Want to Improve Your Golf? Cricket? Tennis? Alexander Technique May Be The Answer
Alexander Technique - helping sportspeople for over a hundred years...
"The Alexander Technique will benefit anyone, whether they are an elite athlete or whether they just wish to live life without the aches and pains that many people suffer and accept as part of life. It is a pity that these techniques are not shown to us all at an early age, for I have no doubt that this would alleviate many of the causes of ill health in our communities."
- Greg Chappell, Australian Test Cricketer 1975 - 1984
F.M. Alexander never saw Greg Chappell play, but "he was a great admirer of Don Bradman”. He was “very keen on cricket” and living in London in the 1930s gave him the opportunity to see Bradman play. Perhaps Alexander’s upbringing in Tasmania was part of it, but his admiration for Bradman certainly went deeper than that – “he often used to say how well Bradman used himself while playing”.
The Alexander Technique is today often associated with helping relieve and recover from back pain, neck pain and the like, though it has much wider application than that. It is also practised by many people to help improve their performance in a particular field, such as actors, musicians and sportspeople.
How does the Alexander Technique help sportspeople?
Alexander wrote in the 1930s about a golfer who cannot keep his eyes on the ball, a problem that is still relevant today according to. “Researchers in England set out to determine whether weekend golfers could improve their game through one of two approaches. Some were coached on individual swing technique, while others were instructed to gaze fixedly at the ball before putting. The researchers hoped to learn not only whether looking at the ball affects performance, but also whether where we look changes how we think and feel while in action.” The research found that “a majority are not actually looking where they believe they are looking or for as long as they think”.
This was the point of Alexander’s piece on the golfer – we develop a habit; over time the habit will come to feel normal and familiar to us; now it is hard for us to discern what we are actually doing. So we feel, and think, we are doing one thing – keeping our eyes on the ball, or having a relaxed wrist – when in actual fact we may be doing something quite different. So you have a golf lesson where you’re advised to keep your eye on the ball, or relax your wrist. You nod because in your mind you are already doing this, and go away having changed nothing. Progress ceases, and eventually frustration ensues, because despite doing everything ‘perfectly’ as you perceive it, imperfection is still the result.
Alexander developed a technique to address this problem, and he taught people to use their bodies in a reliable, accurate, and confident way. In the process they develop an awareness of what they are actually doing with their body, rather than the unreliable sense associated with the old habits. They are now able to look where they believe they are looking, and performance improves, accuracy improves, and the golf teacher’s mood improves as they now feel their advice is being heard.
Bradman never had Alexander Technique lessons, but he naturally had the awareness that Alexander sought to teach his students - the awareness that leads you to keep your eye on the ball; to keep your wrist relaxed; essentially, to be able to do what you think you’re doing, and what you want to do. And that is why Alexander admired Bradman - he was an example of all that Alexander taught.
Some sporting links. Alexander Technique and...
Bradley Newman teaches the Alexander Technique in Sydney. For more information see firstname.lastname@example.org .or email Bradley on