Chaos, Perturbation, Configuration, Dynamical Systems

The Lebedew Brothers, Alexis and Mark have some wonderful insights to share.

Alexis blogs at Sport and Design and Mark at At Home on the Court.

I am grateful to Alexis for a link to Mark’s most recent post about chaotic behaviour.

Mark uses a post by Sanyin Siang in Forbes to discuss men’s volleyball performance at the London Olympics.

This quote from Sanyin “athletes’ mental discipline and comfort with the pressures and real-life chaos of competition separated the medalists from their competitors” was the impetus for his post. After discussing the performances of Italy, Poland, Russia and Brazil, Mark concluded his post with this quote from Sanyin “in the complex world where uncertainty is the only certainty, preparing with and developing a familiarity with chaos is where the real competitive advantage lies”.

As with much of Mark’s and Alexis’s writing I was set off on a journey thinking about coaching and performance environments.

I thought first of all about my own coaching of canoe slalom with young athletes on the Tryweryn at Bala, North Wales. In that environment with great water and easily moved gates I tried to challenge the athletes by moving gates after each run. I thought too about doing difficult technique early in sessions rather than progressing it to it. I found these sessions wonderfully challenging and excellent coaching stimulus.

After those memories I thought about my interest in chaos, perturbation and dynamical systems. I have been attracted to these for some time and feel very comfortable in these contexts.

I looked at the potential of chaotic behaviour to transform football performance and some of these ideas were shared in the New Scientist back in 1996 (Chaos Pitch).

I was attracted to chaos after a number of years of thinking about ideas shared by Clive Ashworth on figurations in Eric Dunning’s readings in the sociology of sport (1971).

During the 1990s I had a number of conversations with Mike Hughes, Ian Franks and Tim McGarry about perturbations.

I was very interested of the emergence of dynamical systems thinking and have for a long time followed Keith Davids’ work.

I concluded my Lebedew Brothers inspired journey by thinking about how to share these approaches with young coaches. I did try some of these ideas with a Sport Coaching Pedagogy group at the University of Canberra earlier this year. I am hoping that the lessons I learned from the students’ responses will help me with an even more comprehensive approach in 2013.

I do think welcoming chaos, encouraging perturbation, being sensitive to figurational change and using dynamical approaches as a heuristic produces exciting and psychologically challenging opportunities for coaches … however young or old.

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