Over the years I have used this blog to discuss the work of coaches, athletes, psychologists, physiologists, biomechanists, and economists. But I have not once discussed the work of a philosopher. Since I have my bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, I have to take the opportunity once it arises. In a New York Times Online piece earlier this month, philosophy professor Barbara Gail Montero dissects the widespread view that thinking about what you are doing while doing it interferes with performance. There are few philosophical topics which relate more directly to hammer throwing.
In many areas, thinking about an action can make its execution worse. As Montero notes, “Start thinking about just how to carry a full glass of water without spilling, and you’ll end up drenched.” But this isn’t the case for all actions. Ordinary actions like carrying water will be easier when you do them without thinking about it. But when you start looking at the actions of experts, or hammer throwers, the just do it approach doesn’t always hold. And, for Montero, this is the area that interests her since she has a forthcoming book on thought and effort in expert action.