Oversimplifying learning of skill and the anger it could cause

Mia Blichfeldt badminton athelete

I was reading about a top women singles player on BWF`s blog and got a feeling that I want to talk about impatience on the court. The process of learning a movement or a quick reaction for a situation might be easy. For some of us, even complex tasks come easy. But what makes it so difficult sometimes? Why can we lose what we have learnt already? Why can we forget what we learnt yesterday and if I learn something new why is it affecting other skills I know and not in relation to what I just learn? Frustrating, isn`t it?

Learning new movements is a huge cognitive and also a physically tiring task. The right amount of focus, rest time and repetition can bring the required success. To understand what we learnt and how this could work out on the court is the next step. But to start using what you have in the right situation and the right time makes its execution artistic. To use the movement, the shot you learnt or applying the tactics means you are now in control of the skill.

Basic learning method

Nearly all people on this planet has a different pace of this learning method. Someone has a difficulty learning it, someone struggling to understand why or how to use it and someone is not ready to use it because the old method is still the most trusted solution despite it is causing unforced errors, inconvenience in a rally or can cause an injury. We are all different and that makes it exciting!

When we learn a new thing we are focusing to make it happen. What we previously learnt but it is on the way to become a motor skill might be failing when the focus drops on it. So a relatively “old” shot is still not coming easy if we are focusing on a new movement. Why? Because our brain wants to make sure all situation is covered and this situation when we have a relatively old and a new movement is at least 1 new situation. So it needs to be practised a lot of times. If you want to add something else, then you need to practice separately the 1st, the 2nd and the 3rd and then ideally all the possible scenarios with drills or during games. What you need here is patience. Let`s be honest, some of us already lost their patience at the 1st new thing. Right? Hell no, I won`t learn anything new until the next decade…

Aww, but it doesn`t make any sense. I was practising a lot, I think I understand and in control of it so why am I still failing sometimes and how can I trust in these new/old/relatively old/relatively new skills? It is so hard to get what is going on.

Here is the thing, the rewrite of muscle memories do not happen overnight, or during a session or two. You must give time to your body&brain to cope with the new demands. And at the end of the session, focus on stretching safely. And nourish well at home. And rest. And take good care of your body overall. And repeat this process of course. A lot. Not 3 times nor 12 times, as many times as you need to achieve the required change. Which could be over a couple of thousand times. Or less. Or more. It depends on how much your body needs and how badly you want it.

So the connections among your new skill and the rest are wired, even if they seem to not belonging to each other. For instance, the new shot could be at the net and you think it is causing unforced errors at another place on the court, despite it is a different shot with a different grip… but remember that these shots are all executed with the same body.

Still doesn`t make sense? Let me explain this from a different perspective. Artificial intelligence was designed in the same way as the human brain works. So the machine learning in the same way as we do. we all know one thing about machines and programmes. They do not make mistakes. They do follow what they have been told. So in this context, they are super learners. Well, this is not quite true.

The path of machine learning is as flawed as a human`s mind. That makes all of us unique.

In the above video, a neural network (a type of AI) wants to learn a difficult pattern. You can see how many times AI does the exact same mistakes. Doesn’t even want to slow down, just want to push it, to get going, “brainlessly”. It does need lots of tries before able to do a go-round at least with one car. You think once it has made it, it has learned it so that was it. Not at all folks, the interesting part is yet to come.

A pattern is learnt if the test cars can go around consistently. At least a couple of cars. In the video, at the 10th generation, there is a red car shows promise, from out of nowhere. And then loads of mistakes. You cannot believe how many times and how foolish it looks like. And you are just asking why it isn`t capable of making one round?! The miracle finally happens in the 31st. The 33rd is the most promising to date and it looks like soon, all the cars will survive with no crush. There are 42 generations all together in the video and we do not know how many generations it needs to learn the path perfectly. But see the performance of the 42nd round, you see that it is still making lots of mistakes. However, it somewhat learned the path.

How this is all connecting with the anger caused by learning or forgetting shots or underestimating a situation, or oversimplifying a shot, movements or reactions? What does this video prove to us? The paradox is that even the best learners need lots of repetitions at certain tasks, it doesn`t come easy and it can fade away with no practice.

We often think that we have full control over something and then punishing ourselves when the opposite turns out. The underestimation of the task, oversimplifying a shot/situation causing it. You know best which one fits for you. But one thing is for sure. After you are getting frustrated/angry by the mistake and telling yourself “Sausage, how stupid that (I) was!” is just making you slowly lose the trust in your own skill. As you read above these are all wired, so if you lose the trust in one of your shots, it is easy to lose trust in another. And another one, and another until your performance collapse. I`ve seen it many times and I found a great example of it. Here is the full match. But if you do not have time then just fast forward to the 2nd and the 3rd set. You will see that emotional rollercoaster I am talking about.

To make an end to this article and give hope to anyone struggling with anger on court I must say that there is a way out. You need to understand there are no easy shots, only relatively easy shots. Our emotions (fear, anger), the environmental coefficients (lights, shuttle differences, court, shoes, spectators, opponent, officials, etc.) and distrust in our skills or ourselves can make the easiest shot a difficult one. Learning movements is a slow process for most of us. Time, commitment and passion should determine the purpose of your fights and the awards and fame should wait.

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