The Basketball Podcast: EP267 with Stuart Armstrong on Coaching, Skill Acquisition and Sport Science

RELEASE DATE : 10/05/2023

In this week’s basketball coaching conversation, Head of Coaching and Professional Workforce for Sport England and host of the Talent Equation Podcast Stuart Armstrong joins the Basketball Podcast to share insights on sport development, coaching, skill acquisition and sport science.

Stuart has worked in sports development for the past 20 years. Stuart has held positions in performance and talent development at England Golf, UK Coaching and the Rugby Football Union that have all focused on creating optimal development environments for young people to thrive and reach their potential. Stuart is currently the Head of Coaching and Professional Workforce at Sport England. He has been responsible for writing and publishing two national strategy documents, ‘Coaching in an Active Nation: The Coaching Plan for England’ and ‘Working in an Active Nation: The Professional Workforce Strategy for England’.

Stuart is a highly regarded public speaker, having delivered keynote presentations across the globe for a range of organizations both in and out of sport. He is an expert facilitator who leads workshops for organizations striving to support people to be the best they can be. Stuart also owns the website and is host of the 5 star rated podcast ‘The Talent Equation’ which is dedicated to providing advice, guidance and support to people at the cutting edge of coaching and performance development.

The Talent Equation podcast is best described as ’emergent conversations’ between practitioners and/or researchers. Deliberately unscripted, they are unedited and unpolished conversations between people at the razors edge of sport development, coaching, skill acquisition and sport science community who are prepared to share their knowledge, experiences and challenges in an effort to help others do it better.

Listen Here:

Stuart Armstrong Quotes:

“A drill for me is kind of an extreme end . . firstly, it’s unopposed. Secondly, the movement is prescribed . . whatever it is, it’s predefined. So, there’s not really any thinking that goes into it. It’s just a question of just repeating a particular movement over and over again.”

“Don’t be surprised if the moment you have a situation where the way you move it is not predefined, because there’s other people trying to stop you . . or you have to make a decision about where to go, whatever it is . . Don’t be surprised as a coach if whatever it was that you were doing in your drill doesn’t really work in that context because you’ve done something very different. You’ve done something that’s very, very removed and isolated.”

“Don’t expect transferability particularly into game if you’ve done [drills with prescribed movement]. That’s number one. Second, don’t expect your athletes to be particularly creative and to be good problem solvers in a situation.”

“There’s a body of psychological research that’s basically saying that context really matters and skill is an emergent thing that comes from the environment and the context and it’s about solving problems.”

“So, we present them [the athletes] with a context and a problem to solve. The athletes then try to solve the problem. And what emerges from the problem-solving process are techniques.”

“We’ve got different limb lengths, we’ve got different body lengths, we’ve got different shapes and sizes and heights . . Our technical capabilities are defined by our physical capabilities, our action capacities grow and they change; their action capacities change and so their abilities change.”

“The real danger with prescribing these movement solutions is that you define a movement solution for an individual because you believe it to be optimal, and then very quickly it becomes suboptimal. Why? Because of a change in growth.”

“The reality is that young people will probably find themselves towards those action capabilities or those movement capabilities because they naturally become the way you solve the problem.”

“Is learning something where you’re putting something into somebody and then they’re going to then just basically replicate it? Do you see learning that way? Or do you see learning as enabling an individual to start to solve problems for themselves and find movement solutions which are going to be lifelong, they’re going to stay with them forever? It’s a very powerful learning method. It’s slower, but it’s very powerful.”

“Generally speaking, I’m looking to try to find games that we can play, whereby I can design a game where I can create a game that has got enough opportunities for an individual to try different things out, but there’s enough reality, so the opponent is trying to stop them.”

“We need to redefine what learning is. Learning isn’t the ability to repeat a movement pattern in an artificial context . . it’s not learning in a dynamic, variable environment like basketball is where there’s lots of other aspects going on. Learning in basketball is the ability to adapt to a range of ever-changing variables and begin to make choices about movement patterns in relation to those ever changing variables.”

“We can design an environment that creates an adaptation or we design an environment with information in it that defines how somebody might want to move in order to achieve a certain task goal . . We’re saying there’s a range of ways you could solve the problem depending on how you perceive that environment. So, ecological dynamics works through, rather than manipulating the individual by saying you must do this, we try to manipulate the environment to then see how the individual adapts to that environment.”

“This is the notion of a construct called differential learning. You do an extreme form of a particular action in order to then redefine down to something that’s in the middle. So, if you learn this extreme form, something in the middle becomes something that’s probably more like what you were trying to achieve. There’s a lot of research to show that the act of learning the extreme forms really helps you to dial in your movement and your proprioceptive capabilities to be able to do these particular actions.”

“The real danger is that you constrain an individual’s movement repertoire by telling them the ‘right way.’ Why would they deviate from that? They would fear that if they were to deviate from that and they would miss, regardless of whether that was what the situation demanded of them, that they haven’t followed the instruction. We don’t necessarily want someone to follow instruction. What we want them to do is to understand that there’s almost an infinite number of ways of getting the ball in the basket depending on what’s happening around you.”

“We’re not predefining the movement. What we’re doing is we’re creating a shared understanding of the conditions in the game that might require us to coordinate our activities together.”

Stuart Armstrong Breakdown:

1:00 – Pitfalls of Using Drills
8:00 – Evidence Based Research
10:30 – Problem Solving
16:00 – Alternatives to Drills
20:30 – Perception
28:00 – Traditional Drills
33:34 – 34:09 – B.I. Ads January 2023
34:10 – Game Context
37:00 – Ecological Dynamics
41:00 – Self Determine
46:00 – Finding a Solution
49:00 – Not Overburdening Athletes
56:00 – Fun and Engagement
57:30 – Teaching Systems of Plays
1:03:00 – Ecological Exploration

Stuart Armstrong Selected Links from the Podcast:

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