The Eye of the Beholder

It is interesting to listen to coach’s talk about what they see when observing movement. Are they really seeing what they think they see? Human vision is incredibly acute and at the same time fundamentally flawed. The longer I coach the more I realize that more often than not we see what we think we see rather that exactly what is happening. Whether we recognize it or not we all have a tendency toward a confirmation bias.

inkblotConsciously or subconsciously we have programmed our brain to look for certain things. In many ways viewing motion is like looking at a Rorschach inkblot test, the shape of the object does not change as much as our perception of the shape of the object. I remember standing with three pitching coaches and three scouts watching a pitcher. Mind you six people watching the same pitcher throw the same pitch and they all saw something slightly different. As I listened to them I quickly realized that what each of them had seen confirmed each of their biases in regard to pitching. What is the solution? Obviously today we have high-speed video and a myriad of analysis tools, but we still need to be able to effectively use our naked eye to provide instant feedback for correction and instruction. First recognize your confirmation bias and work to erase that mental program. Second a very simple correction that I learned from Tom Tellez is to change vantage point. Instead of viewing a throw from the side watch from the rear or get up in the stands and view from above. You will be surprised at how many different things you see. A third solution is to learn to use you peripheral vision. Turn sideways to the action and you will be surprised at things you see. Our peripheral vision is very acute but we don’t train ourselves to use it to its fullest extent. Just like any coaching skill training yourself to have an accurate unbiased coaching eye is part of improving your skills as a coach. In words of that sage biomechanist Yogi Berra “You can see a lot by watching.”

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