Game: 3 Various Games (ATL/NO, PIT/HOU, & TB/CAR)
Play: Novelty & creativity wins the week
What makes this the BTS Play of the Week?
This time of the year, many of the week’s best movement plays can get missed or go unnoticed because people are so busy enjoying the holiday season (rightfully so). Well, each of the plays that we will feature today will most definitely go down as some of the season’s very best no matter who’s doing the judging (i.e. movement coach or fan); thus, I wanted to ensure that they received rightful attention here. When I pitted each of these against one another for the final analysis nod today, there was simply no way for me to leave any of these three plays out. What made it even more needed for all of them to be featured was that they all occurred in a fashion that did NOT go according to the way that they were drawn up or routinely practiced. Meaning, the performance was built upon a foundation of novelty and creativity within the movement skills portrayed.
I often rant and rave about a perceived reality I have regarding skill expertise (whether it’s a movement skill or a sport skill); at the end of the day, and even though there is definitely some prerequisite for performing “the fundamentals,” if you play at the highest levels of the sport, you must have robust, dexterous, diverse, and sometimes flat-out creative movement coordination and control. There are no better illustrations of this collective need than when we look at how each of these performers, Marshon Lattimore of the New Orleans Saints, DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans, and Damiere Byrd of the Carolina Panthers, organized their execution on these respective plays this week.
What happened movement-wise on the play?
We will start this week by watching each of the plays. As you do, look for the common thread uniting each of them (i.e. novelty and creativity).
First, we find Marshon Lattimore with his tremendous butt interception…
Arguably, no rookie at any position has shown the level of mastery over the course of their first year campaigns as corner Marshon Lattimore has for the Saints. On this play, he raises the ante when a tipped ball lands on his backside and he ‘feels’ his way through the balance of the ball till he could come up with it (even with numerous others including teammates had their hand at grabbing it away). Though in live time this play seemed to move in slow motion, it’s likely that Lattimore didn’t consciously sense and/or control for the actions utilized when the ball rested on his butt; he simply reacted subconsciously and it maintained the ball’s balance accordingly. Of course, it could’ve easily landed differently and/or rolled off of his body but it didn’t; thus, it’s a spectacular highlight play for us today.
Next, we have DeAndre Hopkins with his tip to himself to bring in the one handed grab…
Really the lone highlight for the Houston Texans versus the Steelers on Christmas day came as Hopkins did his real live impersonation of the tip drill that runs rampant in some way, shape, or form within developmental practices across the country. After tipping the ball, and while heading to the turf, Hopkins visually locates the ball while contorting his body maintaining a functional, sensory fit with the problem (his hand on the DB’s jersey), till being in a position where his opposite hand could haul the ball in before landing down on top of the DB and the ground.
Finally, we feature Damiere Byrd with his slick moves on this kickoff return.
I have often talked here about how chaotic and unpredictable every kickoff or punt return situation plays out. When I say no two problems are ever the same on a football field, this reality quickly becomes magnified when we find ourselves in kickoff or punt scenarios. Damiere Byrd showed a full gamut of movement skills on this kickoff return and as he displayed them, he did so by adjusting and adapting their execution under the unique temporal and spatial demands required on this play. Want a reason as to why we should all incorporate more representative-type tasks into the practice environments of our athletes (and less preplanned/canned change of direction drills) to train for real, game-like agility? This play should show us that real reason!
Hopefully, it’s easy to see where novelty or creativity in movement skills (or in Hopkins’s case, a more isolated sport skill, as well) reigned supreme to allow each play we featured today to occur. I am not dumb to the fact that there is an elephant in the room though; each of the plays appears to have a certain degree of luck involved to make them possible. Though it’s next to impossible to determine how much of the execution success was due to luck versus skill I can say this; the more I personally seem to utilize certain ideas from nonlinear pedagogy to form the centerpieces of my practice environments for my respective players, the more of these types of “lucky” plays such as the ones we saw today that my guys also seem to make on NFL game day. I am talking about pedagogical ideas such as:
-the use of repetition without repetition so no two problems are really ever the same in practice
-game like affordances within those above mentioned problems so the plays have to couple their perception and intention with their actions
-encouragement for experimentation and creation with one’s movement or sport skills throughout the course of both common activities as well as novel ones in the practice environment
-utilization of activities which allow players to not only become more attuned to subtle changes within their environment & task but also attempt to organize combine movement/sport skills authentically (sometimes differently) in response to them