Note: In Part 1 I described the general concept of movement character. Part 2 will focus on breaking down the characteristics of each and putting in place a simple System to rate athletes on the spectrum, which collectively make up one’s complete movement character. In Part 3 I will share the testing and training programs guidelines for each.
Each character has its attributes. The following are 15 major points for each with a brief on their overall strengths, weaknesses, and observations. These are guidelines and based on my experience. This is not an exhaustive list but provides a starting direction. What we are looking for is a dominance or lack of traits in a particular area that may give us insight into how to better tailor solutions to improve the process of individualizing their program at different stages in their sporting career.
Often described as smart, highly intellectual, a deep thinker
Very inquisitive, asks a lot of questions about multiple aspects of the sport not just training
High achieving student athlete, grades are generally upper class
Generally well-motivated, especially by reward / merit
Often introspective and possibly introverted
Balanced, willingness to take part in all aspects of training and practice
Does enough ancillary physical work to achieve its said purpose but rarely does too much
Generally good recuperative qualities
Rarely physically burns out, more susceptible to psychological burnout, anxiety
Score’s average to above average in general physical testing
Often found in key leadership positions especially at young ages (Q-back, Point guard, Keeper)
Understands competition rules, strategy, tactics, opponents and study’s the game
Consumes multiple sources of information on their sport
They tend to over analyze their own performance
Always follow-up with game tape, video, and performance analysis of them and opponent
Strength: balanced – as thinkers they tend to leave no stone unturned
Weakness: mediocrity – sport may often be part of a bigger picture, a means to an end (meet friends, be popular, scholarship, parent’s wishes, etc.), but they may lack the desire or passion to excel beyond a certain level. Can be subject to paralysis by analysis.
Observations: The failure to excel for a thinker is, like most things in their life, simply a decision on their part. If they choose to pursue an athletic career, they will engage in it logically and pursue it with the attention it needs to achieve the goal they set out at the beginning. Once that goal is achieved it’s very likely they will walk away, or priority emphasis will change. This is not laziness or lack of motivation so much as them making smart, safe decisions for their future. Since motivation is often reward based (external) it is important to understand why they are competing and training in that sport. Training is a necessary evil for them so we need to understand why they are there.
My List of Thinkers: Warren Moon, Steve Nash, and Vasyl Lomachenko.
Generally, the hardest worker on the team or in the training group
Generally, love the gym and S&C / ancillary conditioning,
Early to practice, stays late
Average student athlete, average to above average grades
Highly motivated, needs little external motivation, the effort itself is their reward
Often need to be pulled back so they don’t overdo it
Often see signs and symptoms of overreaching and fatigue but rarely pure burnout
Enormous capacity for recovery and recover very quickly
They live by the mantra, no pain-no gain
Scores well in fitness testing especially areas based on hard work (anaerobic tests, 1RMs)
Often not the most ‘talented’ or skillful athletes
Generally, of an optimistic disposition and team minded
Often have a very specific interest in nutrition
Often considered ‘highly coachable’
Often train during recovery or will come out of retirement, they simply can’t stop training
Strength: They will gladly do the hard work and motivate others to do the same
Weakness: They often over rely on that hard work to solve their problems and correct weaknesses
Observations: Can get trapped in the S&C world. They may favor gym sessions vs skill sessions since they excel there. Often leave the current sport to pursue a sport more fitness, less skill based (endurance sports, weightlifting sports [powerlifting, bodybuilding, Olympic lifting]). May even compete in those activities on the side. Training and physical activity is part of their life and lifestyle. They often become personal trainers, S&C coaches, fitness leaders after retiring from their focus sport.
My list of Hustlers: Marion Jones, Rafael Nadal, Dennis Rodman, and Nate Diaz.
Born with a natural gift for sport, movement and skills
This is generally seen at a very early age
Often a talented multi-sport athlete
Usually quite intelligent but not always a great student, focus outside the sport may be lacking
They have an innate understanding of what works in that sport, often in advance of the coach
Often comes across as lazy due to the observation they often reject ancillary training
May score poorly on traditional fitness tests but perform well in their sport
Willing to spend hours playing their sport and work on specific skill practice without rest
Generally, less receptive to S&C or ancillary training especially weights or lifting sessions
Susceptible to mental and physical fatigue, especially emotional fatigue
Often perceived as highly emotional, volatile, and sometimes uncoachable
May be impatient with the pace of others around them including coaches
At practice they will always have their ball or sport implement in their hand or at their feet
Warm-ups are almost always playing the sport, they may resist structured warmups
May be perceived as selfish and moody
Strength: They believe that Talent and skill in a balanced playing field trumps everything
Weakness: In today’s sporting environment talent and skill alone are not enough to excel
Observations: The natural athlete shows up very quickly and sadly, it is often this archetype that gets poorly managed, coached, or understood. Everyone praises them, youth teams and coaches build whole programs around them, parents and coaches get overly excited on future success and fundamentals in other areas get missed or de-emphasized. The natural athlete is an artist and when meeting people with a dominance of this characteristic I am always reminded of the words from author Norman Mclean in his story A River Runs Through it, “To him, all good things – trout, as well as eternal salvation – come by grace, and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy.”
My List of Naturals: Wayne Gretzky, Allen Iverson, and Muhammad Ali.
MOVEMENT CHARACTER CLASSIFICATION
Pick an athlete whose movement character you want to assess (highly recommended to start with yourself):
Evaluate their expression of each archetype by checking a YES / NO beside each of the 15 bullet points listed (Do not score the strength/weakness/observation section). A maybe or unsure is generally a NO. Keep it simple, do not over analyze it. Single points do not provide the whole scenario, this is about tendencies, and it is an overview.
You will have a score out of 15 when counting YES responses for each type.
From there, you can begin to explore what is in balance and out of balance and start the conversation about which strategies to use.
I strongly suggest having the athlete do the assessment on themselves as well and you can discuss it together afterward.
0-5 is a weak score / 6-10 average / 11-15 strong expression.
With the three scores in hand, review the strengths/weaknesses/observations section.
Write a brief note on what you discover (no more than 2 paragraphs) outlining what archetypes seem to dominate and which are less apparent. Highlight key characteristics from those listed that really describe the athlete.
Review the common archetype combinations below and see where your athlete fits.
It has been my experience that while we have traits of all 3, most athletes (even elite and pro) generally, very clearly express dominance in two areas and a deficit in one. This is different for youth and young athletes (prepubescent / early teen) who often show a clear single area of dominance with two areas of deficit. Most people have a clear single dominance archetype , at any age.
This will be your starting point – having a discussion on how to balance and in some cases reduce emphasis on strengths, while building and focusing on the weakness.
COMMON Archetype PAIRINGS (my experience)
Thinker-Hustler, weak natural
Hustler-thinker, weak natural
Natural-thinker, weak hustler
Natural, hustler, weak thinker
Personally, I am fascinated by the thought that we are essentially born with all three archetypes. We all instinctively understand movement. But to what degree does the ‘natural’ in us get stifled, pushed out, de-emphasized? How can we better tailor training, movement awareness and experience at a young age to allow the full expression of our natural movement character later in life.
There is an old sport saying – “you can’t put in what God left out.” I have often wondered, is it possible that sometimes, we push out, what God put in?
See you at Part 3!
Athlete, Coach, CEO, Sport Scientist, Human – Joe Cleary Colcetti, MSc. has spent over three decades in the field of high-performance sport with personal interest in the laws of training, periodization and the interconnectedness of mind, body and spirit in movement, flow and ultimately achievement