Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Charlatan Nonsense

I felt compelled to post these questions along with links to present some of the glaring problems in the profession of strength and conditioning/athletic development.

Here is the link to the following question. I quoted the question and answer below in which I highlighted specific parts of the answers (in bold italics):

Hi Coach! Thanks for the great response! I love the idea of contrast sled pulls and sprint work. when I worked my backs and receivers we did sled work at 10 yard intervals followed by 10 yard hill work. We did this four weeks! We then did sled walks for 20 yards followed flying 20's great results. However, I was wondering if you did medicine ball throws with hurdle jumps? Also, did you cut exercises with weights down to a minium? 

An e book would be great!

Warren, we did do hurdle bounds and explosive medball throws ( both backward scoop and extension throws into a large mat , which ate my favorite because you talk about full triple extension following the momentum created by the medball, its awesome) our first 4 week block hurdle bounds were max effort single respinse. Second four weeks reactive. Last block, even though we were in alactic capacity i did a few reactive hurdle bounds to a 10 yd sprint, which was accounted for in the overall volume. If in a large group 15-20 they were split , 1/2 medball and 1/2 hurdle bounds. Now you can do hurdle biunds holding a medball and after landing the last bound use the medball in a acceleration sprint , which is highly effective but advanced. You must perfect hurdle bounds both max effort and reactive before adding the load of the medball and the lack of arm lift ( since the arms are holding the medball ) this was usually done with big skill and skill. It was enough to get the big guys to reactively bound over hurdles but when we left they could all do it with minimal ground contact time ( strive for .15 secs on ground). Now they do all this olympic lifting and they are less explosive!!!! How do i know? Athletes still call me and tell me how shitty they feel on game day cause the head strength guy uses maximal loads during the season to get them strong. There's a time and place for everything and during the season when the primary emphasis is the game , is NOT the time. Again i sit unemployeed while stupid stuff like this goes on. Its embarrassing the bullshit that goes on in this profession. Lets lift heavy to get strong in season, total moron!!!!"

My issues:
-So in stating that they could do it with minimal ground contact time and that they were striving for .15 secs, we would assume testing/evaluation to be done with accelerometers/force platforms.

-The claim that the athletes do "all this Olympic lifting and are now less explosive" (what is explosiveness?) requires comparison of previous metrics with current ones

-And the last part falls under many different logical fallacies, such as ad hominem and appealing to emotion.

... and the link to the following question. I quoted the question and answer below in which I highlighted specific parts of the answers (in bold italics):

"Coach while at your various stints as a physical preparation coach I was wondering what methods you used to track and record data besides visual and short term monitoring system. Did you track player data from their freshman to senior year? I was just wondering as I am starting to track my high school athletes but am having trouble putting it all together via excel. Thanks for your time and input."

"JJ, let me it this way, i hate computers ! I had a " Louisville" sluggar right next to my desk and i used it! I believe i was on my third computer when Coach Wannstedt was let go. I usually left that to James and i believe he used excel sheets. Listen youe are either a researcher, a data collector , a a phoney , or a coach. I chose to coach. All my energies went to making my athletes better ! James and i only tested occassionally. We did not want to waste time losing a training day. You'll see your athletes getting better. I was fortunate enough in my career to have the majority of head coaches let me do my thing. Thanks"

-It is possible to record information without the use of computers.

-It is my belief that a coach should be all of those things - a researcher, a data collector, and a coach. Making a statement that all one's energy went into making athletes better is a fragment. Better than what? I am all for being present when coaching athletes and using subjective judgement is a big part of coaching, but when making claims that athletes are better, or as in a previous post that a specific program makes one "explosive as f***", is fallacious without data to back up claims. 

-I also believe that testing is not a waste of a possible training day. I use the mantra of 'training is testing, testing is training'. Testing often requires a maximum use of the athlete's specific resources to accomplish the tests, which to me suggests that it is a physiological stressor, and applied at the correct time can lead to an adaptation of possible improvement of the skill tested. I would argue that Usain Bolt's 100 meter times have improved to what they have because of the realization that takes place in the races (World Championships/Olympics), not necessarily the practices. Training can get you to the starting line, but the race can change you even more.

-Telling another coach that "you'll see your athletes getting better" helps no one. Sure as a coach, you become better skilled at spotting nuances in technique that may or may not be improved with feedback and certain cues, but how do you know your feedback or cues worked? And again, better at what? I can accept the subjective idea of improving technique, as this is formally logical in that many coaches will agree on certain techniques. But after that, improvement in technique is simply improvement in technique. At that point the technique should lead to improvement of performance, and performance requires a metric(s).

Talking about subjective outcomes and opinions is fine, but when it is used for arguments of certain coaches or training methods being better than others, then the arguments become anti-intellectual and the profession of strength and conditioning/athletic development spins in the same place, staying in an authoritarian state of a few gurus leading the blind; which is eerily familiar to many of today's institutions (certain states and religions). If coaches were explicit with what they did and tested (pre/post), then we can make better comparisons and actually have intellectual discussions. Track coaches rarely have to worry about this because their work gets quantifiably evaluated in every meet. A person like myself, or the 'coach' above, who works with team sport athletes can easily sound like an expert and get away with subjective claims because team sports provide a protective barrier of so many variables to hide behind. 

All these arguments and claims are the realm of gurus, and I feel this is a major problem in coaching. If you are not testing and retesting, then making arguments is illogical rhetoric. Coming from a site such as Elitefts.com where many of the writers talk of indicators (specific data points) to determine the effectiveness of a method or program, is quite disappointing. 
My suggestion is that this profession, as with many other subjects with a search for a best practice, needs more science, reason, and logic. They are arguably the best tools we posses in order to have a shared reality. We owe it to the athletes.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking a stand. I wish I had that type of honor.

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Michael Zweifel said...

Very good job, there are still some very meat-headed coaches out there that give reasoning relying on ad hominems and intimidation. Your blog is truly great!

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Josh Leeger said...

Well said, coach (researcher, tester, leader, emotional support guy...)!

You hit the nail on the head here.

The big point that needs to get laid out for those folks is - what to test/re-test, and how.

If your training program and tracking systems are set up properly, you can call every single workout a test (or a re-test, if it's after the very first workout).

Thoughts on what the metrics are to track, and how?

Aaron Schwenzfeier said...

Thanks for the comments Michael!

Aaron Schwenzfeier said...

Josh, I am in agreement: every workout is a test!

As far as metrics, a good question. I might say the first thing is consistency (attendance).

Then... I would vouch for a speed test (10, 20, 30 meter, 40 yard, etc.), a jump test (I like vertical jump), an agility test (this could be creative with movements/patterns common in the particular sport), and of course strength (both lower and upper) which is quite easy to track all of it. A conditioning test, might be helpful. It's possible to track many things, but I think it's important to keep as simple as possible, but extremely accurate. I have a real disdain for inaccuracy, lack of reproducibility, and any sort of fabrication.

The trouble with testing is in order to have objectivity, it will make make the tests far from perfect or specific, as far as team sports go.

For recovery, I consider to be of great importance (time to bed and number of hours. Other areas might include assessments of RPE, or to track HRV if that is something one has the necessary technology.

What are your thoughts?