This past summer I asked my seven year old why he was playing tennis barefoot. Without adjusting his focus to acknowledge more than a passing nuisance, he replied matter of factly ‘Because I don’t have my shoes’. Initially, I was slightly taken aback, but I quickly realized we often ask what before we know why. Sports performance is no different. So can it be deductively reasoned? Has the problem already been solved with simple, understated elegance?
Sink. Or Swim. To Evolve?
We do not need shoes to play tennis. But experience teaches the foolish and the wise equally that without our footing, tennis can be a difficult sport to play. Specialization of shoes even indicates that grass court players wear a specific outsole to deal with ryegrass conditions. Tiny dimples help players avoid slipping while minimizing damage to the delicate courts.
The experience that demands change is gained typically through failure. We fall to learn how to fail or we fail to learn. So the conundrum for the initiated coach is to protect against traumatic downsides while encouraging potential upsides.
Nature is full of wonder because of the sheer breadth of interactions happening at any one time, on any scale, anywhere. That same wonder that can overwhelm our day if we attempt too many interactions. Biomimetics focuses on nature's ability to make divided attentions clear. The harmonious connection becomes an open sporting competition for survival.
Natural selection favors a gritty Subsaharan beetle using its morphology to survive despite the environment. A lotus leaf develops hydrophobic capabilities to thrive in a vast sea of forma. And it would appear on many levels hexagonal structures underscore many amazing creations in the wild. Discover the outlier first and a competitive advantage becomes clear.
Shift the paradigm. Faster?
'Natural talent' then is a sobriquet for 'as yet to be understood'. Nature at its roots is a normal distribution of genetic 'gifts'
measurable phenomena in nature (height of people, temperatures during the year, etc.) tend to distribute themselves along a “normal” bell curve. But social phenomena, like the things we do for a living, don’t work that way.
Coaching then is how we grow with and incorporate 'talents' through measured stressors that promote specific performance success. Sports is a 'race' to absorb and discard relevant information faster than the competition. OR for the 140 character set...Either go for a barefoot run with the Tarahumara or wear your shoes Baumer!