Do you remember the first time you learned how to ride a bike? Your riding ‘coach’ was probably your mom or dad or someone else you trusted. They held the back of the seat to keep you balanced as you gained some momentum leading to the eventual ‘AHA!’ moment when something inside of you clicked. You suddenly figured ‘it’ out, got the hang of it, everything was working as it should to keep the bike moving and you on top of the seat safely. The truth leading up that ‘AHA’ moment is worth exploring a little bit, and that is what I will discuss here.
Does anyone pick up a bicycle at the age of 5 and start riding proficiently right away? Absolutely not, right? They fall, almost immediately. After they fall, they fall again, and again, and again. They get frustrated, maybe even shed a few tears, but they are eventually encouraged to get back on and try again. My point is that they fail at first. We all know that failure is part of the learning process, so what do we do next? Do we hire a professional bike riding coach? Perhaps we go through right and left leg isolated pedaling progressions? Maybe it’s the bike!? Let’s go out and buy the best bike money can buy! Of course not, that sounds like insanity! But is it? What if the skill is throwing or hitting? Back on track with the bike storyso, what do we do? We encourage the child, maybe slow things down, or offer a suggestion as to where to put their hands and feet. The truth is, at the end of the day the child figures it out. We did not ‘teach’ the child how to ride the bike, the child learned! The parent created the learning environment; supplied the bike, offered a helping hand and most importantly the parent/teacher encouraged the child. One of the most surprising things to think about is that the newly acquired skill of riding a bicycle can last a lifetime. Once you’ve learned it, ‘it’s like riding a bike’ to figure it out again if you’ve taken some time off.
There is a ton a research and books available about motor learning and skill acquisition that are only a few clicks away on Amazon. They are probably worth every cent if you plan on ‘teaching’ any type of skill. In quick self-reflection, it is absolutely mind blowing to think that I only taught kids a skill in the way that it was taught to me. Sure, every skill has some foundational truths (fundamentals) but and the end of the day, how much did the student learn? How much did he understand? How much did they retain over a long period of time? How much of it transferred into game performance? These are all really important questions that every student and parent need to think about when they embark on the skill acquisition journey. One of our most important core values here at STRIKE is that we believe in creating a great learning environment. We understand that you are going to fall off your bike a lot before you figure it out. We understand that it can be scary sometimes to look like an idiot in front of your friends when you can’t do it right away. Our goal is to help the student and the parent understand what a great learning environment looks like.
This next part is for the parents. Why do you think your child plays video games for hours on end? Forgive me because you’re going to hate this answer… It’s the perfect learning environment! The game has a goal, a desired outcome. The game is intriguing, slightly difficult, and fun. It presents timely challenges suited for the level of skill of the player. More skilled the player = more difficult challenge. The game provides these little challenges over and over until the player figures it out! The game progresses at the players speed. The player can see improvements. The game offers instant feedback; the player does something wrong, he dies or starts over. On the other hand, if the player does something right, a small reward is earned. One of the most important variables in the video game learning environment, and this is the real kicker you’re going to hate… they don’t have anyone telling them what to do! No parent to say ‘stay back Timmy!’ or ‘get your hands up!’ The game offers up a problem, and the gamer is guided to figure it out. The gamer experiences first-hand. The gamer learns. The gamer is NOT taught how to play. Finally, guess what happens if the player can’t figure it out? They look up videos on how to do it on YouTube or something. They ask for help! How many times do we offer up answers without them even asking? We see our children struggling and immediately offer up the solution. I get it, I have 2 children, and I fall prey to the same trap. But what if we became resources instead task masters!? What if we present a challenge and let them figure it out?
Now that the kick in the pants is over. Everything I just mentioned correlates to very basic motor learning principles that set the foundation of our practices, lessons and classes. The point is, there is a method to our madness here at STRIKE. Looking good in practice does not necessarily mean you’ll look good or perform well in the game. We encourage and invite the student that can set aside their fear and fall off the bike a few times in pursuit of something they have fun with and love to do. We encourage and invite the parent to support their child without giving them the answers or telling them what they should be doing. We create and guide an environment where the student is challenged to solve the problem over and over instead of us giving the student the solution over and over. We cultivate our students to love what they are doing and learn to become great learners.