Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Distal Emphasis

In the post below (click) I talk about a coach who told his promising young student to just "hit with more spin" rather than telling the player how to hit with more spin.  This is an example of a coach who emphasizes the distal over the proximal.  The distal aim is to hit a shot with topspin.  A proximal emphasis would focus on the grip necessary to hit topspin, for instance, or on how to achieve more vertical racquet head speed.

It won't always work to only emphasize the distal aim, but if the student achieves the distal aim without the proximal cues, then what the heck is the point of the proximal cues?  I think, but can't go and find them now, that there are studies showing that the less a person explicitly knows about how they perform some skill the less likely the person is to lose that skill (forget how to do it) under pressure.

As I said above, it won't always work to simply say "hit with more spin" or some similar cue.  In those cases a coach will have to figure out a way to help the student "hit with more spin".  But to first focus on the distal aim is the way to go.  Humans are goal oriented and I think that the ultimate goal should be the primary focus of attention, with the proximal bridges crossed when necessary.

Why build a bridge if your student can already fly?

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