It is a common viewpoint that ego stunts personal growth, and most would agree that ego undermines our effectiveness as coaches and practitioners. What is less often considered is that unconstrained ego similarly obstructs progress and discovery in the areas of scientific study that exist to inform practice. At present the respective disciplines encompassed within coaching science, sports science and sports medicine are plagued with these difficulties. Einstein famously quoted to the effect that ego has an inverse relationship to knowledge – “more the knowledge, lesser the ego; lesser the knowledge, more the ego”. Yet researchers in the fields of sports science and sports medicine are showing themselves to be particularly prone to ego and the excesses associated with it. In this post we tackle the issue of ego in sports science and sport medicine, and attempt to plot a path back to sanity.
Locus refers to a place or position where something is located: locus of attention concerns the location of an athlete's focus when executing a movement. Typically, locus of attention is stratified into internally versus externally located focus. The current dominant message to coaches and practitioners is to cue in a way that avoids an internal focus of attention - essentially 'internal focus BAD; external focus GOOD'. Yet when we look beyond the dominant narrative and take a closer look at the research on the topic, the question of where and how to direct an athlete's locus of attention when learning and performing becomes rather more complex. There is growing evidence to indicate that what is optimal may vary according to the population concerned, the task, context and even individual preference or predisposition. In this post we will delve deeper and attempt to unravel the topic of locus of focus.
In the Information Age the propensity for critical thinking has become arguably the most critical skill for practitioners in all fields. In the present era, with unprecedented access to a vast sea of information at the touch of a key stroke, the ability to filter and to critically evaluate are paramount. This is the great irony of the Information Age; at a time when the need has never been greater, critical thinking is seemingly a dying art. Increasingly we are plagued with superficial knowledge and incomplete understanding. We are beset on all sides by spurious reasoning and a preponderance of facile solutions. In this post we argue there is a need to resurrect critical thinking; we must understand the true meaning of skepticism and embrace it. Here we present the case that rediscovering these faculties will allow us to negotiate our way to free thought and provide the tools for independent learning to attain deeper understanding.
In the realms of training, coaching and even sports medicine there is often pressure to align with a particular approach or 'system'. The urge to belong to one camp or other is common and beguiling. Proponents for whatever approach is in vogue are often vocal and active in pursuing new recruits; and it is not uncommon to see much haranguing of those who subscribe to alternative approaches or competing training systems. In this post, we investigate this topic further. For instance, are there potential down-sides to adopting a training system? We will also explore an alternative path of being systematic in our approach, versus 'having a system'.
Practitioners working in the realms of physical preparation, 'strength and conditioning', athletic development, sports coaching and sports medicine all share the desire that their athletes become more 'athletic'. Feats of athleticism can be readily recognised and appreciated. Yet observers and practitioners alike would struggle to describe with any clarity or detail what exactly constitutes 'athleticism'. Clearly we must first define qualities such as athleticism in order to understand how we might go about developing them. From a talent identification and talent development viewpoint, what do we need to identify and develop in a young athlete? In this post we aim to elucidate what athleticism is, and explore the constituent parts that underpin athleticism.
This week I was asked about sport-specific programming by a young coach. Specificity is much misunderstood or at best incompletely understood in relation to training prescription and programming. Our task is to prepare the athlete for the rigours of training and competing. Nonetheless, rather than training the sport into the individual, we train the individual in the sport. In this sense the sport (or sports) provides the context, but the focus remains tailoring physical preparation and athletic development to the individual. This is a subtle but important distinction as we will explore in this post.
In a presentation last year I used the concept of yin and yang to describe the inter-relationship between physical and technical in track and field athletics. In essence, yin and yang describes how opposing elements (light and dark, fire and water) paradoxically serve to complement and ultimately define each other. Much the same applies when considering simplicity versus complexity. There are many instances where each of these elements apply in the realms of coaching and various facets of practice in elite sport. In this post we will explore the paradoxical - or yin and yang - relationship between simplicity versus complexity in the fields of coaching, physical preparation and sports injury.
High performance has become a buzz word that appears constantly in relation to sporting bodies and organisations associated with sports worldwide. The reason for the inverted commas 'High Performance' in the title is that this term has become so over-used and misused that it has arguably been rendered meaningless. Using the label does not make it so. In this post we discuss the elements that must be present in order for an environment and the practitioners who work in it to merit the title 'high performance'.
Providing learning opportunities and mentoring to coaches and practitioners has been a recurring theme throughout my career. Indeed a large part of my present role involves mentoring young coaches and practitioners in the early stages of their career working with athletes. These interactions frequently prompt me to reflect on my own journey and what I have learned on the way. This post is a collection of those critical lessons - essentially what would have been useful to have been told starting out.
Aside from serving as the point of weight-bearing for all activities performed in standing, the foot represents the terminal link in the kinetic chain where forces generated by the athlete are transmitted to the ground beneath them. The action of the foot is integral to all modes of gait, from walking to sprinting. During sprinting, for example, the athlete's technical proficiency in how they apply force during each foot contact is recognised as paramount. Despite the integral role of the foot in locomotion and a host of athletic activities common to the majority of sports, training to develop this critical link is often overlooked in the physical preparation undertaken by athletes. This post examines the role of the different muscle groups involved in the dynamic function of the foot. We will explore different training modalities to develop the respective muscle groups, and also discuss the applications of this form of training, from both sports injury and performance perspectives.