Friday, November 2, 2012

Skeptical Empiricism

I read a Q & A thread on popular website in which an "expert" coach who made the claim of employing superior training methods and that his team was "explosive as f*%#".

Now maybe they were "explosive as f*%#", but how does a coach know? Making subjective claims when arguing training methods, to me, is just 'wooing the crowd' to maintain guru status, or more hopefully just a logical fallacy. There are times when it is ok to claim that a certain exercise or program has potential for greater "explosiveness" outcomes vs others without evidence, so long as logic and reasoning can be easily applied. However, just stating "explosive as f*%#" is fiction, until it has been specifically defined and reliably tested.

-Define "explosiveness".

-Evidence of "explosiveness": Vertical or standing long jump? Clean or snatch numbers? 40 yd dash? Agility test? Is the test repeatable and reliable?

-Baselines of "explosiveness": what were the athletes' initial "explosiveness" scores prior to the commencement of training (and even better yet, an athlete's career training statistics)?

And before patting ourselves on the back for a job well done... analyze and interpret the data. What are some of the variables? What are the uncontrollable factors, and possible adjustments that could skew the outcomes positively or negatively? Also, most performance coaches do not have, or can afford to have, controls or use blinding.

These would be just a few of the factors to consider. Someone with a greater scientific background than me could come up with many other things to look at.

I've heard athletes say, or even tell me, "Coach, I feel more explosive" or "I feel faster". This might make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and I am very glad for the positive feelings the athletes have, but I still ask them and myself, "how do you know?"

It's the struggle I fight with in my head daily. I am a skeptical empiricist.



Josh Leeger said...

Too much of this in our field!

Can we get some test/re-test?

And why aren't any of the "certifying" boards emphasizing simple, effective, and precise test-retest protocols in their certs?!!

Aaron Schwenzfeier said...

In the class I teach, with every topic of training for different qualities (strength, power, speed, agility, etc.) I rhetorically ask the students, "how do you/we know?"