There is nothing like analysing people performing the same function to appreciate the diversity of human movement strategies. An afternoon of working with young elite golfers provided an excellent example.
In the four young men of approximately the same age and experience and competing at junior international level, the swing issues were so very different, as were the solutions. The body/mind is an incredible goal directed problem solver – even when the parameters of the skill are quite closely defined, as in this case of a straight drive, the body/mind of each individual finds a way to draw on its assets and wiggle around its liabilities in order to produce a workable, if not optimal swing.
You only have to spend half an hour watching the first tee at a local club to see that golfers can be successful enough for their own enjoyment using the bizarre array of individualised styles that can come about as a result of this process. However, it is not unusual for the golf swing to cause injuries or a barrier to improvement, so golfers seek help in the form of a golf professional/books/videos to address their swing issues. They frequently encounter the traditional “top down” approach, which involves accumulating things to think about (the brain being the “top”), in order to make the body and the club do something specific. This is the classic “mind over matter” approach.
There was only so far that these young golfers could progress in this way without analysing and working on their individual characteristics. They had the minds, but did they have the matter?
The first golfer was very straightforward – he simply did not have the flexibility to complete the motion, so he found a way around his restrictions by putting his body into stressful positions. For this young man, flexibility, particularly in his shoulders, was the critical issue.
The second golfer had long struggled with control of his right leg on the backswing, and having focused for a lengthy time on greatly increasing the muscle tension in his leg to make it “stronger”, he had in fact functionally fixed the leg and pelvis together, losing the fluid motion necessary to be able to “wind up”.
The third golfer was overcoming physical asymmetries, and needed to experience the sensation of a straight spinal axis to permit effective turning. This required some work on creating a supportive pelvic platform to carry the spine through rotation. The fourth golfer found that if we ‘lit up” his system prior to striking the ball, his upper to lower body integration and timing improved markedly.
The common thread between them all was that instead of having something to “think about”, they all needed something to “feel about”. By cueing them into their senses, accurate information became available from the body, providing an alternative way for them to experience and alter their swings.
As practitioners, developing our skills in assessing relevantly and individualising the solutions helps us to meet the unique needs of the people we work with.
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