Coach Paul Alexander talks with students via Zoom

As a former professional athlete and coach, Hill School Instructor of History Kevin Tkachuk has always had an interest in the connections between learning in the classroom and on the playing field. He wanted to dive deeper into this topic, which led him to create an H Term course “Philosophy and Science of Elite Performance.”

“This course is a combination of several fields that come together to create the conditions for elite performance: theory of skill development, mental/psychology, and the physical,” explains Tkachuk. “As level-three rugby coach and level-three strength and conditioning coach, I have examined much of this previously and as a competitor it was of great interest to me as well.”

This seminar-style course explores several different authors and researchers’ views on elite performance in sport, such as Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein. The course includes some modern stoic philosophy and incorporates mindfulness and other strategies for success in sport and life in general. Students also have examined some of the important cultural and societal impacts sport has on the wider world.

He also has invited guest speakers to talk with the students enrolled in the course. During the week of February 1, Paul Alexander, former college and NFL coach, performance coach, and author, met daily with the class via Zoom. He spoke to students on a variety of topics, many of which he writes about in his book Perform, which “offers insight into effective methods of learning, teaching, and developing, the essence for elite performance” for athletes, musicians, teachers, learners, parents, and coaches.

Tkachuk’s goal is for his “students to be able to understand the theory and practice behind elite performance and to be able to use the skills and understanding they have developed to put into their own practice.” Their end project for the H Term course is to create a performance plan for themselves.