15 September, 2015

How World War 2 influenced the battle on the sports field today

How World War 2 influenced the battle on the sports field today

[Photo credit: Brian Rinker]

Like many things in sport, the military has had a large influence on the way in which sport skills are taught. Post World War 2, when the modern sporting culture began to flourish, new teaching methods from returning soldiers were bought back to their communities. One of these methods was a technical approach to teaching. This method breaks down a technique into components, teaching the technique step by step and then putting it all together into one fluid movement.

This method is still used by many Militaries for teaching and I remember well learning parade drill movements on the cold parade ground, yelling out numbers as we carried out the corresponding movement. We progressed through the movements and went back a step until it was perfect. Step by step, number-by-number, monotonous mostly, but it achieves perfection.

But it also assumes that there is only one correct method to perform this technique. As we know in sport, the unpredictability of competition means that we need our athletes to problem solve and think to be adaptable in their skills and movements.

So this is then where tactics start to come in. Without tactics, you have an athlete that can perform a skill with excellence, but fails to achieve an excellent performance.

Military tactics is defined as a science and art of organising a military force and using a variety of techniques to combine weapons and military units to engage and defeat an enemy in battle.

So in sport, our weapons are our individual athletes and our military units are our teams such as our forwards and backs in rugby or our defensive players in basketball or netball. How we use these players to defeat our opposition are the tactics we employ.

Tactics requires a degree of methodical analysis and planning, this is the science, and a level of flair, creativity and unpredictability – the art.

The ability to put techniques and tactics together as a coach is discussed in my article Putting Tactical and Technical Skills Together.

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