise and data-driven in his approach. I don’t know these things for sure, but that’s the impression I get from watching his stuff.
The video analysis still leaves one loop open – live feedback. I believe part of Darryl’s process is to show video prior to an ice session, then practice it in a drill. This is very close to the optimal learning structure. However, it also takes a lot of time and energy to implement. Only the top players can get this type of video-instruction situation.
I suggest that video analysis to isolate “translatable” habits can be supplemented with real-time in practice and in-game feedback using the wearable device. This is the exact same as getting feedback from a coach in a 1on1 training session, but now you get it in the dynamic practice or game environment.
1on1 Coaching (On-Ice Habits)
I think that 1on1 coaching is great for skill training. It is the best ratio. But what happens when a player doesn’t need to learn skill – but needs to learn habits? You can run simulations in the 1on1 session, but without the dynamic real-game environment, the player simply can’t learn in the same way.
This methodology arose because I was kept trying to communicate in-game cues to a player in a 1on1 environment. It wasn’t working. So I innovated this new approach to signal to him his appropriate habits in a game situation.
1on1 Coach (Consultant)
Sometimes parents will get an experienced coach to come and watch their kid play. They’ll want feedback from that experienced coach. This is great. It’s another eye in the sky. But what is missing is…you guessed it! Immediate feedback. The coach may provide the best analysis in the world, but without immediate feedback, the player misses the opportunity for a neural connection to learn new habits.
Small Group Sessions
I love small group sessions. But during them I still need to divide my attention. I try to structure drills so that I can coach each athlete enough, but I still miss things. I’d guess that I miss 40-50% of teachable moments per player. If I were to try and reduce that number, the practice would move at a snails pace. I tradeoff pace of the practice for missing out on teachable moments. With my above solution, there is no tradeoff.
As I write this, I’m in the middle of coaching a team in a tournament. I leave the rink exhausted because I’m so mentally engaged while coaching. I’m trying to pay attention to the right things, instruct the players in the right way, catch them doing things right, and catch teachable moments. Meanwhile I’m running the lines, and paying attention to the game situations.
This is nothing special. This is what any coach does. My point is that as a coach, I’m trying to pay attention to many, many things. I simply cannot pay attention to each player and reinforce their every skill. I estimate that I provide teachable information to players 10-30% of the time that they need it.
As a coach, I found myself wishing I had backup. I wish I had someone there to catch every teachable moment for each player. Every mistake, every success was a teachable moment to players who were completely lost – who had not learned translatable habits. And I missed so many of them. If I had backup, each player would have gotten more feedback. More feedback means an optimal learning structure, which means accelerated learning.
No other coach is going broadcast that they’re not doing a good enough job. That they’re constantly failing to teach your kids. I’m a pretty good coach, and I’m telling you that I am definitely failing. Imagine how bad the average and below average coaches are doing… How much development and potential is being left on the table?
If you liked this article because it was different than most Drone Coach advice, and you’d like to get to work on becoming a Hockey Wizard, then click here to check out the benefits of becoming a Train 2.0 Member.