Going to the Source

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There is a huge amount of information available for coaches these days. The internet has created a huge pool of easily accessible information and there has also been a proliferation of courses, seminars, conferences, certifications etc.

These have been set up by a wide range of organisations with an equally wide set of objectives from National Governing Bodies hoping to improve education to individuals looking to make money off the ever increasing need for Continuous Professional Development points.

I see more and more coaches attending courses and returning almost indoctrinated in the methods espoused. This always reminds me of a phrase my Dad often says to me which served him well as a Policeman:

Don’t believe everything you are told

While it might seem obvious for a Policeman to think that way I think it is necessary for coaches to pay heed to this too.

Governing Bodies are not infallible – many promote the idea of Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic learning styles despite strong evidence that they are not a valid method of teaching (see my article on Learning Styles for more on this).

Well known “Personalities” or Brands with slick marketing and presentations do not guarantee good quality of information. Any idiot can set up a blog and begin pushing out unsubstantiated ideas in just a few clicks……….

This is the reason I have been spending more and more time going back to the source. Not only to check the validity of information but also to ensure nothing has been lost in translation.

An example is the Tabata Protocol. High Intensity Intermittent Exercise is all the rage these days with more and more gyms offering Tabata classes. Based on the work of Dr Izumi Tabata, this protocol is marketed as being the ultimate fat loss tool and better for cardiovascular fitness than steady state training. However, a look at the actual study reveals that what the gyms are offering is nothing like the original protocol and the elite participants were actually doing steady state training within the original study. Mike Young gives an in depth breakdown of the issues here.

There are many practical implications due to the tendency for aggregation of information these days. Quite often aggregation is also accompanied by dilution or corruption of information.

I first noticed this with speed training.  One company that produces speed and agility equipment also runs coaching courses that promote methods which Athletics coaches find laughable. The courses are aimed at selling more kit rather than providing useful training and subsequently much of the content is plain wrong.

As a result I had to back to the source to really learn about speed and athletic preparation. I volunteered at my local athletics club where I was extremely lucky to shadow a former National Coach. I learnt more in 2 weeks watching him than I had in 2 years of  courses. When I wanted to learn Olympic Lifting I went and trained with Giles Greenwood at Bethnal Green Weightlifting Club. Giles competed Internationally and has taught weightlifting to hundreds of people.  In Rugby I am fortunate to have a mentor whose Dad literally wrote the coaching manual.

It requires effort and in certain cases determination to even get to the source but it is essential if you truly want to understand original concepts.

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