“If you can’t explain it to a 6-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
Humans are peculiar in that, when we encounter a new subject, our learnings are diverse and largely unconnected. The system by which we categorise and store new data is initially convoluted and unrefined. One of my favourite authors, Anders Ericsson, would term this our mental representation.
As we reach higher levels of understanding, having accrued vast amounts of experience and knowledge, paradoxically, things do not grow more complex; they become simpler. Our mental representation of the subject or skill becomes more polished, pared back and essentialist.
Eventually, 1 or 2 sentences may surmise what took years of trial and error to comprehend. What makes my brain hurt even more, is that if you offer these few sentences to a novice, they mean largely nothing. Offer them to an expert that shares a similar mental representation and they may resonate deeply and concisely convey countless hours of apprenticeship.
Perhaps this is what underpins the phenomenon of ‘expert-induced amnesia’. An expert’s understanding may be implicit and difficult to articulate without practice in the same. As an aside, this points to the value of good quality coaching. Coaches, in many respects, should be experts in their field who have also dedicated much time and effort to the explanation of their expertise.
There is an elegance in simplicity. Personally, I enjoy trying to refine my understanding of freestyle; distilling it down to the most basic principles that apply equally to all components. In the next few blogs, I will attempt to share this with you.
Perhaps they will instantly connect some dots in your head; perhaps not. Maybe they will in time. I suppose I should highlight that everyone’s mental representations are constantly evolving. Every time we sit in the boat, or even think about sitting in a boat, we are adding something to our freestyle filing cabinet that ultimately, needs to find a place for itself among the myriad other thoughts and experiences we already have in there.
I have long felt that ‘the thinking’ is at least as important as ‘the doing’, in kayaking or anything else. Without reflection, we pass up opportunities for learning and growth that, when recognised, enrich our mental representations and ultimately make us better kayakers and, maybe, even better people.
So, what is freestyle kayaking to me:
Although listed as three discrete elements, of course they overlap, or at least they should. When all 3 principles are aligned, peak performances tend to emerge. I like to think of them as a Venn diagram. The very middle section is where the money is:
In the next three blogs, I intend to explore each of these components individually. At the very least, it should give you an insight into how I structure my thoughts on freestyle. Hopefully, it will serve as motivation to reflect on your understanding of the sport. What individual pieces of information populate that understanding and how do they all hang together? Thinking like this is valuable. It absolutely has the potential to fast-track your learning and accordingly speed up your progress.
If you’re interested in how these three elements break down to encompass all the nuances of freestyle kayaking, drop your email in the subscribe box below! You’ll get a little alert when the next articles are published.
Moral of story:
Be intentional with your attention and thinking.