A Million Different Techniques
I often hear that at the top level, there is a lot of variation as to exactly how successful athletes execute techniques. This is undeniably true. Individual differences are a critical component of elite sport.
A few years ago I went to a presentation by one of the top ballet teachers in the country. She analysed the top ballet dancers of history and pointed out how none of them were the 'perfect' size and shape for ballet which all talent identification processes work towards. She went on to explain how these differences, and the ability to make up for deficiencies in some areas, were what made these dancers the very best in history.
The ability to overcome limitations/challenges is part of what moulds elite performers.
Having said this, I have seen significant problems when this conversation is overlaid with developing athletes.
It may be true that the 10 top tennis players in the world all serve slightly differently and equally as effectively. However it is certainly not true that a thousand 13 year old tennis players all serve slightly differently and equally as effectively. Nor is it true that each 13 year old has all the fundamental building blocks that are required at the top level.
The objective of technical training is:
- enable successful, repeatable outcomes in competition, and
- be able to be built on.
Why is this important? It is because changing is really, really hard. You are working against resistance. Changing means working against what is already entrenched. If it is something which needs to be changed/fixed at a higher level, then it is not technique, it is a bad habit. Good technique does not have to be identical, but with developing athletes, it absolutely must enable you to add to what already exists, and it absolutely must not be something which needs to be changed in the future.
When we are teaching fundamental movement patterns to young, developing athletes, we dare not get it wrong. The time for allowing individual differences is at the top end, not the bottom.