Sports Science Is Lying To You
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Sports Science Versus Strength Coach
My throws coach, Dr. B, a sports scientist himself, typically referred to sports scientists as white coats. Dr. B had a bit of disdain towards some sports scientists. Dr. B sometimes spoke poorly of a great sports scientist, Yuri Verkoshansky, mainly because Yuri miscited Dr. B in Chapter 4 of Super Training.
Some prominent sports scientists of today that are phenomenal are Andy Galpin and Ralph Mann (who coached Olympic Champion Carmelita Jetter; he has also mentioned that sports coaches are 10 years ahead of where science is because the coaches see the trends and are deep in the trenches with the athletes).
The main reason why sports scientists talk about sports coaches being 10 years ahead is that the coaches will see things more from a holistic, macro perspective. Research often hyper-focuses on a very narrow concept or a one-off thing that can be isolated. That is not how the sports world operates. Sports do not operate in a vacuum.
Sports Scientists Contribution
Sports scientists have contributed to the world of sports performance. They have been able to isolate things like the start in sprinting and having a low heel recovery. They have specifically contributed to decreasing the time in the 100 meters drastically. Sports scientists have even been able to show why certain things in training work. Think of weightlifting-based training to improve power output and how post-action potentiation and how it increases neural drive.
Sports scientists have even shown us how endurance-based training works. Think about how long slow distance is and what it does for mitochondrial volume or how high-intensity interval training and sprint interval training can improve mitochondrial respiration. These are all things sports scientists have explained to us as sports coaches.
Top that all off with nutritional research. Yes, nutritional research can improve, but there has been a ton of research that sports coaches can carry over from the nutritional science-based world and bring over to the world of sports performance.
Not A Vacuum
The argument for sports coaches is that we don’t live in a vacuum. We have to look at things from a global perspective. We have to analyze variables that will impact our athletes and our athletes’ recovery, specifical things outside of the sporting world like life variables.
Sports coaches have to take in other variables like school, family, social life, boyfriends, girlfriends, playing video games, and a host of other factors that have to be understood as a peak program is being planned out.
Other limitations that sports scientists have are based on time. A sports coach may have 5 to 7 years with a specific athlete. The other factor is that a lot of sports scientists struggle to get their test subjects to do the test properly. Whereas, sports coaches, still have the issue of athletes not following suit of how they are supposed to be trained but it is still easier to hold the athletes accountable.
Coaches have to master the art of coaching by taking in feedback from the athlete, analyzing all the feedback, and then using that information to enhance athletes’ performances in competition. Athletes adapt differently based on their genetics and previous sports disposition. All of that input is taken in by sports coaches regularly as part of the formula to lead to proper peaking.
Sports science has a problem with often speaking in absolutes. “Machines are bad” or “hypertrophy is bad” or “focus on metabolic adaptations” or “focus on neurological adaptations” or “technique isn’t that valuable” or “technique is incredibly valuable” which all come across as absolutes in various papers and studies. In reality, they are all right to a point and all wrong to a point.
As coaches, we need to lay out the global training system we will be using. We then have to decide how we will periodize that training system and break it down into blocks. We have to then look at what rep schemes carry over to specific characteristics athletes need in specific sports as well as what exercises are needed with those specific rep schemes to carry over to the specific sports. Thankfully, sports scientists have provided this information. We know that if we have an athlete like a shot putter they need to have a ton of power output. An exercise like a behind-the-neck jerk develops power output and the overall rate of coordination. We also know that a shot putter shouldn’t be doing a rep scheme of 15 reps but need to be doing 2 to 5 reps.
Yes, sports coaches can use their intuition to figure out the exercises and rep ranges that work best for what sports. But the accuracy of the assumption can then be proven through sports science.
Most Important Thing For Coaches
The most important thing that coaches need to understand is that they can establish the key concepts and parameters that need to be used to improve performance overall for athletes. However, it needs to be learned from the greatest teacher. The greatest teacher just happens to be the athletes within our training systems.
As coaches, we need to take notes on all the different variables. We have to understand how the athletes react to technical coordination movements, handle absolute strength movements, respond to plyometric movements, deal with accessory movements, apply nutritional aspects to recovery, and how their psychological aspects on a day-to-day basis handle the training and then see that all through the lens of sports science.
It is key to determine where the lessons from sports science can then be applied to the training system.
Don’t Cherry Pick
A key concept is to not cherry-pick research. Instead, look at the meta-analysis and overall results and see how the results from the meta-analysis can be applied directly to the training to improve the overall training system.
It all comes back to establishing a great circle of friends inside your coaching realm, as well as sports scientists that can be reached out to pose questions to help improve athlete performance within the training system.
Ultimately, the number one guide that has to be followed is the reaction from the athletes. If we study our athletes and get feedback from our athletes our training systems will improve over time.
Don’t ignore science. Instead, learn how to read science research properly. Someone like Lane Norton does a phenomenal job of helping coaches to learn and understand research to transfer it into a training system.
The key factor is to create a coaching blueprint and training system. Then implement athletes into that specific system. Once the athletes are implemented into the blueprint, coaches have to learn from all the individuals. Take the science that occurs in the research papers and look at it through the lens of your coaching blueprint. And remember, establish a circle of great sports coaches and sports scientists to agree, disagree, and learn from.
Understand that the art of coaching, along with the mixture of seeing the science through your coaching blueprint, is almost always what wins.
Yo, It's Dane
Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!
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