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Training, Creativity and Individualization

Strength Coach Brijesh Patel linked this article about Russian powerlifter Vasili Alexeyev titled “The Science of Winning According to Vasili Alexeyev.”

Alexeyev speaks about the importance of individualizing one’s training rather than simply copying an instructor (I wrote about a similar subject in terms of mindful learning in Hard2Guard Player Development Newsletter Vol. 3, No. 44):

“But then I see that many on our team are already working in my way. Theirs, however, is a copy – not the original. Even though the copy may be a good one, it will always be a step away from the original.”

At different stages Alexeyev was helped by trainers and he listened to their opinions . . . but only up to a point, to a limit. And Vasily also took something from the trainers of the Soviet team…However, he was not a blind follower of orders given from the sidelines.

For an athlete to be successful, he can learn from many sources, but he has to internalize or individualize his game. A player like Kobe Bryant emulates the moves of Michael Jordan or initially patterned his style after MJ, but to become a dominant player, he established his own game.

Often, coaches or trainers demonstrate a move or drill and expect players to copy their demonstration exactly. However, this shows a player’s ability to mimic another player, not necessarily the player’s learning. Instead, to reach a higher level, the player has to use the instruction as a starting or reference point and make the move his own.

For instance, if I demonstrate a crossover dribble, I make the move in a certain way. However, my way may not be the best way for another player. The player wants to learn the general instructions (set up the move, protect the ball from the defender, explode past the defender) and imagine his own game situationswhere he would use the move. By using his imagination and creativity, each repetition should look different as he sets up the defender and makes his move. Those who blindly mimic the coach without thought fail to transfer the practice to a new setting: they improve at the drill or the static move.

Training players and developing as a player are evolving processes, as Alexeyev says:

“There is much talk about the art of training. But there is nothing concrete. I myself keep searching for a rational method…Constantly…But generally I train differently from anyone else.”

As soon as you think you have all the answers, you fall behind, as others are constantly experimenting, adapting, learning and improving.

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