Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Gadgets" in coaching

I was recently at a forum where I was speaking with other coaches, and local athletes came to hear us speak on our differences in coaching. This was a great opportunity for athletes to see the differences between local coaches, from philosophy to actual practice.

The thing we all agreed on was the psychology of the sport, and the role it plays in athlete success. Beyond that, we appeared to disagree widely. The biggest difference I seemed to have and show between the other coaches is that I use technology, and embrace it.

The funny part was they called it, "gadgets." As if the use of technology in training is somehow a bogus or worthless idea. Needing to use slang, almost demeaning words to negate any help or information power meters, software and speed-distance devices might provide. Technology to them has no place in daily training, despite the role it plays in their daily lives, (from cellphones like iPhones to HDTVs, laptops, mp3 players, flip cams, GPS, bluetooth, etc). Somehow there is a disconnect between daily life and daily training with many coaches.

I'm not wanting to undermine or talk bad about other coaches, as I think that is classless. I do think it is important for me to show a different line of thinking, and challenge the standard lines of thinking. It is the commitment I make as a coach, not only to myself, but to my athletes as well. I have to look for the ways we can do things better, to help them reach their goals. I'm not speaking about the coaches at the forum per se, but coaches around the world.

I honestly believe that as a coach, to not use the best tools available to coach and help an athlete reach their goals, is in some respects, irresponsible. I wish I could put that lighter, or in a better context, but every time I try to do so, I feel like I'm just BS-ing.

If I were a doctor, and decided I didn't need to use MRI's or X-rays to find out more about my patients, some might consider that malpractice. Certainly this is an extreme example, but the line of thinking isn't much different. Instead of using the best technology available to make sure their thinking is correct and prescribe the proper course of action, they just use their general experience and guess. This is what coaches who do not use technology do.

I'm not saying we don't use our intuition and experience to make training decisions, because that's exactly what we do. But coaches are human, (last I checked), and make mistakes. Because of this, they should be seeking all the information and relevant data available to minimize them.

Show me a business which doesn't use technology, and I'll show you a business which is under-performing. Show me a coach who doesn't use technology, and I'll show you athletes who are under-performing.

I agree, athletes should not totally focus on numbers and data as the key to being a good athlete. There is an art to racing, and a feel to pushing your body to new limits. Depending on my athlete's maturity level in racing, I allow them to not look at the power meter or GPS, etc, but I do request that they provide me the information and collect the data. They can cover up the power meter if they are good enough at pushing themselves and don't want the numbers to scare them. Other athletes need the numbers to help them pace themselves, build confidence, etc.

But the point of this post is not athletes using them, but coaches. I am beginning to believe more and more that many of the coaches who downplay the relevance and help of these tools don't really understand the meaning of the data and what it can tell them. It's a lack of knowledge they are trying to hide. If that's the case, then laziness is more the issue, and I hope this doesn't reflect down to their athletes.

Just an opinion, and I'm sure there are those who will disagree. But that doesn't mean I'm wrong. Again, just trying to challenge the status quo thinking.

Coach Vance

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