You Learn Something

I have been reading The New Science of Learning, Second Edition because they said that we have learned a lot in the last five years. I believe, if memory serves me well, that I read the first edition when it came out in 2013 and I am about half way through this second edition and I haven’t noticed anything new so far. Of course, this is a subject I try to keep up on, so maybe it is not new in that I have read about it elsewhere more recently.

The book seems focused a great deal on students but has the occasional section for athletes, but that is fine. My reading so far has reinforced some things in my mind. One of those is the distributed learning effect, which basically states that learning is better when it is spread out, which we archery coaches have been advocating for long. We say things like “three two-hour practices are better than one six-hour practice on the weekend.” There is good science backing this up.

Also, it is better to practice/apply new knowledge as soon as you acquire it. It not only provides repetitions (repetition is still the Mother of Learning) but requires us to reframe and understand what we learned better.

In this discussion the authors claimed that it is better to not schedule college classes back-to-back because the learning in the subsequent classes tends to push out the learning from the prior classes before it is reinforced. This made me recall my undergraduate days. I tended to try to get my classes scheduled with one hour breaks in between. This was not because of some high falutin’ learning research, but because for half of the year (the second half of Fall Semester and the first half of Spring Semester, so the whole year basically) I had basketball practice from 3–6 pm. I did that scheduling so I could go to the library after each class session and do the homework associated with that class. I did this because I knew I was going to get home at roughly 7 pm, dead tired, and not in the mood to do homework, plus I had to get up early for the 8 o’clock classes the next day.

How this applies to archery is that a serious competitive archer needs to try to understand what they are being asked to do (not the background science, just the actions and thoughts), consider it important, and try things out as soon as possible. Every training session needs to involve a review of what is being worked upon and why.

I assume you see why it is important for serious competitive archers to carry a notebook around with them.

Another fascinating research finding involved the role of sleep in athletic performance. In one study, over a three year span (2005 to 2008) the Stanford University basketball team players kept to their normal routines but then for 5 to 7 weeks, they carefully monitored what they drank, took daytime naps, and tried to sleep 10 hours every night. After increasing their daily rest, the players sprinted faster and said that they felt better in practice and games. Their three-point shooting jumped by 9.2% and their free throw shooting jumped by 9% (Mah, Mah, Kerizan, and Dement, 2011).

If your charges are young, they are notoriously sleep deprived. And just getting a good night of sleep before a tournament doesn’t hack it. Sleeping hours need to be made regular to be most effective. So, if they are intensely competitive, you might suggest regular sleeping hours of at least eight hours per night are in order. It will be easier for them to accept if they know there is sports-related research backing it up.

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3 responses to “You Learn Something

  1. Yes, you are spot-on about the design of practices. Instructional design is crossing-over to the design of practices that coaches offer to their archers. I also agree about sleep. Thank you for reminding coaches about the importance of including review in the practice session. Even at the conclusion of the practice session, a mini evaluation and review might be included. Thanks for all your fine information.

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  2. I teach 90 minute lessons myself, but I didn’t always. When I first started teaching archery in 2009 my lessons were 2 hours long, but I discovered that my students would get tired after about 80-90 minutes, and then the last 30-40 minutes would be a slog as students would be exhausted, becoming more mentally distracted and that they weren’t really learning much during the last 30 minutes of the lesson. Depending upon the student sometimes their attention spans would start to dwindle as the end too, which isn’t a good sign.

    I soon switched to a 90 minute format for my archery lessons (but kept the price the same, so this was also a smart business move). I had also determined that 1 hour lessons were “too short” as they would be over so quickly that I’d be looking at my watch and go “Huh? Where’d the time go?”

    Thus 90 minutes to me was the Goldilocks Zone of archery lessons. Long enough that students learn lots, but not so long that they feel exhausted / distracted or in dire need of caffeine.

    I also generally encouraged that students have 2 to 7 days between classes so that they had time to build new muscle and for their brains to start getting used to the mental activities archery challenges us with… Although I did have an American student years ago who came here for a crash course of 10 lessons during a 2 week period, and despite the conditions of having lessons almost every day for 2 weeks, he still did extremely well.

    If I could fix one thing these days it would be to make sure that the students were well rested before coming to their lesson. Unfortunately life sometimes gets in the way and sometimes they didn’t sleep properly, or they have a hangover, generally unwell, tired from doing a different sport or activity before their lesson, etc. Students who show up exhausted are unfortunately going to feel even more exhausted by the time I am done teaching them.

    (The way I am describing it might seem like I am running some kind of boot camp, but I assure you I am not!)

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