Are you controversial enough?

Some time ago I gave a presentation about the differences in coaching male or female athletes and in that presentation I used the book of Helmut Nyborg: “Hormones, Sex and Society”.

Now somebody pointed out, and he was right about that, that Helmut Nyborg is a rather controversial person.

Now once again, the later work of Helmut Nyborg is indeed heavily loaded by his political and ideological viewpoints, no doubt and probably it will have clouded the scientific value of his later work.

But in my opinion his opinion and research about the subject of the book is right.

How bad is it to be controversial? Many scientists have been controversial not for their political ideas,  but for the fact that their ideas were ahead of their time, which induced the envy or the resentment of their colleague’s. From Galileo to Semmelweiss, examples enough I should say.

How is that in sports? Well. I come to the conclusion that we really don’t care. My best example is a colleague who passed away too early, Charlie Francis, the coach of Ben Johnson.

We can easily say that he was controversial, but also we can say that very few coaches have produced training systems that have been copied, applied, or have been quoted as often as Charlie Francis’.

There are coaches in this field that had much more success than Charlie and were not controversial at all, but still their ideas are less widespread than Charlie’s 

Did the fact that he was controversial limit his popularity? To the contrary I should say. Charlie was a brilliant coach, a clear thinker and a passionate person and in the end that is what everybody who knew him felt.


Don’t forget that being controversial most of the time is matter of perception , and has to be seen in its time, issue and perceptions change as time goes by.  

Controversial most of the time means that your ideas are not in line with current thinking of the majority of your peers or of the people in general, which can turn you into a lone outlaw like the Unabomber or into a genius of which, if you live long enough, can bring you the recognition from the people that always knew you were brilliant.


Here is my conclusion:

Lesson 1; be careful to follow controversial ideas and controversial people

Lesson 2: be as careful to follow mainstream ideas and the majority


Nyborg, H: Hormones, Sex and Society. The Science of Physicology; Praeger, Publ. Westport, Conn. USA, 1994.

And here is another interesting one:

Kemper, T.D: Social Structure and Testosterone; Rutgers Univ. Press, new Brunswick, USA, 1990.





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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