The Lebedew Brothers


I read a great blog post by Mark Lebedew today … thanks to an alert from John Kessel.

Mark wrote about the International Volleyball Association and shared some video from 1979.

I am very impressed by Mark’s writing. Whenever I read his posts I am left wanting to learn more.

I think this is, in part, because I am fascinated by biography and the sociology of knowledge thanks to my introduction many years ago to Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann’s ideas about the social construction of reality. Mark’s writing speaks to this social construction.

He offers a special insight into coaching too. In a more recent post he discusses Vyacheslav Platonov. This post has the special bonus of using his father’s translation of My Profession: The Game.


Mark’s brother, Alexis, is a great blog writer too. I look forward to his travel logs and his discussions about coaching. He has inducted me into a very distinctive approach to observation. I am still smiling about his experiences in Nauru a year on.

I have known Mark and Alexis for fifteen years. Our paths cross every now and then. There is something very reassuring knowing that the Lebedew Brothers are out and about contemplating the art and practice of coaching.

Photo Credits

Mark Lebedew (Eckhard Herfet)

Alexis Lebedew (FIVB)

Time Lauds

GetImageI have been receiving news of Alexis Lebedew’s visit to Nauru. I really like the way Alexis writes and I have found his six part journal, about delivering a coaching course, compelling reading.

In Part 6 he wrote:

I have to admit I found Nauru time in equal parts frustrating and entertaining.  But in the end I just planned around it.  An Australian I met here described it most eloquently.  He said that in Australia, time is always moving away from you.  In Nauru, the locals always think that time is coming towards you.  That is, in Australia you always have to do things before you run out of time, but in Nauru you can always do them later because the time to do them is coming up.

I think this is a great way to characterise distinctions between chronological time and kairological time. I have been thinking about kairological time since reading Jay Griffiths’ A Sideways Look at Time. She observes:

time is not found in dead clocks and inert calendars, time is not money but is life itself: in ocean tides and the blood in the womb, in every self-respecting player, in the land, in every spirited protest for diversity and every refusal to let another enslave your time, in the effervescent gusto of carnival; life revelling in rebellion against the clock.

I have been contemplating how this sense of time might help develop my approach to open and shared learning.

Elsewhere, Jay writes:

Amongst many peoples, ‘Time’ is a matter of timing . It involves spontaneity rather than scheduling, sensitivity to a quality of time. Unclockable. … Timing for many indigenous peoples… is variable and indeterminate and unpredictable. Time is a subtle element where creativity and improvisation, flexibility, fluidity and responsiveness can flourish.

Alexis’ journal and reflecting on Jay’s writing brought me back to a delightful, concluding paragraph in Dennis Bryant’s thesis:

… now it is time to take your leave. In this regard I am reminded of a piece of information that is close to hand (from the Central Australian Warlpiri) … Ngaka nangku nyanyi, which freely translated means If I don’t see you sooner I hope to see you later

Photo Credit

Level 1 Coaching Course in Nauru (FIVB)

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.

Photo Credit