Squash Mad

The Gevolution: A different way of helping squash players evolve and change

Tony Griffin and Spanish under-13 champion and US Open under-11 winner Ona Blasco

‘Research shows repetition is not always the best way to learn’ 
By TONY GRIFFIN – G Spot Squash and Coaching Analyst

In July I Presented the G Evolution process to the Catalan Squash Federation and a reduced number of their coaches in course entitled “A Squash Course For Coaches – Only For Coaches willing to think out of the Box”.

The question being: Is the challenge in teaching, or having players learn and evolve? Teaching does not automatically equate to learning. The Gevolution process is focused on learning and transforming.

Now the Catalan federation is doing a second course with experienced coaches. We will do a study comparing the changes in pupils who are using normal training methods and those using the Gevolution process.

After writing my book “The G Spot, A Book about Squash” I have been experimenting and researching with sports science concepts for the last three years.

Differential Learning from Wolfgang Schollhorn (University of Mainz Germany) and Deporte & Complejidad (Sport and complexity) written by Natalia Balague and Carlota Torrents (Barcelona Sports University I.N.E.F.) who also lead a sports science research group by the same name. I was also invited to participate in their recent research group weekend conference.

Here are some of main concepts I have been experimenting with for squash. Differential Learning and working in the present (Schollhorn). He has scientifically proved (in multi-discipline training tests) that repetition is the least effective road to change.

He also says that age is not a limiting factor for change. Our experience with squash with players from 11 to 64 years old coincides with this. What does this imply for squash training where repetition is ever present?

From Balague and Torrents, I have been experimenting with working with constraints (limits) which I have related principally to the primary movements (swing, body position, movement to and from the ball, watching the ball and the tactics) although there are many more.

The concept of Caos: Caos is when the primary movements lose their form or structure (both in training and matches), so basically those moments when we have that feeling that we’ve “lost it”. I have been looking at how Caos affects learning, and our ability to retain a new or changed movement or habit? They also talk about how each movement or habit comes from a neuron path or cell memory that we have created. Can and how do we create a new habit?

They talk about the tendency in modern sport to isolate the different aspects of the sport and train them separately, in the hope that they come together in a match context, whereas we should be looking more at understanding how their interrelationship leads us to perform at an optimum level.

These ideas have led me to look closer at how we watch the ball and the following questions. Can we teach watching the ball? Can we improve how we watch it? What are the different parts or areas that make up watching the ball?

Are we watching the ball in the moment of impact? Does hitting the ball imply/equate to watching at the moment of impact? How watching the ball relates to our movement and orientation in space. I have also been researching the relationship between any insecurity, doubts and fear connected with watching the ball.

Does insecurity lead to disconnecting our eyes from the ball? What comes first – insecurity, doubts or fear that lead to disconnection or is it the other way round? Disconnection with the ball leading to insecurity, doubts or fear? Is how we watch the ball related to our ability to create improved movements or habits?

Another question I have asked myself is what if the habit we have for hitting the ball or moving is based on moments of insecurity went we were learning, does this condition how were are able to evolve and improve?

The Gevolution process also appears to have therapeutic value. I have been working with teenagers with cerebral palsy, dispraxia and difficulties in orientation in space, and they all have made surprising changes. It is too early to generalise about the therapeutic value but it something we are actively working on.

My son Liam has a very slight cerebral palsy and a lazy eye. With his permission we’ll be sharing a case study about his squash evolution.

“Squash Project” on the Costa Brava is the first squash academy to integrate the Gevolution concept into their training programs.

“Gevolution simply opens new doors into ways of helping players change. After one month using G Evolution we are already seeing clear changes in some players,” says Xavi Blasco, the Squash Project Head Coach.

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In the coming weeks, I will share some more articles here on SQUASH MAD elaborating more of my research.

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ALBERT CASANYE writes: In the G-evolution course and process, Tony challenges conventional thinking and training methods. His focus is on players learning and not teaching them. It leads to change! It is based on sports science concepts and not intuition, so it takes the coach and players to a clear understanding of how transformation occurs, it is not random.

I have been coaching and watching coaches work for more than 30 years so over the last 2 years I have been following special interest his research and the development of Gevolution. I have seen changes in Tony´s son, Liam, who has slight cerebral palsy and orientation in space issues that I did not think were possible. He is also working with other teenagers with Dyspraxia and motor neuron difficulties, and they are also making surprising changes.

I fully recommend the G evolution process for anyone looking to make real changes. It is fascinating!
Albert Casanye – Squash Club Owner and Tecnifibre Distributor

 

Posted on September 24, 2018

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9 Comments

  1. Alexia Clonda September 24, 2018 at 11:02 am

    Very interesting Tony.

    The concept this brings to my mind is “learning to unlearn, to learn” This concept has been floating around for sometime now. Research in neuroscience has advanced the area of human transformation in all of its applications, and interestingly enough, its value in athlete training and coaching.

    You may be interested, if you have not already done so, reading up on:

    Neuroplasticity: The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.

    I have been experimenting with this concept and some basic quantom physics and the mind/body/emotion connection.

    Cheers Alexia

  2. Ian Stephenson September 24, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    This is fascinating! I have been a squash coach for a long time and have encountered challenging youngsters in limited numbers out of the many hundreds, but my latest ‘client’ is a 17-year old who I am working with on a one-to-one basis, due to lack of social interaction and massive lack of confidence; he has been diagnosed with the condition Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and I believe he has PDA (pathological demand avoidance). I have discovered he CANNOT BE TAUGHT? But, he does LEARN! In my specific fields of squash and racket-ball, the emphasis has always been to practise and practise drills or routines, with demonstrations of the correct techniques. However, the reaction is: “But that’s not the same as playing!”
    I have had to ‘throw away the text book’ and re-write well-founded coaching strategies. Most of the coaching is now implemented through ‘conditioned’ games, e.g. focusing on a specific shot – we play a series for an hour – with occasional, brief stoppages for quick demonstrations and, of course, to hydrate.
    I really look forward to understanding more about GEVOLUTION and seeing if I can use it more widely.

  3. Tony G September 26, 2018 at 6:09 am

    Hi Alexia, thank you, Yes Nueroplasticity is one of the surprising things I have been seeing, how the players ability to change evolves from being very rigid (or unable to change) to making changes with unusal ease. Recently when talking about my work people have often referred back to different neuroscience stuff.

    It’s all good, the question is how to turn it into real changes. I have the (unqualified) impression that there is a tendency for specialists (psycho, physical, technical etc) to work or focus on looking for solutions in their fields and perhaps it is the inter-relationship of the fields that hold the answers as you talk about in your last line above.

    I have been looking at the relationship between fear/insecurity/doubts and how we connect our eyes with the ball and the ongoing consequences of that… there will be some more about that is in the next articles.

  4. Tony G September 26, 2018 at 6:53 am

    Hi Ian. Thanks for comments, I have worked with similar challenges and similar ages and so far have had clear evolution in all cases. I have also learnt a huge amount from them and my “mistakes”. Mistakes is probably the wrong word, it is more like how people with these kind of conditions oblige us to move away from normal teaching practises so take us out of the “box”.
    As you say, lack of confidence is a common denominator so they can appear ungrounded and have difficulty connecting the different actions (swing, body position, getting to the ball and then where to hit it).
    Wolfgang (differential learning) talks about just 3 repetitions in training.
    Just 3 repetitions is radical compared to what we normally do in squash. I have slowly (because of my own insecurity really) been experimenting with reducing the repetitions and seen that Wolfgang is completely right,
    More is not better.
    I’ll explain in more detail in coming articles. I’m also looking at dates for a course for coaches in England. Where are you?
    Regards Tony Griffin

  5. Ian Stephenson September 26, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Hello Tony
    I am based in Cumbria, in the North West of England (curiously enough, I am travelling down to Leicester in the East Midlands to stay this weekend to take part in a charity tournament and meet up with a lot of squash players and enthusiasts.
    If you wish, we could exchange e-mails; my contact address is: [email protected]
    Best Regards, Ian

  6. Mark Andrew Burke September 26, 2018 at 11:23 am

    Hi Tony, can you please quote the full research article you mention? Is it available in pdf? What was the structure of the research? Number of participants? Blind studies? etc etc. Thanks and congrats with Ona!

    • Tony G September 27, 2018 at 6:02 am

      Hi Mark, After writing my book “the G Spot, A Book About Squash” I was given the book “Complejidad y Deporte” (in Spanish), written by Nàtalia Balagué Serra and Carlota Torrents Martin. Both are Professors in the Institut Nacional d´Educacio Fisica de Catalunya (Physical Education University) in Barcelona and are leading the research group “Complex Systems in Sport” (Natalia organised the first International Congress “Complex Systems in Sport” in 2003 and another one in 2017 in Camp Nou). In their book, they reference various different studies and training practises. It’s very academic and not an easy read for an old squash coach, I have read it 3 times. In June, I was invited to their weekend research group meeting. I also helped Natalia with the translation of their last publication about Constraints. You can find some of their publications on line.
      Natalia introduced me to Wolfgang (his work is referenced regularly in their book) and I met with him 18 months ago (we had agreed to meet again the following week but in the meantime he did a session with FC Barcelona and they then signed him for the rest of his visit, I missed out) and then I met him again in April this year at a conference he gave in Barcelona. I was extremely fortunate have a first hand 1 on 1 explication of his concept of “Noise” (brain activity during training) plus insight into some of the unpublished concepts he is working on.
      One of Wolfgangs publications is in The Open Sports Science Journal 2012, 5 (Suppl 1-M11) 100-112 “The Nonlinear Nature of Learning – A Differential Learning Approach” W I Schollhorn, P Hegen, and K Davids.. You can Google Wolfgang Schollhorn as he has published a lot of work and has a web site.
      They (Natalia, Carlota and Wolfgang) are doing exceptional work and I feel very fortunante to be in contact with them. Their concepts have been the starting point of my own work.

  7. Tom September 26, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    Hi everyone,

    Can I recommend the talent equation podcast which promotes the constraints led approach which is similar to TGFU (Teaching Games For Understanding). I try my best to stick away from drills if I can. Especially if the drill doesn’t really reflect the game of squash. Very interesting topic!

    Tom Smith, Squash Coach in Norfolk

    • Tony G September 27, 2018 at 6:10 am

      Hi Mark, Took me ages to start to understand the concept of constraints. Don’t know the works you reference here so would love to have more info, is there a link for the podcast? Thanks, Tony

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