The Nested Dynamics of Speed: Lessons from Russian Dolls

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan


Russian dolls, known as Matryoshka dolls, are hollow wooden figurines originating from Russia. 

They nest inside each other, with the smallest doll at the center. They are adorned with vibrant colors and intricate designs. Matryoshka dolls symbolize family, generations, and Russian culture. 

They are collected and cherished worldwide as decorative items.

But what the heck have they got to do with speed?

Well — let me explain:

One simple rule that GUARANTEES you will improve the speed of the players and teams you work with: Speed is both a simple part of a complex system and a complex system in and of itself.

To understand what I mean by this rule, let’s first define a complex system as it relates to sport. 

In sport, complex systems (athletes, teams, games, etc.) “consist of structurally and functionally heterogeneous components which interact … with varying intensities and spanning different spatio-temporal scales.”

… so basically, similar things that interact in space and time to serve the purpose of the system as a whole.  

But what things, and what purpose?

Well, here are a few examples:

  • players on a football team with the purpose of scoring more than their opponents
  • muscles, fascia, ligaments, and tendons of a body with the purpose of helping us to move
  • actin, myosin, and sarcomeres of a myofribril within a muscle fiber, with the purpose of enabling the muscle to contract 

Now — what jumps out to you with these examples?

Well — each example exists within the one preceding it; the ‘muscle system’ existing within the ‘movement system’, existing within the ‘game system’.  

Like Russian dolls, they ‘nest’ within each other.  

So getting back to understanding the one simple rule that guarantees to help you better coach speed: 

Speed is both a component-part (along with strength, endurance, and mobility, for example) — nesting within a larger system, and a system in and of itself — with component-parts (such as stride-length and stride-rate) existing within it.  In fact—other systems nest within it, which is where the true complexity arises!

I go into this in a little more detail in a free downloadable pdf called the ALTIS GAME-SPEED MODEL & PLAYBOOK, and I promise it will help you better understand the role of speed in team sport, and thus improve the speed of the players and teams you work with.  

Download the ALTIS GAME-SPEED MODEL & PLAYBOOK —> Click Here


The ALTIS Performance Trinity: Cornerstone Courses for All Coaches

Tired of the same old coaching advice that doesn’t translate to real-world success? Learn directly from the best in the field with the ALTIS Performance Trinity courses. Elevate your coaching skills with content that matters.

The ALTIS Foundation Course – A Comprehensive Review

Learn the pros and cons of taking the ALTIS Foundation Course, and make an informed choice on your coaching future.

Flexing on Hamstring Strength & Health


stream the largest collection of exclusive sport performance & coaching education videos around - for just $16.99 a month, with a FREE 14-day trial. Cancel any time.