Sport science and coaching.

I have been working rather hard:
-finishing at least one of my books before summer starts,
-organizing an Omegawave workshop on May 26,
-scanning the library of the articles I wrote in the last 35 years,
So I spend most of my little spare time for that instead of writing my blog. This week I also have to lecture about e contributions of sports science to innovations in sports that helped to improve athlete’s performances. I am getting a little bit tired from people that perceive sport sciences as being the main driver of performance and innovations in elite sports.

Here is an example: if I ask any Dutch audience of coaches to mention 5 innovations that came from Dutch sports sciences, they only come up with the famous “clap skate” for speed skating. Too bad since that is one of the many innovations that did NOT come from sports sciences, since this principle already received a few patents before 1940.

So for innovations, don’t wait for sport science. But what is the place of sports sciences in real day-to-day training? I have a real good relationship with sport scientists and had the honor and the pleasure to work together with them on many projects or invited them to seminars that I organized. But I am afraid their place is limited. Sport scientists in team sports come up with the latest tools or gadgets, that every other team has or soon will have. They tend to forget that the real art is in the interpretation and the translation of that into training that will make the difference, and this is still the domain of the coach.

Let me compare the work of a coach with the work of a chef.
Suppose I decide to start a new career, I love cooking and I want to open a restaurant and to be successful. So I have to distinguish my restaurant from the many other restaurants there are.
What could be my unique selling point, what would make the difference?
I could buy the most fashionable and expensive cutlery and in the kitchen I will have the best kitchen equipment money can buy, but would that make a difference?

Just tools!

Just tools!

Or I could hire knife jugglers as cooks, performing funny tricks.

Just tricks!

Just tricks!

I could study the chemistry of all the ingredients that I would turn into food? Cooking as chemistry, as a science.

Cooking not chemistry

But in the end, I am afraid that all of this will fail, if it isn’t in the short-term, than it will in the long-term.

People go out for dinner don’t care that much for cutlery, tools, or equipment. Not do they show up for tricks and circus acts. They don’t care about the science or the chemistry of food…..as long as it tastes well. And as long as it is well presented in an environment they can appreciate, with the service they expect, and at a reasonable price.
All of this carries very little science in it, it depends on your care for your customers, the passion for food and the pride you take in making it.

For me this describes the place of sport science in elite sports as well. Yes, when one can use it very well, and please do so. But even without scientists around you, you can create great athletes, and no science, tools or tricks will equal possessing the drive, the many skills, the experience and the patience of the artisan-coach, the human performance-artist.

If you are a sports scientist don’t take it personally, there is a place for you in sports, but not the place of the coach. As much as many elite coaches would not make good sport scientists. Sport science and coaching are two different worlds, with different backgrounds and intentions, different demands and limitations different visions and mindset.

About Henk Kraaijenhof

My name is Henk Kraaijenhof and I started this blog as a random collection of concepts, ideas, stories and events that are important or interesting to me in my work as an international performance consultant in a wide range of fields, and sometimes outside of my work. I will try to post a new entry every 3-4 days. Feel free to comment if you like.

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