Month: August 2019

The floor is lava

You probably know the game called “the floor is lava”, where players must traverse space without touching the ground. Although it is a kids’ game, it is also popular among parkour practitioners, who use different obstacles, ledges, walls or rails to avoid touching the “lava”. Here, I will argue that this game is a great example of a “naive” version of the constraints-led approach. Different versions of the game might exist, so we will start discussing an unstructured case and then examine how different variations can be used to achieve learning goals.

Introduction to Ecological Dynamics

Ecological Dynamics is a scientific framework that studies the behaviour neurobiological systems. This involves how living organisms form processes of action, perception and cognition. It is a very holistic approach to studying behaviour, as it considers both the living organism, as well as the environment that it relies and acts upon.

Ecological Dynamics (ED) is a framework that finds its roots in two other fields of science: The psychological school of thought called Ecological Psychology and the mathematical approach called Dynamical Systems Theory. Having a brief understanding of both theories is necessary to understand why they compliment each other so well, and ultimately it allows us to understand what Ecological Dynamics is and why it is relevant in sports coaching, including Parkour.

Affordances: Perception and Action

”The affordances of the environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill. The verb to afford is found in the dictionary, the noun affordance is not. I have made it up. I mean by it something that refers to both the environment and the animal in a way that no existing term does. It implies the complementarity of the animal and the environment.”

Gibson (1979, p.127)

One of the most widely used theories from the Ecological Psychology framework is that of affordances. In short, affordances are action possibilities that the environment provides us. Affordances made their way from Ecological Psychology into various fields like sports coaching and movement sciences, to product design and artificial intelligence. Even people disagreeing with Ecological Psychology and direct perception have jumped on the Affordance wagon. What exactly is the concept of Affordances, why is it so widely applied and what does it offer the world of sports coaching?

Introduction to the constraints-led approach

The constraints-led approach (CLA) is a framework for teaching, coaching and practicing motor skills. It takes a holistic and individual approach to learning by considering the interactions between different ‘constraints’: the performer, the environment and the task. The CLA advocates a hands-off -approach, where the coach designs the environment and directs learning by manipulating the constraints, rather than using prescriptive instructions and corrective feedback. The learner is challenged to find his own functional movement solutions through variable practice and trial and error 1 2 3. The CLA is not a magic bullet for all learning situations, but according to preliminary evidence 4, it is an exceptionally well suited method for efficient motor skill practice.

  1. Davids, K. W., Button, C., & Bennett, S. J. (2008). Dynamics of skill acquisition: A constraints-led approach. Campaign, IL: Human Kinetics. []
  2. Chow, J. Y., Davids, K., Button, C., Rein, R., Hristovski, R., & Koh, M. (2009). Dynamics of multi-articular coordination in neurobiological systems. Nonlinear Dynamics Psychology and Life Sciences, 13(1), 27-52. []
  3. Gibson, J. J. (2014). The ecological approach to visual perception: classic edition. Psychology Press. p.213 []
  4. Gray, R. (2018). Comparing cueing and constraints interventions for increasing launch angle in baseball batting. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 7(3), 318-332. []

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