What we can learn from learning up

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what We can learn from learning Up


Inspired by Daniel Coyle’s recent blog Stop Warming Up, Start Learning Up, the phrase ‘Learning Up’ caught our eye as the traditional ‘Warm Up’ began to be questioned.

When you warm up in the traditional way, you forgo something important: the opportunity to get better.
Daniel Coyle

Coyle went on to use NBL star Stephen Curry’s inspiring pre-game routine to dispel certain myths on the use of time before a game.

With the upmost respect for both Coyle and Curry, we seek to add to the ‘re-think’ of Warm Ups as Learn Ups and offer some alternative thoughts seeking to evolve the ‘pre-game routine’ to make effective use of that learning time.


Preparing for performance is a unique context. To suggest learning when preparing for the highest level of competition, you’d be excused to say ‘now is not the time, it’s show time!’ The fact that Curry sees value in learning whilst preparing for competition is a refreshing approach in the highest levels of performer, he is still a learner at heart. Adding difficulty to his dribbling moves and working on his ‘off’ left hand reveals this. Yet, whether this overall ‘routine’ approach is the most effective way of learning, is worth a discussion.

To measure a Warm Up’s effectiveness would be to attempt to measure complexity - good luck! But let’s not have it stop us analysing and reflecting on the time spent by one of the game’s best and how we may evolve our facilitation of the most common element across all sports.

So, in the name of evolution and challenging tradition we venture to ask this of our Warm Ups:

Are we wasting time on:


The traditional purpose as the term suggests, has been to ‘warm up’ the body for the prevention of injury and prepare for intense physical activity. And of course, common sense tells us to include an element of physical preparedness. But have we gone too far in prioritising and isolating the physical element of the Warm Up?

It’s refreshing to see Curry waste no time in merely running or jumping but knowing that through his ball-handling routine, his body is primed for the intensity to follow.

Education in cause of injuries now including accumulation of  fatigue, forces us to look beyond the short-term necessity of warming up to prevent injuries and to the awareness of increasing load on the joints.

“Accumulation of fatigue is overtraining players with too many sessions & too short recovery time in between to regain freshness”- Raymond Verheijen (Read More)

“There is insufficient evidence to endorse or discontinue routine warm-up prior to physical activity to prevent injury among sports participants” - US National Library of Medicine. (Read More)

With a long term approach then, rather than focusing on preparing the body, we’d do well now to keep in mind the impact of accumulating load on joints through Warming Up.

  • Isolation?

Steph Curry performs all his actions in isolation. And amazingly so! But the tradition continues. We still value producing the final execution of a skill rather than keeping the perception-action together. How else can we keep a skill in its context but through a game? Is perceptual attunement still yet to be valued?

As Arsene Wenger reminds us

“We need to put players in a position where they can make clear decisions”

  • Routine?

What’s done with the time before a game or at the beginning of a practice session can be particularly personal for each team and individual. But to rely on ritual and routine is actually to remain safe and comforted from the challenge of complexity.

What if we dared our learners to prepare for complexity by embracing it?


  • Team Preparation?

It was interesting that Curry’s entire Warm Up was done on his own? We were left wondering when the team would have time to collaborate and co-adapt in a game situation prior to performance.

Going to the other extreme, team sports traditionally can be seen running in lines or various patterned formations to present an organised unit working as one, yet this has limited representation of the context and the forthcoming complexities they are about to encounter together.

To elaborate on the Co-Adaptive Principle Mark O’Sullivan explains:

Co-adaptability: Attacker, defender actions are co-adaptive. One individual evolves the capacity to behave in a certain way. The other individual then has to adapt to that so there is a co- adaptation process going on.

So in a team setting then, adapting to each other’s actions in game situations would be very useful to take into performance.

  • A Representative Setting?

Rather than using a drill routine in isolation, a games-based approach in a representative setting acknowledges the complex dynamics between Individuals, Tasks and Environment and is useful to help the players adapt and attune in perception-actions to impact positively on performance.

Here we reference Mark O’Sullivan’s Constraints-Led Approach within his comprehensive Holistic Framework:

  • Embracing Complexity?

As with providing a representative setting in our Warm Up Design, helping players move away from the safe cocoon of structure, rituals and routine and towards embracing complexity and variation will enhance adaptability in the unpredictable nature of a game.

On first look of the Steph Curry video, with most of our team coming from a football background, it was refreshing to see all the moves with the ball and seemed almost playful, thus we initially compared it to Maradonna’s beautiful Live is Life warmup which shows such uniqueness, joy and beauty of one man’s expression of his passion. Then realising that Curry’s routine was exactly that and done the same way every time, it took away somewhat from its perceived organic playfulness.

What’s your Learn Up?

So to avoid wasting time on


Can we make Learn Ups more useful through


What is your sport’s ‘traditional’ Warm Up and how can you evolve it into a Learn Up? Add your comments below.

What’s our Learn Up?

Some free play, a few Steph Curry moves, a Maradona dance and a Game 🙂


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One Comment on “What we can learn from learning up”

  1. Pingback: The PE Playbook – October 2016 Edition - drowningintheshallow

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