The boy was playing footy with his Dad. It’s a scene that repeats itself all over the world and I was interested to see how the little play session turned out.

The boy kicked the ball. It was a clumsy attempt, the little boy obviously new to kicking objects.

Dad: Not like that. You need to hold the ball this way and then kick it with your foot pointed like that.

The father then reached it and tried to force the kid into the correct position. The boy tried again. But this time his body threw a mutant attempt into the equation – his system reacted to the instruction and instead of kicking with his right foot, his left leg came forward. This time he missed the ball and nearly fell over.

Dad came rushing in and gave further instructions. You could tell the boy just wanted to kick the ball – he wasn’t liking the talking. He wanted to play. He wanted to try again. The more instruction fed to the boy the less interested he became. He was confused. In a moment of defiance he ran away to go play with his siblings (who were collecting shells in the sand). Dad shrugged his shoulders and sat down.

In my mind this was an opportunity lost. Dad should have let the boy kick the ball. This was not the time for any instruction – Dad should have been chief ball collector and occasional motivator. His role shouldn’t have been to control the situation by feeding so much technical instruction. And I’m sure their footy time would have continued much longer.

“Kick the ball son”. “Kick it again”. This simple instruction was all that was needed.

When the boy was finished collecting shells he came running back to his parents. The footy had come to rest not far from where the kids were playing – the young boy bent over and picked up the ball in full stride and let rip with another kick. This time there were no instructions running through his head. There was no pressure to please Dad. The boy’s objective was to kick the ball and this is what he did. The ball sailed into the air, probably his best kick yet.

Our learning system is far smarter than our conscious mind. It also knows a lot more than Dad.