This week I listened to an amazing man speak on a podcast. His name is Colin Salmon and he is an actor, plays jazz trumpet and has a steel drum band. I didn’t know his name but I recognised his voice. When I googled him, I recognised his face from various TV programmes. About 2/3 way through the podcast he mentioned a word ‘autodidact’ and I had never heard it before. I hate that feeling so before Tim Lovejoy could ask him what it meant I had googled it. To my absolute joy, it meant being self taught!
How is it possible I work in education yet have never heard this word. Is there some hidden agenda to ban the word? Is it the equivalent of swearing in the word of education?
It got me thinking back to the days where most of us learned our tennis as autodidacts. Meaning, we just played for endless hours at nights, on weekends and on holidays. We would get the occasional coaching but, in hindsight, it really was just a tip here and there.
Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to have saved time by receiving some sound advice but, if I am completely honest, I may not have listened when I was a teenager.
Nowadays, there is virtually no chance of being an autodidact. We live in a world of programmed learning but there was something else Colin mentioned which got me thinking. He said, and I paraphrase, ‘we grew up in a world where we needed to know the answers. The children of today need to know the questions.’
Pretty deep huh!
In todays technological world, we can google the answers to pretty much any question in second……’ what does autodidact mean?’ This means that we must encourage our children to be inquisitive, curious, explorative and ultimately, problem solve. Therefore, there is a need, perhaps a desperate need, for us to bring back the days of the autodidact.
We live in a sporting era where athletes are programmed to the hilt. I don’t mean in the coding sense, but in the timetabled sense. Everything is organised and time slotted. The issue we have with this in Scottish tennis is, we don’t have enough facilities, coaches and money to do this to the level other countries do. To be honest, even if we did I would still encourage that the majority of time be spent ‘just playing’. Even free play can be broken down into different areas:
- messing around with your pals
- practicing a specific skill
- training hard
- practicing matches – yes, actually practicing how to play matches. Remember that? It is all I used to do
So, in summary, I believe we have an opportunity to programme opportunities to be an autodidact. It doesn’t roll off the tongue, does it.
Receiving high quality coaching is hugely important but the coach does not need to be present while the learning is embedded into the motorical and/or cognitive parts of the brain. Ooooh, I’m using fancy terms now.
What do you think? When you reflect, how did you learn? How would you want your players to learn? One thing is for sure, the game of tennis demands you are adaptable and can problem solve in the moment, in between points, games, sets and matches. If we, literally, programmed all the learning time for all the main variations, I fear we would only have millionaire children in our sport. They way the tour is going, that may happen anyway.
Something has to give, maybe part of the solution is in ‘free’ play.
Thank you to Tim Lovejoy for another exceptional podcast and thank you to Colin Salmon for being an exceptional autodidact.
I have copied the link below. Give it a listen, it has made me get my guitar out again.