Training Ground Guru | Southampton launches ‘unique’ learning lab based on ecological approach
Written by Simon Austin — April 14, 2022
SOUTHAMPTON has launched a “unique” learning lab that will embed a “research culture focused on modern ecological approaches” into its club and academy.
The Lab is a partnership between the Premier League team and the universities of Leeds Beckett, Gloucester and Bournemouth.
Southampton says it will be a space where ‘research and practice come together in the life of the club and the Academy’ and the laboratory is ‘not a room on the training ground – it is the training ground.
“I want us to become a place where people can come to us with research ideas that need access to what we need to get funded. I want this project to become a hub for a large community of ecologically conscious researchers and practitioners.
“The reason this is happening is that they (Southampton FC) are a curious club. They can’t get past Manchester United, so they’re hoping to invest and find their way. A big part of that is if we want to grow, we have to do it right and well and there is a lot of pressure to do it in an ecological way.
So understanding what the lab will do requires an understanding of the ecological approach to learning and skill acquisition. This can sometimes seem like an abstract, theoretical principle far removed from practice – at least to the layman.
Rob Gray, associate professor of human systems engineering at Arizona State University, has done a good job of explaining and exploring the ecological approach, through his Perception & Action podcast, writings, and YouTube videos. You can watch one below, which was published last November, in which Gray explains how variation is key to the ecological approach to skill acquisition.
He talks about cricket, but the principles apply to other sports, including football.
“The traditional approach to skill acquisition is that there is an ideal technique, an ideal way to throw or hit that we are going to teach you through repetition,” he said. “We’re going to have you repeat this over and over again until you’ve The variability of motion is treated as noise.
“The alternative is that there is no optimal way to swing and everyone has to find the one that works for them. You are repeating a result, but not repeating the movement.
“Movement variability is not noise, it’s fine. The idea is that we always want the same result – consistent performance – but we achieve this not by producing one repeatable swing, but by multiple repeatable swings .
“We achieve this by adding a lot more variability in practice. The goal is adaptability – learning to solve different movement problems, learning to move for different conditions. You want variability right off the bat. We want to introduce you to problem solving, be a movement problem solver, and be adaptable. »
“By a street gaming approach, I mean giving players a sense of engagement by encouraging experimentation and sharing decision-making and planning,” Ashton said.
“It’s about integrating the players fully, with the goal of the coach becoming a resource to be used as both parties feel the need. So not a threatening figure dominating the landscape!
Paul McGuinness, Leicester City’s player development manager and former Manchester United Under-18 manager, has also spoken extensively about these themes.
“Footballers are experts in calculating time, space, speed, spin, in pressurized environments,” he said. “They do it through play, a series of experiences over the years. Einstein said, ‘Play is the highest form of seeking’.”
Germany recently launched new regulations that transform the way football is coached and played by the U11s, underpinned by fun and learning through play.
“The new forms of play aim to give children better opportunities to play football in a way that they are often on the ball and have fun doing it,” explained the DFB.
Southampton explained: “The Learning Lab aims to develop a better understanding of how humans learn, acquire and use new skills.
“Developing potential towards excellence is a central aim of Southampton Football Club and the Learning Lab feeds directly into this aim. Although ultimately the players are the ultimate beneficiaries of the project, anyone invested in the club’s ability to developing talent, on and off the pitch, should benefit from the Lab.
“The Learning Lab will combine a unique blend of expertise and an approach to high performance never seen before in the world of football, bringing together cutting-edge technology and contemporary research with the aim of promoting more effective and efficient development of football talent. soccer.
“The club will play a central role in the Learning Lab, acting as a hub for research and its implementation. Southampton Football Club creates a space where research and practice come together in the life of the club and the Academy.
“The lab is not a room on the training ground; he is the training ground.
Southampton Performance Support Manager Mark Jarvis added: “We are delighted to be launching the Learning Lab. This is a unique enterprise, bringing together a large number of partners.
“We want to create a positive impact on practice and solve performance problems by producing both tools and innovative practices. Learning is the key to player development.
“Ultimately, we hope The Learning Lab creates a positive impact and legacy not only for our club members, but for the wider coaching, development and academic communities to understand how we we can learn and acquire new skills.”
Dr Wilson said: “This project is unique: we are embedding a research culture focused on modern ecological approaches to learning in a Premier League club and academy.
“This creates a remarkable opportunity to effect real and positive change, and so I am very excited about the launch of the Lab. There is a lot of creative and innovative work going on on learning, both in academia and in practice, but there is a real need for a center that can support, promote and develop this work.
“That’s what the Lab is meant to be!” I look forward to getting to work and expanding the network of collaborators involved in the project.
In February, Southampton launched a new technical development department led by Iain Brunnschweiler, who will also be heavily involved in The Learning Lab. The club academy will be part of the technical development department.