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How to change your technique?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Melf asks for a meaty topic. I'll submit one that is of paramount interest to all of us. I happened to attend a brief presentation the other day at freshman orientation at University of Montana by Prof. Steven Gaskill, who was head coach of the U.S. and Olympic Nordic Combined and Cross Country Teams from 1979-1988. The title of his talk was Exercise and Imagery: Becoming What You Want to Be.

Gaskill says that the key to change is seeing yourself already doing what you want to do. He also believes that technique is just another form of behavior, so the same things that help people successfully quit smoking or begin exercising are what athletes employ to improve technically at their sport. A smoker who sees himself as a nonsmoker who occasionally has a cigarette is well on his way to quitting, because he doesn't see himself as a smoker, but a nonsmoker. An obese person who can look at herself as a thin person who is temporarily in an obese state has the right idea.

Gaskill told a story about himself at a jumping competition, where moments before he jumped, a former coach standing on the sidelines said, "keep your chest down," and Gaskill sailed 170 meters, which made him the world record holder for about an hour, until the reigning world champ outdistanced him on the second jump. As Gaskill climbed to the top of the ramp for his second attempt, the same coach gave the advice a bit differently, "don't lift your chest." Gaskill wanted to keep his record, so he took off very aggressively and extended powerfully, which pulled his chest up, the wind socked into him like a cannonball, tipping him backwards, and he proceeded to ragdoll in backflips down the outrun. He didn't break any bones, but both skis were splintered. Gaskill never jumped competitively again.

He claims that 90% of technique is mental imagery. He said that most athletes really resist the idea that sports psychology is more critical to success than any other aspect of preparation, but his research and experience bears it out. Another example he gave was the U.S. Open this week, where the battle between Ernie Els and Tiger Woods will be won on mental strength, not technique or other physical factors.

The guy who wins will be the one who believes he will more than the other guy.

[ June 13, 2003, 07:31 PM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #2 of 25
The key is not visualizing yourself into self-delusion. You have to have the skills first.

However, the belief you can or the visual image of something being possible is a powerful force. I know a lot of terminal intermediates that can't seem to make progress because they don't believe that they're capable. They put in plenty of days on the hill, but are unwilling to commit to the turn and ski in the moment instead of looking/planning ahead. Confidence is just a big part of it all.
post #3 of 25
Nolo

Good subject. There is no question that Prof. Gaskill is correct to a certain extent and I think that this is evidenced by the growing acceptance of sports psychologists by the professional sports teams in the U.S. It would be fair to say that all of the major sports teams in baseball, basketball, and football, as well as most Division 1 college programs employ sports pyschologists in some capacity.

The aspect of positive mental imagery and the use of "head" coaches has been around since I played football and baseball in college in the early 80's, but only in the last 5-10 years did this become a widely disclosed practice. The sports pyschologist that worked with with our team did so in terms of mentally playing a situation out in a positive manner before it occured. That is, seeing yourself hitting a line drive while you were in the on- deck circle or making a good tackle before the play was run. He also worked with us on our pre-game preparation in terms of focus. The approach that he took for this varied athelete to athelete. I think that his efforts made a positive difference in our on field performance.

That said, where Prof. Gaskill will get wide-spread disagreement from the sports community is in his assessment of the degree to which positive mental imagery plays a role. Most coaches believe that it helps a great deal and they are looking to get the most out of their teams, and the atheletes are looking to get as much out of themselves as they can. The general feeling is that all things being equal, the mentally strongest will prevail. The degree to which it plays a role is in my opinion, and that of all coaches that I have played for, no where near 90%. As to Tiger and Ernie, his assessment may prove true since these guys are fairly comparable in terms of ability. The average person, however, would fall far short of these 2 regardless of their mental approach and preparation.
post #4 of 25
Thread Starter 
Gaskill said that anyone can be taught to do a specific movement, but to make the movement automatic, which is a desirable thing considering the speed at which athletic movement must occur, it can't be "a technique" that you "practice" -- it has to be what you do all the time. That's you, present tense. This is why athletes who see videos of their earlier performance deny that it's them or say it must have been a bad day. They no longer identify with the old picture of how they skied.

It's not really a a matter of being able to learn and do the movements--anyone can make the movements that, say, launch a turn--but not everyone can make the mental leap of faith that enables it all to occur seamlessly and efficiently, at speed, in variable circumstances, under pressure, and in the moment.

So, Alaska Mike, I might argue a bit with your position on skills first. I say, ski into the vision of yourself as a skier. Skills are secondary to vision, in the sense that first comes the will and then comes the way.
post #5 of 25
I think its basically a game of leap frog. Ultimately success, as measured by victory in competition, is dependent on the possession of skills. Imagery facilitates the acquisition of those skills and the full utilization of those skills in competitive situations.

Ski racers have been using imagery in both the training and competition arenas for many, many years. I was taught imagery skills as a young racer 40 years ago.

Nolo, you started a related thread a while back on the idea of learning to ski in the summer. I couldn't have agreed more with the notion of that being possible through the use of video study of desired techniques and the application of imagery to set the seed of the new movement pattern in our motor system. Some of my biggest technical transitions have had their origin in front of the tube internalizing into my mind the feel of the movements I wanted to perform. As you improve at this skill you can so realistically mentally replicate the physical you can actually feel the sensations of motion and the related forces in your muscles, almost as though you are actually skiing.

One example of many: I learned how to ski shorty slalom skis one recent summer in my living room, and the first time I got on them on snow it was as though I had been on them all my life. All the sensations I had mentally experienced during the summer felt no different on snow.
post #6 of 25
"Leap frog" is a good way to put it.

Early this season I envisioned myself making certain turns, but my body position and skill set wouldn't support it. The result? Me sliding on my back head-first into the alders during the first GS of the year. I thought I could, I thought I could... but I couldn't. It wasn't mental. My mindset was as aggressive and assertive as it ever had been, but the way that manifested itself physically was actually counterproductive.

Even though I wasn't hurt, that wreck affected my racing for the rest of the season, and I took fewer chances and extremely conservative lines. Tentative would be the best way to describe my approach- even when my physical abilities had moved far ahead of what they had been.

I guess it's the difference between the belief you can and knowing you can based on actual experience. I can visualize myself running circles around Bode in a slalom course (I even give him a head start), but I've never even competed on that level so I have no real concept of how fast he's going. But hey, I can dream, can't I? At least, as long as I wake up...
post #7 of 25
Everyone seems to agree to "see yourself" doing it.

Nolo, in your first statement about the jumper...the second piece of advise was a negative comment.

To be successful, it is easier to see ourselves doing something right, than preventing ourselves from doing something wrong.

I'm sure someone can explain the process our bodies/muscles/brain goes through when we do the following. Ask someone to hold their arms out from the side of their bodies. Tell them you will apply a downward pressure to their arms...they should/will keep them up. Do a second attempt at applying downward pressure to their arms, but this time say, "don't let your arms fall"....and voila, they will move downward much easier.

Postiive commments always works!!! Positive images!!!

Now let's say together...it will snow soon....

Portillo, Chile just opened with 7 new feet in a week. It can be done!!
post #8 of 25
I agree completely with Gaskell on imagery right up to the point of impracticality. I use it and stress using it.

As a kid, I imagined myself soring like a bird and jumped off the roof. Air Pierre eh!. I suddenly realized that imagery wasn't working. I was flappin like hell and still gaining speed. Fancy that. :

[ June 14, 2003, 06:56 AM: Message edited by: Pierre ]
post #9 of 25
By Pierre eh:
Quote:
As a kid, I imagined myself soring like a bird and jumped off the roof. Air Pierre eh!. I suddenly realized that imagery wasn't working. I was flappin like hell and still gaining speed. Fancy that.
Your anecdote reminds me of the time when I was a kid and tied a bed sheet at my ankles, held onto the other corners with my hands and jumped off a high fence on a windy day. I had intended to drift gently to the earth assisted by the parachute-like effect of the sheet. When I jumped, my descent to the earth was much faster than I had visualized. :

This is a very interesting topic though. Nolo, thanks for posting it. From your comments, I don't think that Prof. Steven Gaskill is suggeting visualization as substitute for ther laws of gravity or human physiologic parameters even when assisted by a bedsheet .

EDIT:typos.

[ June 14, 2003, 09:16 PM: Message edited by: Lostboy ]
post #10 of 25
I posted This

In semi jest, but it relates somewhat. In a sense, they are taking this idea to new heights, by using the Stanislovski technique of acting to implement behavioral change. You can spend a good deal of time learning new skills, but if you do not see yourself as someone who can execute these skills, the training effects will be minimal.

I mentioned in a few of the Academy threads, that more important than the skills I had leaarned, was my radical change in attitude regarding how I would view certain terrain that I would have previously deemed "terrifying".
post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 
Gaskill quoted Rainer Martens, founder of Human Kinetics Press, which I can only paraphrase: Skilled movement involves the mind as much as the body. This is why educational taxonomists call this the psycho-motor domain.
post #12 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by Lostboy:
By Pierre eh: </font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr /> As a kid, I imagined myself soring like a bird and jumped off the roof. Air Pierre eh!. I suddenly realized that imagery wasn't working. I was flappin like hell and still gaining speed. Fancy that.
Your anecdote reminds me of the time when I was a kid and tied a bed sheet at my ankles, held onto the other corners with my hands and jumped off a high fence on a windy day. I had intended to drift gently to the earth assisted by the parachute like effect of the sheet. When I jumped, my decent to the earth was much faster than I had visualized. :

This is a very interesting topic though. Nolo, thanks for posting it. From your comments I don't think that Prof. Steven Gaskill is suggeting visualization as substitute for ther laws of gravity or human physiologic parameters even when assisted by a bedsheet .
</font>[/quote]Anyone ever read Steppenwolf? There is a scene where a womaan tells a story about a boy who wanted to fly. He stood at the top of the mountain and believed that he could. For one moment, he actually began to soar.
Then, he thought:
"This could not be happening"

And fell to his death!
post #13 of 25
I think several good points have been made in this thread, many of which I'll be able to carry forth for my own skiing development, which is the reason I frequent this site. In my previous post I indicated that "positive mental imagery" has been around for years in the major sports world, and it has. However, in my experience it has been traditionaly used under the pretense that you acquire the skill first and then you use mental imagery to enhance your performance and improve your focus. So I think the good professor, and several of you, are onto something here.

Nolo, I really like your statement of "I say, ski into the vision of yourself as a skier. Skills are secondary to vision, in the sense that first comes the will and then comes the way". I also can relate to FastMan's leap-frog anology. Based on my athletic experience, there is no question in my mind that these are sound manners in which to approach the comprehension of new athletic movements, ski related or not.

I also agree strongly with Prof. Gaskill's statement "it can't be "a technique" that you "practice" -- it has to be what you do all the time". Nobody with a successful athletic background, regardless of the sport, will ever disagree with this statement. Coaches, since the beginning of time, have been preaching that you "perform like you practice". Skills must be consciously acquired and then be performed consistently over time before they become automatic.

I think this is one reason that students that take ski lessons often don't improve. They take the lesson, comprehend the instruction, perform the drill(s) correctly in front of the instructor, and then when they return to skiing on their own, they go back to using the same techniques they used before the lesson. If they want to improve as a result of the lesson, they must consciously incorporate the learned techniques into their skill quiver, practice them accordingly, and over time these movements will become automatic. This is true in all sports.
post #14 of 25
Human Kinetics is an awesome company.
Here is more on Rainer Martens:
http://www.asep.com/about/overview.cfm
post #15 of 25
I have to agree with the concept, its been proven often enough. Its a pretty simple thing that if you believe that you will fail, you probably will. The adage "battles are won or lost before they are fought" comes to mind. I have looked down many slopes and said no way can I do that. This year I jumped into a few of them convinced that I could, and did. I watch a lot of ski vids for this very reason. If I can visualize myself doing something, I can most times pull it off. Psyching yourself out is one of the worst things you can do. Nothing worse than being in the middle of a run and freaking out. You have to believe that you can do something, or don't bother.
post #16 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by KeeTov:
Everyone seems to agree to "see yourself" doing it.

Nolo, in your first statement about the jumper...the second piece of advise was a negative comment.

To be successful, it is easier to see ourselves doing something right, than preventing ourselves from doing something wrong.
This is an important point!

The referance for me has always been that a "don't do" somthing (negative)focus leaves you without any clear focus on something (positive) "to do". Without a clear focus on new movements that by contrast promote change, old habits prevail uncontested.

How often to teachers give "don't" tasks instead of "do" tasks?
Imagery, focus, clear intent on outcome are powerful (and woefully underutilized) tools. Percentage? Irrelavent, if it is not all positive, it is partially negative.

post #17 of 25
Great topic! I don't know if I really have much to add, but I'll pick just one example from my own experience. I could have included jazz guitar, baseball, mountain biking, tennis or even skiing, but this one is about golf:
My best round ever was a 74 from the back tees at Manchester (Vermont) CC. I was 1 under par for the last 13 holes - and I was about a 12 handicap at the time - that's playing way over my head! Anyway, the thing I still remember (after about 20 years) was that I could explicitly visualize a perfect shot before I hit it. So all I had to do was match my swing to that visualization. It was so easy! But, alas, it's never happened again in golf!
post #18 of 25
1. When I was a new instructor I would admonish students "don't stiffen your downhill knee". This would result in minimal improvement at best, but more usually no improvement. I can't remember exactly what prompted me to change, (although coincidentally I had participated in a workshop that Denise McCluggage had run at a seminar at Killington just before the season) but one day I suggested to a student to "bend your knee a little more." This student actually had his outside knee locked right out straight. Well, the improvement was immediate. I have never again pointed out a stiff knee to a student, except in a video analysis.

2. Is there a correlation between those people who want to take a lesson "to have someone show me what I'm doing wrong" and terminal intermediates?

3. Professor David Hebert liked to point out the big difference between individuals and teams who play to WIN and those who play to NOT LOSE. The former are usually successful.
post #19 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by David7:

3. Professor David Hebert liked to point out the big difference between individuals and teams who play to WIN and those who play to NOT LOSE. The former are usually successful.
Such as pro footballs PREVENT DEFENSE. I once heard one of the players who realized how ineffective it is comment on it, "About the only thing it prevents is a victory."

As to defensive instruction, asking a student to NOT do something focuses his mental picture squarely on the very movement we are trying to eliminate. It's rather like telling someone not to think about pink elephants, try not to think of them and it's guaranteed those buggers will be trotting all over your thoughts.

What ever picture we place in our students mental eye is the movement their mind will attempt to produce. We have to place a picture of the movement we want them to execute, not the one were trying to eliminate, so that their mind can go about the business of producing it. We can do that orally and/or visually.

This is why It is so important in our demos to exaggerate the movement we are trying to focus on. We have to make that new movement stand out in their perception so it locks into their mental imagery. Pierre spoke recently on another thread about how he gets students to get their feet unlocked. He said if he wants to get six inches of foot separation he'll do his demo with twelve inches and the result is he ends up getting close to what he wants. Right on Pierre!

[ June 17, 2003, 06:38 AM: Message edited by: FastMan ]
post #20 of 25
Definitely something to this concept. Made me
think of Steve Prefontaine. Here was a pretty
ordinary kid from a small town in Oregon who saw
himself as the greatest runner in the world, which
is exactly what he had become at the time of his death
at the ripe old age of 24.
post #21 of 25
Just a couple of comments...

When I first started skiing with one of my current instructors (as a very anxious intermediate skier) - he banned the 'c' word... He would not accept there was anything I could not do - just things I hadn't worked out HOW to do yet. (compensation mechanism still required) I was NOT to say "I can't"....

I realised today when I chose my warm up run area (ice pebbles about 2-3 inches across the whole way down & rocks & grass coming through) - I didn't once think 'perhaps I can't ski that' - I did think 'Hmmm might take it nice & easy'....
I realised I haven't actively THOUGHT "I can't" for a VERY long time in my skiing

His other trick was to INSIST in no uncertain terms - that if I WANTED to have good stance & balance I had to PRACTICE having good stance & balance - so I was NOT to "slouch" around in the lift lines - I was to stand "well" as best I could - on flat terrain & in lift lines & while waiting for my lessons.

He told me today that last week & this - even while I was 'nervous' & stressed about starting the season without a lesson (YES - I DID THAT LAST FRIDAY - SKIED FIRST DAY OF SEASON ON MY OWN - thanks to Oz & my instructor who encouraged & supported me) I still held my stnace & balance on my skis - similarly today even when i was NOT HAPPY with my skiing.

He swears this is REALLY dialled in now - says no-one can take this away from me.
post #22 of 25
We do
We dance
We ski
.
.
.
We smile
.
.
.
wE sKI
.
.
sCARED
.
.
.Sure
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.
.
LOVING ITTTTTTT
post #23 of 25
I think there are many people who write and talk about things that are evident to many people. The ideas Nolo quotes here seem to me to be among them. I think these concepts are recognized and practiced by many professional and recreational athletes in many sports.

The more critical question, in my way of thinking, is how you integrate and employ these in the learning process. My observation (especially in the 2 sports I am most active in, tennis and skiing) is that very few integrate these concepts adequately into their aproach to coaching, teaching, or learning (inclusive of instructors, their clients, and self learners alike). I have read a few instructional sports books that extensively talk about such an apporoach but rarely, if ever, do I see it adequately employed in practice.

I was just watching an open level tennis match last night with a friend (#1 player at Michigan) playing. His parents and I were commenting about how he had the "flow" going in the first set and just seemed to be making his visions and intent come true. In the second set it was apparent to us all that he was starting to think about his shot execution and selection. The results were a very distinctive diminishment of his performance level. When the match was over the player himself talked about how he started to think about execution too much in the second set and how it hurt him.

OK, long story but even at this realitvely high level of a sport the baggage of all his years of "technical" training were more of a burden than a help. My guess is that with less emphasis in his background on the technical and more on vision and feel this guy would be playing an even higher level of tennis.

I have had very similar observations in skiing. Certainly for myself, my advances at this point come almost exclusively from creating vision and recognizing feel (as have most of my past significan advances), not from a technical approach or perspective.
post #24 of 25
great topic nolo,
It seems that one of the differences between the dreamers and the DOers, seems to be that the dreamers focus on generalizations as in "how they LOOK" whereas the true visualizers zoom into the very area of the anatomy of interest..its movement(s), and what that part of the body will feel like before, during, and after a particular movement....

[ June 19, 2003, 09:58 PM: Message edited by: HaveSkisWillClimb ]
post #25 of 25
Quote:
Originally posted by HaveSkisWillClimb:
great topic nolo,
It seems that one of the differences between the dreamers and the DOers, seems to be that the dreamers focus on generalizations as in "how they LOOK" whereas the true visualizers zoom into the very area of the anatomy of interest..its movement(s), and what that part of the body will feel like before, during, and after a particular movement....
This is why I do NOT visualise - how can I amagine what an area of my anatomy will feel like & how it will move - when I can't feel that anyway!

I do 'feel' though - I dream & visualise SENSORY input.... true in many areas - not just my skiing
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