Coaching art & science

To be an effective coach it is necessary to be informed by science and artist to rival da Vinci. We know so much more today from a scientific perspective than when I started coaching 48 years ago and the information is easily accessible. But are we applying it as well as we can? We can do better. We have several generations of coaches who have been driven by science but come up short in the art, the practice and the craft of coaching. It’s not the science that is the problem it is the lack of artistic ability, the things you must do to be an effective coach of people.

Today the trend is toward evidence-based practice. Looking for things we can quantify and research. That is fine as far as it goes. But the evidence must be clear and irrefutable and therein lies the problem. So much of the research that is the basis for the evidence is flawed and questionable. It is done for short periods with physical education students as subjects in sterile and artificial laboratory environments or with inadequate control groups. I implore you to look more closely at the basis of the evidence before embracing the evidence as a basis for you your coaching.

As a coach who feels the need to be informed by science, I have always felt that we must temper that with practice based evidence – those techniques and methods that have stood the test of time, that have produced consistent reproducible results in the competitive arena. The characteristic of all these programs is the consistent application of the irrefutable principles of training. These principles and methods have been validated by science. They are simple and clear when properly applied. No doubt we need to do a better job of clarifying why programs have worked and stood the test of time. We can do a better job of tracking over the long term and communicating results in clear language that will facilitate sharing of knowledge. We need to be able ask questions of each other and the scientists that will make us all better. It is not art or science, nor is it all evidence based. It is a constant juggling act with all professionals working together to help the athlete achieve their best.

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