I’m teaching a unit on Improving Performance with my Year 10 students at the moment. They choose a sport they want to investigate (ideally the one they play at the moment) and come up with a personal improvement plan for themselves. The aspects of the investigation are up to them, but we talked through some options as part of the orientation lesson. One of the things we discussed was the effect of skill or technique modification and what sort of things might make your performance of a particular movement better.
There is a bit of a back story I need to recount at this point. Last year, when we had done a unit on golf, a lot of students wanted to try a “Happy Gilmore” drive off the tee. My risk management instincts kicked in and I wouldn’t allow it. My excuse (based on what I believed to be true) was that the notion it would add to their driving performance was a myth. This was somewhat grudgingly accepted as the truth because, hey, “he’s the teacher”.
Cut to this year and as I looked for some stimulus material for our Improving Performance unit, I discovered this great video from the Sport Science show on TV. Low and behold, it dealt with whether a “happy Gilmore” swing actually works. In the words of the Mythbusters TV show, myth busted!
Now this made me think. I was guilty of perpetuating a myth and the video debunked that in a really entertaining way. It also occurred to me that the idea of debunking myths would be a fantastic way for students to inquire about improving performance. They could devise ways to prove or disprove their chosen myth and then present their thinking as a reflection of their understanding and learning.
Here’s how I see it going. As a group we collectively come up with myths or stories that are out there to do with improving sporting performance. Ethical and non intrusive ones, of course! Students in teams could then devise ways of testing these myths, recording and presenting their results. In fact, the “Happy Gilmore” video would be a great template to use. It had hard research mixed with entertaining banter. The students would need to explore skill video analysis, storyboarding, video production, script writing and presentation of data amongst other things as part of their inquiry. They could end with an evaluation, based on their findings just like the Mythbusters show – “Confirmed” “Plausible” or “Busted”.
This is just a nebulous idea at the moment, and needs plenty of refinement, not to mention a systematic upskilling program for both the students and I. But I think it has great merit and I’ll be working on it over the next while.
PS. If you want to see a “Happy Gilmore” drive performed by mere mortals, along with the type of video that students are likely to produce, here’s one from the Slow Mo Guys: