An aha moment: the javelin dance

I have told this story many times in presentations and in various podcasts. It deserves to be retold to underscore the lesson I learned many years ago and is reinforced daily in my coaching.

One of my biggest aha moments in coaching came while studying for my masters at Stanford University in a Movement Analysis class in the fall of 1973. We had to choose a skill to analyze and do a presentation to the class. In the class there was a cohort of dance masters students that were somewhat annoying to me because they seemed to view movement differently. They asked questions that did not fit into my mechanistic reductionist view of movement. I chose to analyze two javelin throwers, the gold and silver medallists from the Munich Olympics, Lusis and Wolferman.

I did my presentation; I broke each throw down joint by joint and muscle by muscle. I illustrated my analysis showing super eight film frame by frame of each throw. The presentation went well. I opened it up to questions, one of the dance students asked me to play the film again. So, I started playing the film again frame by frame. She said no, play it again at normal speed. Immediately the five dance students started clapping out the rhythm of the throw. What an epiphany! They were looking at the rhythm, the flow, the tempo, they saw immediately how everything connected into what I have come to call the javelin dance. That class, that day opened my eyes. I quickly started looking at connections, flow of movement and rhythm. I moved away from analyzing segments and look to enhance connections and coordination. Looking back that was career changing moment that influences every day I coach. It’s all a big dance!