Gray Cook: Reflections on Assessing Movement
I went to the Stanford Assessing Movement event with one mission, to defend a simple, actionable approach. Now, I don’t professionally embrace simplicity to look for an easy way out. Many times, the simplest things in life are the hardest to manage. Breaking bad habits is unbelievably simple, but very hard to do.
Many of us in professional practice have habits that should be challenged and scrutinized on a routine basis. We should not be intimidated by this. We should see it as an opportunity for refinement, growth and development.
The most rewarding part of this entire experience was that for the first time in my career, I had an opportunity to personally answer Stuart McGill’s questions on why we built the movement screen the way we did, and why we look at some things and not others. I had an opportunity to tell him that I realized we couldn’t check everything. We needed to check the most important things first and work through that. Stu needed assurances that we developed our concept in a responsible, organized and systematic fashion.
Sometimes it’s very hard to see that when you come at the movement screen from the top. You see seven movement patterns you may have looked at in different ways throughout your career or you may want them to be more scientifically measured, but first and foremost, we must defend the point of screening. Screening tells us when greater assessment is necessary, and also informs us when it probably isn’t the next most appropriate action.
Some of the greatest advancements in medicine started with better screens that point us to more specific and focused evaluations. A screen should be built to let things through that do not present an efficient and effective action. It doesn’t mean everything that passes a screen is perfect. It simply means the things that pass the screen are not the bottleneck, are not the weakest link and are not your best action point.
Stuart had specific questions about our scoring criteria and about some of the patterns we picked for the movement screen. I was honored to speak of my original thought process in trying to bring a neurodevelopmental pattern approach back into general movement health…and even at the foundation of movement performance. I could have easily been intimidated and defensive about his questions, but I realized his questioning was in the name of science, logic and building better systems. I let my guard down and explained why we did what we did in developing the screen.
Many people come at the screen, see its simplicity and question how something so simple can be so effective. But it’s the simple checklists up front that sometimes help us take better specific action later by ruling out all those things that are necessary or unnecessary at a very simple level.
It was our intention to make the movement screen simple. It was our intention for both fitness and performance and medical and rehabilitation to have the same movement standard with specific actions to be taken in different directions from that central point or consensus.
It’s not because we don’t plan on becoming more complex or more specific in our investigation, but in general, if we don’t start simple, we may wind up heading in the wrong direction.
As I interacted with the crowd and Stuart and Craig during the Assessing Movement event, I realized the other message I needed to deliver was one that’s been heavy on my heart since I became a professional. This is one that’s probably attributed more to my father than anyone else. Regardless of whatever job he’s done, he has been a master of both communication and accountability. He owns his accountability, and he’s tireless in his attempt to communicate clearer.
I realized from the beginning of my career that this was the central breakdown in performance training, fitness, medicine and rehabilitation. I felt if I could add communication and accountability about movement back to the professions I embrace, I’ll have left my mark.
Some people are intimidated because they feel their degrees or status absolves them from communication. If anything, it increases the burden of communication. It’s the difference between a boss and a leader. A boss pushes from behind and a leader blazes a trail. If you think the communication part is hard, imagine how hard the accountability is going to be when as a professional you set a standard, and then you fall short of meeting it. You must own the fact you didn’t meet your mark and then investigate what you could have done better.
This, in my opinion, is the central part of professional development. In a day and age when we see more and more opportunities for mentorships, I would prefer to go in the other direction. I still like the term “apprenticeship” better. It is never about the mentor—it’s about the material. The mentor is the one who dispenses the material to fit the apprentice. We should call these apprenticeships, not mentorships, because a mentorship does not guarantee the apprentice will become competent.
At some point, the apprenticeship is over, at which time the apprentice becomes the master. I have always encouraged people to read, study, learn and know, but you must apply those to the point where you’re considered an expert among your peers before you can truly judge the technique.
I would challenge everyone reviewing the Assessing Movement event material to find one part l that takes you out of your comfort zone. Does it take you out of your comfort zone because you inherently feel it is wrong, or does it take you out of your comfort zone because you’re unfamiliar with it?
Either way, investigate, learn and apply.
Embrace the challenges.
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