Put Me in, Coach: Feldenkrais Method in Youth Sports
“Please put your hands on your hips. So, you now have your hands on the top of your pelvis (Puzzled looks). Slide your hands down to the dimple on either side of your butt (giggles), spread your legs apart and keeping your whole spine straight, turn slowly to look left. Do you see/feel movement under your left hand? Return to look front and again turn to the left, several times. Don't worry if you can't feel it, with practice, you will. Now turn to the right and return front, several times...”
This is an intro I have used many times with young athletes. It is quick, simple, and establishes a tone of exploratory ease. But how does one create the opportunity to work with a team in the first place? I came up with three essentials: Access, Observe, and Adapt.
ACCESS: My son has created many opportunities for me at the school and club level. If you don’t have a youth athlete at home, it can help if you already know a coach or children of friends, and have some interest in the sport. Offer to give the coach a complementary lesson. Most are still carrying old injuries and habits from when they were playing the sport they are now coaching. All the coaches I have worked with offered me access after a lesson, as the suggestion that what the Feldenkrais Method® offers can prevent their young athletes from pain and injury now, and from loss of mobility later, is very appealing. They will experience for themselves how much more easily their athletes follow instructions, as this comes with improved awareness.
OBSERVE: Ask to watch a full practice and see where you might fit in. I love leading warm ups. This sets up the athletes for the rest of the practice, helps occupy them while the coaches are preparing for drills or engaging with parents, and relieves the coach from what is often seen as a chore. But be ready for anything. The first time I went to observe my son’s High School rowing practice, it was raining, so they asked if I could create a movement station, which the athletes cycled through in groups of 8 every 5 minutes. Thrown in at the deep end, I used my go-to hip lesson and a flexion/extension lesson with hands on a concrete ledge. The head coach later told me that many of her varsity rowers said it was their favorite station that night.
ADAPT: By watching a practice, you can learn the drills used to develop the skills needed for the specific sport and come up with mini-Awareness Through Movement lessons/games to pair with them. Remember that coaches are often under pressure (either internal, external, or both) to produce results, and will notice and appreciate how your work aligns with their goals. It is a delicate balance to give them added value without taxing their time and attention.
Finally, as a cautionary tale, I have made the mistake of challenging a coach in front of his athletes. Not so comfortable. I offered an apology, which was accepted, and our collaboration deepened as a result. Still, better to set up a time via email or phone. Coaches have a full agenda for their practices and feel there is never enough time to get through it.
For more information, watch the 5 minute video I made in 2014 while developing a program for youth basketball players. Use the drop down menu under VIDEO at: LouiseChegwidden.com and use the password: MakingSense.
Louise Chegwidden, GCFP, has been studying and teaching movement for over 35 years as a Physical Therapist and Feldenkrais Teacher. She has worked with youth and adult sports teams, in hospitals, clinics, and Home Health, and is the author of Granny Gets a New Knee and a whole lot more, which introduces the Feldenkrais Method in the preparation and recovery needed for Total Knee Replacement surgery. She teaches Functional Integration® lessons and weekly Feldenkrais classes in the Bay Area, attending to the movement learning needs of students ranging in age from 10 - 90 years.
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5/19/2017 10:48:01 AM
Thank you Louise for sharing this story and your video of the work you are developing with regards to youth basketball. I loved watching the kids and appreciate being reminded of how many possibilities there are with this work!