Ahead Of The Curve with Jonathan Gelnar

Ahead Of The Curve with Jonathan Gelnar header image 1
May 7, 2020  

Tyler Yearby- Skill Acquisition Specialist, Co-Founder & Co-Director of Education at Emergence

May 7, 2020

Today we have on Tyler Yearby Co Founder of emergence which is a dedicated resource and community for coaches and movement specialists looking to explore the ever growing world of skill acquisition through ecological dynamics. Tyler also works at Starters Sports Training, which trains baseball and softball players.  

Tyler’s speciality is in skill acquisition, so we go over how we can use skill acquisition techniques in baseball. A few things we go into, constraints led approach, how we know if a skill “Sticks” long term, what is “game-like” and we go into how to do this in a team 
Nonlinear pedagogy
Constraints led approach
Dynamics of skill acquisition
Dexterity in its development
“Underpinnings” course
Visual perception and action in sport

Show Notes courtesy of Zach Casto

  • Ecological psychology is how we as humans interact with the world around us. 
  • It is how we handle the information that we use around us. 
  • Examples: weight and size of the bats or the weather. 
  • Constraint Drills: Preventing different options and the athlete will have a few options to have success. 
  • Example: The amount of innings in a game. 


    • Motor Learning is something that is continually adapting over time. 
    • It views the brain as part of a larger system that creates behaviors of the whole body within a set environment. 


  • Constraints: You are giving them a problem, and the athlete will come up with the best solution that they are capable of giving. 
  • “Constraints are the search for the appropriate reaction.”
  • We are creating snippets of the game and allowing the athlete to search based off of their memory patterns for areas of success. 
  • Constraints is all about the athlete. 
  • These drills allow for individualization. 
  • “We need to remember that we all perceive things differently.”
  • The better we get to know our athletes, the better we will be able to coach them. 
  • Example: We need to know how well they pick up the spin of the baseball. 


    • We need to know if they have an attention problem. 
    • We need to know if the problem is an intention problem. 
    • “Context is what shapes the content.”
    • The constraints led approach facilitates the process of self organization.
    • Mix the pitches across the plate and allow the athlete to recognize a pitch to hit the opposite way. 
    • Direct learning: Finding out where the athlete's intentions are. 
    • Understand where the attention is. Example: The batter is finding where the pitcher’s arm slot is in order to pick up the baseball out of the hand to recognize the pitch. 


  • As a coach set up the drill that designs and allows the players to come up with the solution that is necessary for success. 
  • Players will self organize, but they will self organize with the solution that is desired. 
  • The player is interacting with the process of the problem in subtle different ways. 


    • Don’t give the players too much information. 


  • The beauty of the constraint drills is that the players self organize their bodies to have the proper solution to the problem. 
  • The player will learn a feel on how to hit the ball the other way in their own way. 
  • Example: Use a ball with black tape on it to see the spin of the ball. 
  • This gives automatic feedback. 
  • Have consequences present that tells the athlete that they made a mistake. 
  • Make sure the environment that you are creating is game-like. 
  • Have a strike zone set up with the goal of the drill. 
  • Example: The hitter is in a disadvantaged count and they are to hit the ball up the middle or the other way. An inside pitch comes in, the hitter doesn’t swing and it is a strike. The hitter will learn to foul the ball off in order to stay in the count and to be able to achieve the goal of the drill. 


    • For younger athletes use bigger balls or have a bounce in the ball to help the young athletes pick up the spin of the baseball.


  • Allow your players to use different drills or tees because that may be part of their warm up routine. 


    • “If the best of the best use this, then it must be important.”


  • The tee is helpful for the psychological aspect of hitters.


    • For younger players the tee helps the players understand the feeling of getting their bat through the zone. 
    • When they are older, timing is crucial. 
    • Players need to see the pitch by seeing the arm slot of the pitcher and seeing the spin of the ball. 


  • We need to find and use drills that will help the athletes feel and live in game-like environments. 
  • Small sided games: The game is in a small area where the athlete makes decisions under stressful situations. The athlete also interacts with information that will happen in a game. 
  • Example: Your centerfielder, middle infielder, and catcher are struggling with lining up properly. Take them and mix up the reps to where some reps are in the gap and the players need to be lined up, and routine plays such as grounders and fly balls. (Make it random)


    • Players have to understand what they need to do with different factors of a game-like environment. 


  • Example: Moving up the screen for batting practice to help the athlete see a more authentic pitching velocity. 
  • This drill helps the athlete react and perceive the game-like environment. 
  • You don’t want to live there constantly because it may be too much for an athlete. 
  • But use this if you are facing a pitcher who throws with a high velocity. 


    • Representative Learning Design: Allow for actions that is what is going to happen in a game. 
    • “Machines all the time doesn’t work either.”


  • Constraint set up: 
  • This is the objective, I don’t know how you will get there but find out how you can do it. 
  • Players will understand what it feels like when they are doing it right and wrong based off of the information after the result. 


    • We need to understand the context of the data given. 
    • When the data tells us there is a different result than what has been happening, ask the player how they felt and what they did. 
    • This helps the athlete gain understanding from what they experienced. 


  • If we want to positively help our players then the wait times need to be individualized for the athlete. 
  • Players need to experience an event a lot for the experience to be stored into long term memory. 
  • If the necessary result doesn’t happen, then we need to go back and realize why the necessary result didn’t happen. 
  • If we keep changing the constraints and the performance of the athlete goes down, then we need to slow down because we are overwhelming the athlete. 
  • Have pitchers pitch live bullpens so that the defense, pitcher, hitter, and catcher is getting game like reps and working on areas that need work. 
  • As a coach, watch the results and see how the players react to the situations.
  • Define the constraint drill. 
  • What is the intent of the task? 
  • You can change the amount of defenders in the field, the weight of the bat, the backdrop, or the count. 
  • Do what you can to make the hitter feel what needs to be worked on. 
  • We need to understand what the athlete hears, sees, and feels.