So many sports have male origins and coaching patterns – now it’s time for change
By TONY GRIFFIN – Squash Mad Coaching Correspondent
Tony Griffin may be a humble male, but he is determined to address the gender imbalance in sport. Yes, most sports were invented by males (primarily for males) but the world has spun a few times since the Victorian era spawned a large number of games and pastimes, primed mainly to keep schoolboys out of mischief. His ideas are thought-provoking and he has prepared an alternative path for genuine change. (Ed).
MY GEVOLUTION ACADEMY is involved in an ongoing process of questioning and learning from trials on court with players from novice to elite levels.
Adapting the core concepts of Differential Learning*, primary movements, constraints and helping them overcome insecurities or fears has seen them all make clear changes.
During the coronavirus lockdown, I did this video for my nieces in Australia who were doing similar stunts (and I had seen master classes from Nele Gilis, Borja Golan, Amanda Sobhy and Miguel Rodriguez)… In doing it, I saw that it was another reflection of Gevolution learning. And getting my body into such a ridiculous position brought home to me all the stress and fears that can prove a major barrier to learning and accomplishment.
The first few times I tried it I wasn’t sure if I could even stand on my hands. Next, I was in such a panic to see if I could get my shirt off and my hands out of it that I left the shirt in a mess and I couldn’t find the arm holes!
Fortunately, there are no videos of me upside down trying to find the arm holes and having to give up. This experience of failing led me to look more closely at each movement, and I saw that the success of the next movement was consequential and depended on the previous action being well done.
Reducing the stress helped me to connect my eyes to each action, which in turn brought each action into the present. It would have been so easy to have got stuck in that panic moment with a tangled shirt and never been able to finish my niece’s challenge.
One of the challenges in sport today is how to address the imbalance in male and female participation, and squash is no exception.
The majority of sports are masculine in origin. They have evolved from men either in groups or individually wanting to showcase their speed, strength, agility, skill and or fitness competitively. As the sports evolved, men started teaching other men how improve in their sport.
This thought leads me to ask if our teaching processes are based on and cater to male attributes, so are more suited to men’s physical and cognitive processes?
Is the way we are teaching our sport, conditioning the participation?
Since our cave-duelling days, men’s role has evolved from hunting, farming, ploughing, building, fighting, etc. A lot of these tasks require a lot of perseverance and repetition with a high doses of wide motor skills and a small doses fine motor skills.
Women’s role has been more domestic, the home makers, cooking and gathering, raising children, decoration, sewing, dancing and many other tasks. This combination of activities is perhaps behind the women’s famous ability to multitask and they require a high level of fine motor skills and notably less wide motor skills.
Girls’ and boys’ formative years are often different as well, and these differences surely condition us when we want to learn new skills later in our lives.
I have been surprised for years by young urban children when entering a forest. The boys appear to have a radar that finds sticks they can play with and how the girls are attracted to the leaves and the flowers.
These differences are a paradigm and not a rule. There are many women with exceptional sporting skills and performing tasks traditionally considered men’s and many men performing tasks traditionally considered women’s to see that reasons for this paradigm are not because of physical or cognitive differences between the sexes. Exceptions to paradigms are to be treasured and not judged because of their differences are often the impulse that fuels change and evolution.
I don’t think it is should be looked at as men’s or women’s things but more a reality that shows our teaching system is rigid and does not adapt for those outside the “normal levels”.
Is our teaching process flexible enough to cater for all levels both physical and psychological? The actual system replies to the many differences people have, with more repetitions or insistence within the standard exercises. In some cases it works, but is it also the reason that many other people self-confirm that they are not suited for our sport and they desist with it?
So here are the questions: Is our actual teaching process a conditioning or limiting factor which also impacts on our ability to retain new players?
Should we teach squash in the same way an axeman and dancer? Is the path to proficiency the same for them both? Surely not. In the end, all of the skills they need to improve and play well are the same, the question is, should we, in our teaching process, be adaptable to each individual and respect their starting point.
Using the Gevolution core concepts listed above, we have prepared a course for female players and coaches who are looking for a different path to improve and evolve. We have the first courses ready for once the world is once again open for business.
In the next article we share more about how our course works.
Innovative and groundbreaking
Patricia Ontoria (pictured), Physio, Sports & Health Blogger and Squash lover, writes:
After more than 15 years of formation and experience as a physiotherapist I have been accustomed to high numbers of repetitions being the key for most learning processes and some rehabilitation processes.
It is groundbreaking seeing the opposite, and that this combination of sports science concepts is so beneficial.
We knew that new movements required and caused higher neuro cortex activity, and I’m surprised we haven’t been taking more advantage of this knowledge.
It’s fascinating, the idea of adapting the learning process to optimize female motivation and abilities, focusing on fine motor skills and multitasking.
It leads me to equate Tony’s coaching methods with the most innovative lines of research in neurodevelopment.
Thank you, Patricia, for the kind endorsement of our coaching methods and core beliefs.
In these days of confinement we are looking for reading material.….. here are the Squash Mad links where Tony has shared in more detail the concepts behind the Gevolution process…
*Scientifically proven learning process developed by Wolfgang Scholhorn – Sport Scientist, University of Manz