Visiting Ballarat

I have an opportunity to visit the University of Ballarat this week and I am looking forward to meeting staff in the School of Human Movement and Sport Sciences.

The School is holding a two-day workshop and I have been invited to join them. I have prepared a presentation titled Edgeless Challenges and Opportunities. In my presentation I would like to discuss the ‘edgeless’ characteristics discussed by Robert E. Lang and Peter Bradwell in order to explore some possibilities for personal professional development. I think Charles Leadbeater’s ideas will help too.

I am fascinated by personal stories. I like the idea that “stories have consequences, but stories change, and how and why they do is the heart of the human enterprise”.

I aim to focus on the opportunities part of my presentation and explore some ideas around personal growth.

I am travelling from one old gold town to another for this workshop. I am travelling too from near the Monga National Park where pinkwoods (Eucryphia moorei) establish themselves in tree ferns as part of their growth process.

Photo Credits

SMB Student Amenities’ Centre

Looking for gators

New Beginnings

Home Ground, Home Advantage

I have been thinking about home a great deal lately.  In May I wrote about my hometown memories and the experience opened me up to other narratives about home. Three items (see Talking About Home below) have attracted my attention recently just at a time when I am talking with coaches about planning their competition programs. These coaches are involved in ‘home’ and ‘away’ fixtures and we have been discussing what home advantage might mean in performance terms.

Sport

There is a fascinating research literature about home advantage. In the last decade there has been discussion of: Association Football (2010, 2009, 2007a, 2007b, 2007c, 2006, 2005a, 2005b, 2004a, 2004b, 2003, 2002a, 2002b), Basketball (2010, 2008a, 2008b, 2007), Netball (2010, 2004), Baseball (2010), Volleyball (2009),  Rugby Union (2008, 2007) American College Football (2006), Australian Rules Football (2005), Rugby League (2005), Skiing (2003), Summer Olympics (2003), Winter Olympics (2001).

There are papers about home disadvantage in tennis (2009) and ice hockey (2007) too.

In a study of professional sports  between 1876 and 2003 (Pollard, 2005), the author notes that:

The highest levels of home advantage for all sports were in their early years of existence. Home advantage in ice hockey, basketball and football in England has declined over the last two decades. In baseball there has been very little change over the last 100 years, with home advantage consistently lower than in other sports. There was a large drop in home advantage in football in England following the 7-year suspension of the league during the Second World War. The trends and changes provide some evidence that travel and familiarity contribute to home advantage, but little in support of crowd effects.

Randall Smith (2003) observes that:

Home teams win over 50% of sporting contests. The sociological appeal of this is the assumption that home advantages are partly the result of the support fans provide, with the collective inspiring teams to performances above normal achievements. Recent changes in professional sports suggest that home support may not be as strong as once expected as structural conditions producing the home advantage have shifted. Distancing of players from fans via free agency and rapid salary escalation, coupled with marketing designed to create national publics, can produce declines in the home advantage. Levels of home advantage have decreased over 20 years, and now, an increase in crowd size reduces the home team’s chances of winning. Teams can still garner support from home crowds, but professional sports are less likely to be representations for local communities; the social bases of the home advantage have been eroded by economic forces and league marketing.

Talking About Home

The three narratives that focused my thoughts about home recently are:

Slumming It

Kevin McLoud’s visit to Dharavi has been screened in Australia in the last month. The program theme is described by Channel 4:

To understand Dharavi, Kevin fully immerses himself in the environment, living and working with the locals, sampling life in the pottery area and discovering the extraordinary sense of spirit and community despite the hardships. He explores this industrious square mile, meeting bakers, cobblers and suitcase manufacturers, all thriving as part of the 15,000 one-room industries contained in this slum. But, despite the area’s apparent successes, Kevin finds Dharavi is to be redeveloped and razed to the ground.

My Fear of Poland

ABC Radio National’s 360 documentary series included a program from one of its own staff members, Natalie Kestecher. This is the description of the program from the Radio National website:

A very personal journey through Poland, from a festival of Jewish culture in Warsaw to a tiny village in the south-east of the country. This is a story about fear and memory, hope and delight. Last year producer Natalie Kestecher visited Poland for the first time. It was a trip that she’d been planning and postponing for years. As the daughter of Polish Jews who’d lost so many family members during the war she had mixed feelings about going there. Natalie’s journey begins in Warsaw where she meets Poles with an interest in Jewish culture and Jews who have only recently ‘come out’ as Jews. She also speaks to the chief Rabbi of Poland. Her ultimate destination, however, is a tiny village in the south-east where her family and other Jews once lived. In this very personal audio essay Natalie tries to make sense of the Jewish absence and encouraging re-emergence in Poland today.

This is a link to the podcast of the program. After listening I did think it was a moving story about fear and memory, hope and delight. It helped me understand some of my feelings about home.

Home Stories

Shortly after hearing Natalie’s program I managed to hear the By Design program about the 2010 Sydney Architecture Festival’s Home Stories event. Home Stories involved “six people sharing their stories of house and home in the grandeur of NSW Government House on the harbour’s edge, complete with champagne and finger sandwiches”.

I was particularly interested in Larissa Behrendt‘s presentation in which  she “described the complex concept of home in contemporary Aboriginal culture, and the way one’s sense of place is connected to one’s sense of home and of self”.  She shared her story her father “removed from his family as a child, discovering and connecting with the places of his family as an adult: sites of birthing, of massacres and of removal, and how he passed this on to his daughter. She argued that the complex emotional architecture of our lives is what creates our home”.

I was fascinated too by Richard Leplastrier‘s discussion of “the words we use: ‘house’ is both a noun and a verb, ‘one’s abode’ is from the verb to abide, to bide time, the place you spend time, ‘dwelling’ a welling up of time like water, the Scandinavian ‘hus’ meaning a husk, or an outer casing for life.  He described home as a place where we belong, where we can be for a long time- and that belongings are where the problem starts”. This profile provides some more information about Richard’s work. I really like that Richard “eschews publicity and his built works are secret treasures to be discovered only by those privileged enough to be introduced to them. His sensitivity to issues of culture and place and his accumulated wisdom in the design and making of architecture is gently revealed though his tutorial sessions in the design studio”.

This is the link to the podcast of the By Design program. Larissa and Richard’s talks are in the podcast.

Home Ground and Home Advantage

The serendipity of contemplating a season’s competition in sport, seeing Kevin McLoud’s programs on Mumbai and listening to Larissa and Richard has been a wonderful opportunity to think about home and the feelings I have for home. I am starting to appreciate the sentiments Larissa expresses about being in and out of country and am transforming my understanding of our spiritual relationships with place and space.

I hope that when I do discuss with coaches and athletes what home ground means for performance I can develop a shared understanding of roots particularly as sport is changing the connections it has with communities.

Photo Credits

Shadow City

Dharavi Warehouse

Understanding stories, connecting messages

Introduction

On 26 July the New Scientist carried news of research by Greg Stephens, Lauren Silbert and  Uri Hasson at Princeton University. New Scientist noted that “There’s now scientific backing for the old adage that when two people “click” in conversation, they have a meeting of minds. The evidence comes from fMRI scans of 11 people’s brains as they listened to a woman recounting a story.”

Research Findings

The abstract of the research paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy indicates that:

Verbal communication is a joint activity; however, speech production and comprehension have primarily been analyzed as independent processes within the boundaries of individual brains. Here, we applied fMRI to record brain activity from both speakers and listeners during natural verbal communication. We used the speaker’s spatiotemporal brain activity to model listeners’ brain activity and found that the speaker’s activity is spatially and temporally coupled with the listener’s activity. This coupling vanishes when participants fail to communicate.

The scans showed that:

  • the listeners’ brain patterns tracked those of the storyteller almost exactly…
  • though trailed 1 to 3 seconds behind. But in some listeners …
  • brain patterns even preceded those of the storyteller.

The article quoted Uri:

“We found that the participants’ brains became intimately coupled during the course of the ‘conversation’, with the responses in the listener’s brain mirroring those in the speaker’s”. Listeners with the best overlap were also judged to be the best at retelling the tale. Uri noted that “The more similar our brain patterns during a conversation, the better we understand each other”.

Take Home


The Princeton research has some fascinating insights to share with coaches and teachers. In a mixed ability group it is interesting to note how each member of the group anticipates, stays with or misses a message.

Douglas Fields in his blog post about the research notes that:

Interestingly, in part of the prefrontal cortex in the listener’s brain, the researchers found that neural activity preceded the activity that was about to occur in the speaker’s brain. This only happened when the speaker was fully comprehending the story and anticipating what the speaker would say next.

The Princeton researchers found that there was no match between the brain patterns of the storyteller and the listeners, when they heard the same story in Russian, which they could not understand. Perhaps this is the equivalent of saying “They just did not get it.”

Photo Credits

Story Time at the North Library

Getting Coaching