Nonlinear Pedagogy

Also watch the supplemental video to see NLP (and a handful of analogous cues) in action.

Click here to read the full paper.

Nonlinear Pedagogy involves presenting athletes with a goal or desired end point and then allowing athletes time to problem-solve ways in which to achieve that end point.  For an overly simplified example that I will build external cues into later, “Here is what BOG looks like at the end of Set Up.  Explore going from Set to the end of Set Up in a way where you end up in BOG.” Task simplification is a key concept with NLP; minimize the coach’s words to maximize athlete ownership over the experience. NLP allows space for the learner to explore, discover, and adapt on their way to finding functional movement solutions that solve the problem presented to them by the coach.  Practices aligned with NLP also encourage learners to manipulate their environment and equipment, and bend rules (not safety rules). With NLP, each learner arrives at their own functional movement solutions and may be more likely to experience higher levels of motor skill retention, autonomy, physical literacy (Rudd, et al., 2020), and sense of accomplishment.  The process is athlete-centered as each athlete creates their own roadmap for how to move consistently through space to execute a specific skill (Lee, et al., 2014; Chow, et al., 2016; Rudd, et al., 2020).    

Guidance, compared to abandonment or professing, is a key concept with NLP.  Simply providing athletes with a desired position and then allowing for movement pattern exploration without a defined timeframe, standards, or constraints will likely lead to unproductive outcomes.  An important part of NLP is the allocation of time spent on playing to find movement solutions to a desired position. Consider marking out a trip on a road map; It is helpful to have waypoints to assist you in knowing you are headed in the proper direction.  These waypoints act as constraints to make sure you, the traveler, does not get too far off track. Athletes need waypoints/constraints, especially when faced with more dynamic movement patterns such as Set Up in archery.  In the field of motor learning, these waypoints are called constraints.  Coaches artistically and skillfully create and apply constraints to guide athletes without over complicating the task. The subject of constraints is much larger than I will get into for this paper.  The way I apply constraints here allows for a group of new archers to explore, discover, and adapt their way towards finding BOG, each in their own way, while having the result look relatively homogenous across the group. In other words, athlete A is not going to look wildly different from Athlete B, C, or D.  However, I frequently observe each athlete communicate differences in how they accomplished the task of achieving BOG. I have several specific constraints I apply when teaching Set Up that I will explain later.

Click here to read the full paper.. Also watch the supplemental video to see NLP (and a handful of analogous cues) in action.


Chow, J. Y., et al. (2015). Nonlinear pedagogy in skill acquisition: An introduction, Routledge. Doi:

Lee, M. C., et al. (2014). “Nonlinear pedagogy: an effective approach to cater for individual differences in learning a sports skill.” PLoS One 9(8): e104744.

Rudd, J. R., et al. (2020). “Physical Literacy – A Journey of Individual Enrichment: An Ecological Dynamics Rationale for Enhancing Performance and Physical Activity in All.” Front Psychol 11: 1904.

Winkelman, N. (2021). The language of coaching: The art and science of teaching movement. Champaign, IL. Human Kinetics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *