Coaching Specialization

In the whole athlete development process we are very aware of the dangers of early specialization and even over specialization in young developing athletes. I was thinking yesterday after my interaction with some young coaches over the past couple of months that one of the biggest changes I see in the current generation of coaches is very narrow specialization. I see coaches who are incredibly knowledgeable in a very narrow area, but have no idea how their area fits into the bigger picture. As far as I can see this poses as much danger for the development of the coach as early specialization does for the athlete. My generation of coaches out of necessity had to be generalists. We could not afford to be narrow in our interests and specialties. I know personally this has served me well in my career. It has enabled to move from being a track field coach who coached all events into work with a variety of sports. I think this worked because I was able to look for commonalities in movements and make connections that I would not have been able to make had I been a specialist. One of foundations of this is pedagogy, the science of teaching. We were taught how to teach, how to make connections, this is not stressed any longer in the training of coaches, and the emphasis is on the technical nuances and sport science to exclusion of teaching methodology. If you are considering being a coach or just beginning you career I urge you to broaden your interests. Look outside your sport and specialty within that sport. You will discover a whole new world that will enhance your specialty and broaden your interests and knowledge. Study the great generalist coaches across sports. Look at the work of John Wooden, Bill Bowerman, Tom Tellez, Frank Dick, Dean Smith and Doc Councilman. Talk to coaches of other sports and other events and find out what they are doing. Take an old coach of my generation to lunch and pick their brain you will be surprised at the practical points of coaching you will learn. There is a big wide world out there waiting for you generalists who can connect seemingly unrelated areas to make the athlete better. Enjoy the process you will never be bored.

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