2019 Play of the Week – WK16 – Stuart McMillan (Wait, huh?!)

PLAY: DETOUR!!!! Are there “rules” we must adhere to in order to ‘solve’ a movement problem most effectively?!

GAME: Introducing my man Stu…ready to challenge thoughts & ideas for all at SMSC like he does for me each day

PLAYER: Stuart McMillan, ALTIS, Sprint Coach to lots of fast people

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As you can already tell, we are going to be taking a little bit of a detour today from our normal Movement Play of the Week analysis breakdowns. But, that doesn’t mean this week’s blog post will be any less important to drive thoughts and ideas within your mind and how you view sport movement behavior.

We are taking this path for various reasons: For starters, I will be honest: in previous seasons, it seems very few people actually read the week 16 and week 17 Movement Play of the Week. I suppose this is perfectly acceptable with the holidays and all…people should be spending time enjoying their families, friends, and what the season represents for them. But, of course, the NFL must go on.

Secondly, I think today’s topic, with is tied into a more formal announcement of more selfish sorts for me, is a highly pertinent one to revisit and bring to the forefront of your thought processes. I want to challenge all readers of Football BTS to meditate upon the idea(s) discussed below with the remaining football they watch as the season comes to a close and as they personally dissect the movement skill they see.

Now that those formalities are complete, let’s move onto our business of the day. As most of you here now, for the past several years, I have run an event called the Sport Movement Skill Conference. As part of the event, our objectives are quite simple to say, but harder in its pursuit due to the complexity, depth, and various angles that the topic(s) at-hand require from us. Our vision is: to understand sport movement behavior more deeply while also raising the standard for the practice/learning environments for athletes of all types and across all levels.

To help drive this endeavor, I have been blessed to be assisted along the way by many tremendous minds who have offered their time and expertise to evolve the dialogue around these narratives. I definitely owe them a debt of gratitude that is hard to repay based on their special passion, energy, and ideas that have been contributed.

That all being said, one of the main individuals who I am lucky (some days I consider it luck…some other days I consider it a massive annoyance! Ha!) to have in my close circle to bounce ideas off of and mutually challenge, the one and only Stuart McMillan from ALTIS, has not been able to present at the Sport Movement Skill Conference…YET! Well, that will finally all change coming up in 2020 and I, for one, am stoked up about being able to say that!

In fact, ALTIS believes in the initiatives of the SMSC so much that, when I was looking for a home for the event in 2020, they cordially opened their doors to co-hosting it in Arizona. For that support, I can’t thank them enough. Besides being sick of getting complaints from attendees about the dynamical system known as Minnesota weather (which of course, I have zero control over), it was time to start moving this Movement across the country (and hopefully, ultimately, the world down the road).

(NOTE: If you are unfamiliar with the work that ALTIS has been doing, I highly encourage you to check them and their many educational resources out at https://altis.world)

With that said, the 2020 Sport Movement Skill Conference will be about ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Movement Giants’…and I am pleased to announce that, along with Stu, we will also have individuals like Rob Gray, Joan Vickers, Erwan Le Corre, Todd Hargrove, and many more power-packed minds contributing to the collective thoughts being discussed at the event. Additionally, I would be remiss if I didn’t inform you all, that event registration is now officially open:


But, this blog post is more than a cheap plug to try to put butts in the seats in Arizona! Instead, it’s also to get you thinking!

If you’re not following Stu’s work, either from afar by interacting with the thoughts he puts out in tweets (@StuartMcMillan1), or if you’re not on his mailing list, you are certainly missing out and I would definitely invite you to jump on board with them. Additionally, the same goes for the company he’s a part of, ALTIS, in Phoenix, AZ.

However, though Stu and I do agree on a vast majority of topics and items related to performance enhancement for athletes, I would be lying if I said we always agree. In fact, one look at our text strings and exchanges would indicate otherwise…and this cordial disagreement (at times) usually then evolves into an extensive email exchange with lots of passive aggressive CAPS LOCK shouting and color coding from us both. But, its all for the development of both of our thoughts that this ensues from this open dialogue. And it’s exactly why I’ve always desired that he present at the SMSC.

Like each of our presenters (okay, I should probably say most), when Stu presents at the Sport Movement Skill Conference, you can be sure that he is coming to it attempting to challenge both himself as well as the community. If you clicked on the registration link above, you may notice that Stu’s current working title of his presentation session is: ‘Know the rules before you break the rules: a case against Ecological Dynamics?’

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If you’ve been following along with our Movement Play of the Week blog posts as the season has gone on, you probably could notice more than one theme unfolding over the weeks (some were on purpose, others happened by coincidence based on the plays which were emerging and deemed as the week’s most skillful). Among the many include: respecting the performer-environment relationship, investigating information and affordances, abundance and creativity in movement solutions, and so much more.

As you continue to reflect on many of those themes, one that almost surely pops out may be oriented around the importance of setting up learning environments which present problems in training. These ‘problems’ are those that represent the more contextual nature of the sport itself; containing information and affordances which would offer opportunities to express more holistic movement skills. This, of course, would be in opposition of attempting to acquire or refine those same ‘skills’, while isolated from the contextual environment and the information it offers to the athlete the opportunities to interact with.

On this note, a little over a month ago, Stu rattled off this following series of thought provoking tweets on the matter. These will likely serve as a quick peek on the foundation of where his presentation may also take us in May (I am only speculating here).

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As you can see as you read through that thread of tweets, there are some thoughts that certainly align closely with mine that I have provided over time here on the blog. Then, of course, there are some others that certainly differ.

If you do follow Stu’s work, you probably know that he can frequently be found discussing his passion towards the analysis and the need for prioritizing shapes, patterns, and rhythms in the athlete’s technical execution displayed through ‘kinograms’ (i.e. snapshots on the athlete’s movement signature). In his perspective, much of the investigation of ‘correct’ movement definitely starts with shapes…and this, in his belief, has some extension to all sports that require acceleration and speed in a straight line.

All in all, for those who will be in attendance in May at the SMSC in AZ, between now and May 16th and 17th, I would invite you to constructively think about Stu’s thoughts above and determine where you currently stand. Also, I encourage you reflect about what ‘rules’ may exist when coordinating and controlling movement in the great, big, complex, dynamic, contextual world of sport. Does each athlete ‘have to’ know them…in order to break them?!

To get you rolling in this thought experiment, let me offer up some words from my man Bernie (Bernstein, that is) which I have used as a rebuttal to Stu more than once over the years. Its direction probably won’t come as any shock or surprise if you’ve read even a single one of my 15 Movement Plays of the Week in 2019. Yet, I have to get the last word on Stu…cuz 1). It’s my blog so I get to do what I want and 2). I am sure that there will be many more words coming in my direction from him in May!

Nikolai A. Bernstein stated in ‘Dexterity and Its Development (1996): Dexterity is not confined within the movements or actions themselves, but is revealed in how these movements behave in their interaction with the environment, with its unexpectedness and surprises.”

Chew on that a bit…meditate on that idea…along with Stu’s ideas, as well…and maybe also those that we have unpacked here throughout this action-packed, highly informational (wink!) 2019 NFL Season! Let’s all keep collaborating while we dive into these ideas and what they may mean for the acquisition and refinement of movement behavior for sport…whether that’s on a football field…or a track…or anywhere in between.

Interested in being one of the 40 Sport Movement and Performance Specialists who join in on the discussion on May 16th and 17th at the Sport Movement Skill Conference?! I would encourage you to learn more about it all here and get on-board while you can!


P.S. Yes, Stu…you are now officially a prestigious recipient of a Movement Play of the Week! I hope that you find a good place for it on your mantle at home!

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