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Learning game: Choosing an external focus for learners

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I'm struggling with the application of internal versus external focus in teaching. Hopefully you guys can help by playing a little game with me so I have more ideas of how you would create external focus in a variety of situations. 

 

External focus, from the CSIA manual: 

 

 

"While executing a technical move, the student can concentrate on the movement to be performed (internal focus) or the result of the action (external focus). Moving the hips inside the arc of the turn, turning the legs, keeping upper and lower body separation are examples of internal focus. Increasing the amount of edge angle, keeping the skis parallel and making round turns are examples of external focus. Although the difference is subtle, the chosen focus has an effect on the execution of technical moves. When students are focusing internally and concentrating on the move to be performed, they are interfering with the mechanisms of movement normally controlled  by the brain. The move becomes jerky and imprecise. When students focus externally, the moves are more fluid and automatic, resulting in better performance and learning. As such, when a student understands what is required, it is better to direct his/her attention to the result of the action rather than the move to be performed."  (9.17)

 

 

 

The issue I have is choosing an external focus in non-obvious situations. So here's the game: You have a developing skier with the issue listed below. Think up an internal focus and an external focus to help develop the skier. Cherry pick ones that you're particularly interested in if you like. Note the goal isn't to look for a drill (though that's OK too)--but rather to identify an external focus. The objective of the game is to create as many external focuses as possible (or to create the most awesome one). I'll give one example to get started, but feel free give different external focuses on that one too!

 

Intermediate Skiing

Learner rotates (upper body) to initiate turns

Internal focus: Pivot femurs in hip socket through a "scribing" action. Upper body follows lower body.

External focus: repeatedly stab the snow to the outside of the ski with poles throughout the turn (stabbing snow snakes). The external focus is a thousand stabs in the snow outside the turn. 

 

Learner falls back and to the inside through bottom half of turns

Internal Focus: 

External Focus: 

 

Learner leans forward through most of turn, resulting in upper body rotation and loss of edge grip on ice

Internal Focus: 

External Focus: 

 

Learner constantly in a counter-rotated stance facing downhill, no rotation of upper body at all

Internal Focus: 

External Focus: 

 

 

Bump Skiing

Learner ends up in zipperline, unable to manage speed or turn shape

Internal Focus: 

External Focus: 

 

Learner having trouble maintaining balance due to a wide stance

Internal Focus: 

External Focus: 

 

Learner in bumps releases all pressure at end of turn by collapsing legs

Internal Focus: 

External Focus: 

 

Learner is thrown by transitions between big bumps, resulting in doubling-over at waist when hitting next bump

Internal Focus: 

External Focus: 

 

Learner is unable to release from one turn to the next in bumps due to stance (too far uphill)

Internal Focus: 

External Focus: 

 

Advanced Parallel

Learner's turns are gigantic - learner is just "riding the rails" (not shaping the turn)

Internal Focus: 

External Focus: 

 

Learner is "bouncing" from one turn to the next - rebound is uncontrolled

Internal Focus: 

External Focus: 

 

Learner loses pressure at end of turn through a traverse movement

Internal Focus: 

External Focus: 

 

Short radius

Learner demonstrates lateral displacement of legs, but minimal speed control takes place due to minimal edging in phase 3

Internal Focus: 

External Focus: 

 

Learner displays a narrow, locked stance, preventing higher edge angles and blocking independent leg steering

Internal Focus: 

External Focus: 

post #2 of 7

The way I read the CSIA quote is that an external focus is simply a performance goal, not an exercise or a movement goal, used to stop students thinking mechanically and getting them skiing more fluidly. So your example of an external focus (stabbing snow snakes) doesn't actually fulfil the criteria you've given. Good external focuses for intermediates would be following tracks, keeping their skis parallel, not skidding etc. 

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Jim, glad you jumped in! In the example I see the external focus as a thousand stabs outside the turn. The learner gets to focus on the outcome (lots of stabs) rather than on a specific movement (turn with lower body). You're right that an external focus isn't the same as a drill (though I believe the outcome of the drill can be an external focus). So what external focus would you suggest using to help a learner address the issue of rotation? (What exactly is a sufficiently specific outcome that would tie directly to rotation?)

post #4 of 7

Maybe over simplifying, but when teaching kids, you often have them focus on the 'external' outcome. You have them try something as a challenge a la "can you spray a pile of snow down the hill?", or, "let's take off a ski for a run." The internal of course are the chain of movement patterns and 'how to' explanations associated with a hockey stop or one ski skiing. If one of your charges is having trouble after a few tries, you might give them a simple 'internal' hint to help them be more successful with the emphasis on 'simple'. For the sake of brevity, we could say kids thrive in a "monkey see, monkey do' situations. Adults? 'Monkey wants to know why and how'... more demand for internal cues from you, their instructor. Our job is to strike a balance of moments of focused internal cues (tip our outside ankle down the hill, or lead with a strong blocking pole plant, etc...) and 'externally focused', dance with the hill, etc... Or in your example above, lets draw a big, beautiful round line with our pole as far away outside of our body as we can reach.' It's a little of the old chicken and egg for adults, and personally, I'm ok with that.  Kids? It's just "let's do fun stuff!" It's our job to choose the right stuff. One that was a big hit with me as an 8 year old was an instructor who promised a free hot chocolate and fries for 100 hop turns in a row down a small steep pitch as the local ant hill. There's your rotation solver.

post #5 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post

Jim, glad you jumped in! In the example I see the external focus as a thousand stabs outside the turn. The learner gets to focus on the outcome (lots of stabs) rather than on a specific movement (turn with lower body). You're right that an external focus isn't the same as a drill (though I believe the outcome of the drill can be an external focus). So what external focus would you suggest using to help a learner address the issue of rotation? (What exactly is a sufficiently specific outcome that would tie directly to rotation?)

 

I can see what you mean about how an outcome from an exercise can be an external goal, but somehow that exercise feels a little too contrived, doing an exercise focusing on doing something weird with your poles is surely against the idea given for using an external outcome (fluid and automatic turns). Not saying it's a bad exercise, or that exercises are bad btw. Finding a sufficiently specific external cue is a tough one though, maybe completing smoothly edged j-turns without skidding early in the turn? For more advanced skiers doing skidded hockey stops within a corridor is one I use a lot, but that's a bit tough for an intermediate kid. Another one I really like using (again for advanced) is 'whiterooms', basically a high speed, edge set hockey stop which sprays up a bunch of snow, you then ski through the snow and can't see for a bit, the idea is that it's really tough to do if you rotate your shoulders or push your hip out as you deviate from the fall-line and don't go through your spray. 

post #6 of 7
Learner loses pressure at end of turn through a traverse movement

Internal Focus: Rise to start the turn, sink to finish. Always be rising or sinking.

External Focus: Make turns exactly within one groomer track

Mixed focus: Be tallest on the edge of track. Be smallest in the middle of the track.

post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

Nice Rusty, Jim, MarkoJP!

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