The Game Trains the Brain

I want to start off this article from a portion of a blog that is written by John Kessel. He is Head of USA Volleyball. Coach Kessel has a very different approach to Coaching athletes. He has deviated from the traditional coaching norms to a process that involves motor skills learning. He believes that is what coaching is all about.

“I believe your players should not be playing for you while YOU become part of the opponent’s roster by demeaning and punishing your athletes. Guide their discovery of the information that you know and want them to know. Do not humiliate them. It is fine to be demanding, but when you demand perfection, you are setting the players up for failure. Through trust, you will see players who fight to win, but don’t panic because they are afraid to lose. I have always thought that if punishment was such a great motivator/change agent, then EVERYONE coming out of prison would be great new citizens for their community. Your players will not perform perfectly and they do not need to be perfect or “polished” in practice to be ready to compete.”

So for all you hockey guru’s that think a “Bag Skate “is beneficial, take a long hard look at it. What part of hockey game does a Bag Skate fit into? The last time I looked I did not see any Bag Skate strategies in any Hockey Canada Coaching manual. Hockey is a motor skills game and most Coaches do not understand that. Read and react are the closest words you will hear. Motor skills are learned, but players must play the game the correct way so the brain any be programed. This gets us back to the how and why mentioned in a previous article. The best teams in the game have players with a high motor skills level. It is now called a hockey IQ. At some point in their development (hockey or other sport) they had a Coach who actually educated their athletes and by doing so increased motor skills development. That is why it is so critically important that teams practice in a state that resembles game like conditions. So in a game when a situation occurs it is not a surprise. The game like conditions in practice, has already trained the brain what to do. An example of this is a junior team that is struggling. So far they have given up nine goals with 4.5 minutes or less to go in a game. The Coach thinks it is because they are not working hard enough and need to be focused more. My answer is these players need to be educated more. If they are making the same mistakes it because their education process is incomplete. They MAY know how to defend, but they do not know WHY! The how and the why must be connected. That is called Coaching.

So, the game trains the brain, a simple and confusing statement. It took me a while to understand it, but now when I practice I now know that I am just not striking golf balls. I am playing a game that’s training my brain for that moment in competition. The moment that should be embraced, not feared.

Until next time!

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