Let's Talk About Self-Organization

The term ‘self-organization’ gets thrown around a lot. What does it mean? I think we can define it simply: the idea that if left alone with proper constraint drills, the athlete’s movements will improve without the need for external coaching cues.

First, let’s preface this by saying that I am in fact a believer in this principle. However, there are those out there in athletic performance realm who rely on it too much or who adhere to it completely at the expense of internal and external cueing and as a result under-coach there athletes.

I think the best way to explain it is to use a specific example. For our purposes let’s use the lead leg block in pitching.

I do in fact believe that cueing the lead leg block in the delivery can do more bad than good. An elite, efficient leg block is the product of proper sequencing and the body’s ability to adequately stiffen through the posterior chain to transfer force up the kinetic chain.

So, yes – we believe in allowing the pitcher to ‘self-organize’ in order to find and improve their lead leg block. 

However, this can only happen if significant time is spent doing conscious specific preparation (constraint throwing drills and medicine ball work) and conscious general preparation (we love Heiden variations, 1-leg landing plyometric jumps, and 1-leg RDL variations)

Notice that I stated conscious specific and general preparation. The athlete must spend enough time gaining awareness in both specific and general prep work in order for them to be able to self-organize properly.

In any attempt to change a movement pattern there’s a cycle and it follows these four stages:

Subconscious Dysfunction –> Conscious Dysfunction –> Conscious Function –> Subconscious Function

The athlete must first gain awareness that they are moving incorrectly. Then they can work to feel the difference between the proper and improper patterns. Over time the proper pattern becomes the ‘new normal’.

Constraint drills can have there place anywhere along the process, however they are best utilized in my opinion between the conscious function stages.