Why do you do it like that?

Nepochopitelná lidská mysl, zajímavé a srandovní fotky

People often do things in a strange way. From small things, such as putting tea in a cup before the milk or having a beard that catches and displays what they have eaten that week all the way up to coaches who believe shouting instructions at athletes is helpful when they are trying to perform complex sporting tasks, there are many examples of odd behaviour that lead to less than stellar outcomes.

When you ask “Why do you do it like that?” the answer is invariably “I dunno, I’ve always done it that way…….” If you suggest a different, possibly more common sense way you often encounter a high degree of resistance.

Paul Clarke (@matchfitireland – well worth a follow on Twitter) posted a great video questioning current working practices. Change “working” to “coaching” and there is certainly food for thought.

This immediately made me think of an interview with Paul DePodesta of Moneyball fame. In this excellent article, Revisiting Moneyball, DePodesta explains how the Oakland A’s had a very limited budget in comparison to other teams and so were forced to take a step back from Baseball and re-examine the ideas, concepts and clichés that had developed over the years. They found many were no longer relevant to the modern game and so set out to exploit the opportunities that a fresh look at scouting and analysis would afford them.

Of particular interest in the article is the question regarding the authors and books which shaped DePodesta’s thinking. He cites Thomas Kuhn’s Structures of Scientific Revolutions and Peter Drucker’s work as the inspiration for Moneyball.

The thing that struck me about the book was how paradigms change and what needs to change for progress. I also read Peter Drucker—his interesting management-efficiency stuff. I remember Drucker talking about the value question. Very simply put: If we weren’t already doing it this way, is this the way we would start? Jim looked at everything that way. I remember talking to him about the DMV, and him explaining if we weren’t already doing it this way, do you think this is the way we would do it? So he got me thinking that way.

When you apply the “If we weren’t already doing it this way, is this the way we would start?” question to any number of situations you start to realise how badly most aspects of our lives run.

The schizophrenic structure of many sport’s seasons which jump around from league to cup to international to cup and back again with league games in between. The volume of games that are played in close proximity which place huge stresses on athletes ability to recover properly. Grouping children together in sport because they are in the same academic year group regardless of the fact that biologically they can be as much as 18 months different.

Speaking of the English academic system this is a great example of a multitude of anachronisms that we continue to follow despite the total lack of relevance to modern life. The reason the year begins in September and finishes in July with 6 weeks Summer holiday was so that children could help to harvest crops. This may have made sense in 1713 but much less so in 2013. A-Levels were designed in the 1950’s when reading books was a major past time of children but shocks the youth of today when they are presented with a reading list of 25 books. The list goes on but Sir Ken Robinson does a great job of explaining this and further diving into the idea of changing paradigms.

Coaching, as it is a form of teaching, is very much in the same boat. Many behaviours of coaches such as explicit instruction, over reliance on drills which are not representative of the game and acting as a dictator have been shown to be ineffective yet continue to be the norm.

It is a vicious circle as the longer the history, the higher the likelihood it is irrelevant in today’s society but the more resistant people will be to changing it.


If an equal amount of effort were placed into finding and implementing a more relevant way rather than resisting change then I feel sure we would be a far more productive and happy society.

My challenge to you then, at the end of this article, is to ask yourself “If we weren’t already doing it this way, is this the way we would start?” of one aspect of your coaching or working life and commit to finding a better way and implementing it

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