Thursday, January 24, 2013

Predicting or Preparing?

Is it one or the other? Or, can you do both?

As Carl pointed out in his latest blog, Nate Silver and prediction has gained popularity among sport performance coaches, possibly in hopes of predicting things, as we humans like to try to do. As well there has also been lots of discussion on recovery/readiness 'detectors' such as the Omegwave and using GPS to assess workload in practices and games, hoping to predict occasions when the athlete should rest and when he/she should compete or train.

I am not quite sure what to think with the number crunching, and am a bit skeptical (or fearful) of prediction (maybe because I don't fully understand it all). I also find it interesting that at the time that a statistician like Nate Silver, his book, and his (supposed) prediction prowess has become popular, Nassim Taleb has recently published the culmination of his two earlier books "Fooled By Randomness" and "The Black Swan", in "Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder":

"Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the bestselling author of The Black Swan and one of the foremost thinkers of our time, reveals how to thrive in an uncertain world.

Just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension, and rumors or riots intensify when someone tries to repress them, many things in life benefit from stress, disorder, volatility, and turmoil. What Taleb has identified and calls “antifragile” is that category of things that not only gain from chaos but need it in order to survive and flourish.  

In The Black Swan, Taleb showed us that highly improbable and unpredictable events underlie almost everything about our world. In Antifragile, Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner. The antifragile is beyond the resilient or robust. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better and better. 

Furthermore, the antifragile is immune to prediction errors and protected from adverse events. Why is the city-state better than the nation-state, why is debt bad for you, and why is what we call “efficient” not efficient at all? Why do government responses and social policies protect the strong and hurt the weak? Why should you write your resignation letter before even starting on the job? How did the sinking of the Titanic save lives? The book spans innovation by trial and error, life decisions, politics, urban planning, war, personal finance, economic systems, and medicine. And throughout, in addition to the street wisdom of Fat Tony of Brooklyn, the voices and recipes of ancient wisdom, from Roman, Greek, Semitic, and medieval sources, are loud and clear.

Antifragile is a blueprint for living in a Black Swan world."

I like that coaches are trying to become better at prediction, and maybe I am behind the curve in not joining in the physiological and GPS measuring, but I also think we have to continue to work on the basic, upfront aspects of developing, as Taleb would describe it, robust athletes, or better yet, antifragile athletes - helping to develop athletes who are ever-increasingly immune to 'black swan' events: a physical/psychological reserve for the greatest of demands.

At times, I feel like we are walking on egg shells with athletic development, being scared of doing too much work. However, I believe, with smart coaching and progressions, we should push the process and grow in the antifragile direction, as opposed to training and playing in fear. Increasing antifragility requires exposure to increases in stress - nothing stupid, just smooth, yet aggressive, progression.


1 comment:

Mladen Jovanović said...


Can you please change background color? It is REALLY hard to read in this theme. When I read and lift my head over the computer I still see letter floating around :)