Who creates proper techniques in sports, and what makes it “right?”


I’ve played quite a few sports growing up, and am recently trying to learn golf. There’s quite a bit of technique involved in a golf swing and then I got thinking “how do we know this is the right/most efficient way to swing?”. Same thing for a hockey slapshot, diving, etc. Who comes up with the “proper” technique and why is it standardized? Does it come the best performers, and then everyone mimics (like the famous high jump technique)?

In: 10

> how do we know this is the right/most efficient way to swing

We don’t. What we do know is that this current technique has certain positives and negatives. If you are a strong players, maybe this technique better suits you. If you have longer arms, maybe another technique is better. It’s trial and error.

Granted, there are some techniques that do seem to be ideal. The Fosbury flop is a good example of a technique that has been widely accepted as the optimal one (as far as I know). The answer as to why is entirely dependent on the sport, but again comes down to trial and error. If 100 high-jumpers scissor kick jump, and 100 high-jumpers of similar characteristics Fosbury flop, the best technique is the one where there are better results. Is it the best? We don’t know, but it appears to be the *better* one.

A shit ton of science goes into technique and efficiency. Top athletes are measured, filmed, and poked and prodded to see if they’re efficient in their technique and if there are ways to improve performance.

Trial and error over generations.

In 1960 the NFL field goal kickers had a success rate of 50% Back then almost every kicker was kicking straight toed. By 1990 every NFL team had a soccer style kicker. The average success range was 75%. Now there are several reasons for success rates and average success range in field goal kicking, but most would agree the introduction of soccer style kicking was the biggest development in field goal kicking for accuracy.

This goes for any sport. Hell, if tomorrow you coached volleyball and you thought of a brand new technique for a serve and it made your team’s serve way more successful, other teams would integrate it into their strategy. If enough teams do this then it just kind of becomes the way of doing things.

[Kinesiology](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinesiology) is the study of movement, and these scientists have studied the techniques of successful athletes to identify what is it about their form which made them so effective.

So it’s not that someone just arbitrarily decided that a particular form is, a-priori, superior, rather, they looked at the outcome of competitions, and tried to identify what worked the best.

Then, after applying what they learn to models of human anatomy and muscular movement, they have gone on to try and help talented athletes improve their technique, to get even better results. But this isn’t always a succcess, and “bad form” isn’t bad if you’re consistent. Larry Bird had a very unconventional shot form, but he was a *sniper*.

[Archery coach](https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4IL0laJkpzH9JHmxNqjjMg) here.

The basic principle is that the human body only works in specific ways. There are nuances and individual variations, but most of our physiology is fundamentally the same. Through practical experience, people have long understood and passed down the techniques that work best. In modern times, sports science has identified specific muscle groups and motions that are more efficient and effective.

In archery, for example, improper technique puts a lot of strain on the shoulders, leading to soft tissue injury. The misalignment of the arms (“chicken winging”) create a break in the “line”, which leads to lateral movement in the arrow when shot, so we teach archers to bring their elbows back behind their head. This then pushes the weight of the draw to the stronger back muscles rather than in the smaller muscles in the arms. All this combines to create a technique that is more consistent with less fatigue. When taught properly, new archers are surprised that effective form feels “easier”.

Technique isn’t set in stone, however. Advances in sports science and analysis of performance and injury will reveal shifts in training. Some sports are prone to specific injuries that people accept as part of the sport, but study of these cases may prompt coaches to think different about how they teach athletes.

Sometimes, yes, it does take someone to be innovative, or push the rules. The high jump “Fosbury flop” is an example of that, but it didn’t happen in isolation. It was only viable when the field was set up with a soft mattress, whereas previously the scissor jump was more popular because it made the jumper land on their feet. The flop method is universally understood to bring the body over the bar most naturally by following the arch of the back.

However again, this depends on the specific goal of the sport. Many “sub-optimal” methods are used on a practical basis because the sporting goal is so far removed from the original application. The Fosbury flop would be ridiculous outside of the high jump event, just as modern archery wouldn’t work well for a medieval longbow.