Learning with Non-Sports Analogies · 28 August 2021

I watched a YouTube video about playing the piano and got better at basketball. (Sorry that it sounds like a lead-in to a corny commercial.)

To be sure, I am not very good at playing the piano or playing basketball. I work at getting a little better at both, but I am not serious enough about either to become a master. But that is not what matters. What matters is that I am teaching an old dog new tricks. And that I am learning how to do one thing by learning about another.

When I coach, I try to figure out what other things athletes do. I ask about other athletic endeavors. When they are trying to learn how to put the shot and they have golfed before, I demonstrate how power is lost in the legs and glutes when the knee is behind the foot, which also loses power in the golf swing. When they are trying to spin on the discus or shot and have danced, I tell them that the head and shoulders need to come after the legs and hips, which is opposite of what they have done in dance. When they are athletes of any kind, I let them know that power comes from the legs through the hips just like it does in every form of athletic endeavor. I use analogies from other sports to help my athletes get better at the sport I am trying to teach them.

Imagine my surprise when I found an analogy that did not come from sports, but which helped in sports.

It might seem out of the blue, but I would really like to be a Renaissance man. You know. Good at all sorts of things. Art, sports, writing, sports, music, sports, science, sports. Everything. Including sports. And even though I can do many sports (not very well, mind you), I like to focus my energy on basketball.

I have only ever played basketball with a coach when I was in eighth grade (a long time ago). I was not very good, and it was the first and only year I played for a school team. I could play defense, but I do not know that I ever took any shots or ever dribbled the ball in a game.

As an adult, I have played for many years. I have been on a team in a church basketball league for probably twenty years. Give or take. I have dribbled, taken shots, and even made a few shots over those many years. And I might have even gotten to be a better basketball player than I was when I was in eighth grade all those years ago. Maybe.

Needless to say, I enjoy playing basketball. And I always want to get better at doing the things I enjoy.

But back to being a Renaissance man.

I love music. I even play guitar and a little piano. So to help me get better at those endeavors, I have turned to books. And to YouTube. I have found several YouTube videos where I can get tips on becoming a better guitarist and pianist. Or at least channels that show me how to be a better hack at those endeavors. YouTube was where I found a video about learning to become a better sight reader.

I can actually read music. At least a little bit. I have a difficult time reading piano music because there are two staffs and what seems like fifteen or twenty notes being played at any one time. I know that is ludicrous. After all, we only have ten or twelve fingers. (Yes. I included the thumbs.) At any rate, I can pick out a tune, but my reading of music is mostly just reading chords. Their letter names. So I really did not need to watch a video about sight reading. But I still did anyway.

I watched this guy named Jazer Lee talk about a trick to becoming a better sight reader. He said that all you needed to do was put a cloth over your hands while you read the music and play. Set your fingers on the keys they are supposed to be on, put the cloth over your hands (you might need to put the cloth on and then place your hands while figuring out a way to peek under the cloth), then read the music and play. If you do the old look-at-the-music-look-at-your-hands routine, you will find that Lee’s tip ensures you cannot see what your hands are doing. It is amazing. You ought to become a great sight reader in no time. Or at least you will get better at it if you read music.

I decided that it was a good thing even though I only read chords. And once I know how I want to play my chords, I seem to be able to play without looking down. (I have not tried coving my hands yet.)

So what does that have to do with basketball? Everything. At least for me.

I never realized until I watched that video that I looked that the ball when I was dribbling. I never realized until I watched that sight reading video that I did not actually need to look at the ball when I was dribbling. If I just bounced the ball, it would come up. And it would come up in a predictable way. So why was I watching the ball? That video about piano sight reading made me realize that I did not need to look at the ball when I was dribbling. It was amazing. After watching the video I, I would dribble while looking at the basket instead of the ball. Even when I was moving. And that helped me improve my shot. Imagine that. Apparently, my ranging and targeting software worked better the longer I looked at my target. I was amazed.

When it comes to learning, there is nothing like analogy. Applying some lesson you learned in one area to another. Especially when you can take the analogy from something you already know to something you do not know. I will broaden my approach to teaching analogies from merely similar endeavors to things that seemingly have no connections. At least if I can make the connection. After all, if I can learn to be a better basketball player (relatively speaking) by watching a piano sight reading video, imagine what I can learn (and teach other people) using other non-sports analogies.

© 2021 Michael T. Miyoshi

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