Get in the Zone (of Proximal Development) in Your Coaching

The community aspect of athletic activity is important for multiple reasons. Our sports communities provide support, reality checks, and useful information about appropriate behavior. And notably, our community connections are also vitally important influences on our actual learning.


For as long as I’ve been training jiu jitsu, from my very earliest, flailiest experiences up to the present, my teachers and training partners have helped me achieve more in partnership with them than I would be able to by myself. Nowadays, I find myself doing for less experienced practitioners what my teachers have always done for me: using my knowledge to set them up for success. For instance, let’s say we drilled a triangle sequence during the technique part of class. During the rolling part, if my partner has significantly less experience than I do, I might purposefully place myself in a situation where s/he can execute the techniques we worked on earlier in the class.

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Valerie Worthington has been moving her body since before she was born, for many reasons and with many outcomes. She really started to pay attention to how, when, and why her body moves when she began training in Brazilian jiu jitsu in 1998. From then on, she became hugely invested in educating herself about how to optimize her body movement for BJJ and how to support it in doing so. She has observed that these endeavors require her to invest herself not only physically, but also mentally,...Read more