Scientist vs/and Coach
- Buoyed by the positive responses from my previous submission, I'll have a
crack at this one too.
Coaching the under 10 C soccer team and coaching the National representative
side are two very different jobs and require two very different sets of
abilities. If a coach at an elite level has a team of professionals around
him (I will use the masculine for brevity, please forgive the patriarchal
overtones) who provide him with professional expertise in sports science,
sports medicine, nutrition, etc., then it is probably not necessary for him
to have expertise in those areas himself and still perform the job of
coaching. The implications of specific actions and strategies can be
explained by the various experts. In this case, a rudimentary knowledge of
all of these aspects may not be of any benefit other than in streamlining
this explanation process. The results achieved may remain the same.
If there were no access to these experts, then any extra knowledge the coach
had in this area, may be of vital importance to his performance. At the
elite level, many coaches can "get by" without having this knowledge because
support networks may compensate for their lack of expertise in various
areas. Similarly, that coaches opponents/peers in other countries may have
a similar lack of expertise and they may all be doing the same things right
or wrong so overall, they remain competitive.
Does this make him a bad coach? For that particular situation at that time,
he may have all of the skills required to achieve the best possible result,
so how can he be called a bad coach? In a different situation, where
scientific support is not so strong, his lack of expertise may cause a
shortfall in the service provided to the athletes, so in this second
situation, he may not be considered a good coach for that position.
A second point is that performance in some sports is more dependent on
conditioning than in others. In many team sports, players can compensate
for a lack of conditioning by having superior vision, creativity, experience
and awareness. Tactical superiority can outweigh physical conditioning as
can superior skill. One visual cue misread by the goalkeeper during a
penalty shootout of the World Cup can mean success or failure for the whole
team. Some of the world's best cricket players are not exactly
advertisements for elite sport conditioning but no one can do what they do
better than they can.
In other situations, a "critical mass" of talent in a squad or program might
lift athletes to levels they may never have achieved training on the same
program by themselves. Conditioning in sport is only one component of many
as has already been mentioned several times. Applied sport scientists can
have a major role in working with the coach to fine tune his training
practices and basic researchers can have a major role in generating new
knowledge. In some cases, it may be the coach who draws all of the
resources together and in others it may be a manager or a politician who
As the pressure for results becomes greater on elite sport, as it inevitably
will, coaches will have to be more skilled and more versatile to get to the
top jobs. Coaches who can not show results are thrown out and new ones take
their place. The ones who survive and prosper will be those who can make
the most of the situation they find themselves in. Increasingly, they will
need to understand and be able to utilise sport science. Whether they
derive this knowledge and skill through formal educational programs as
Samuele Marcora has suggested or whether they can learn the same skills
first hand from being an athlete or through other experiences is really
unimportant. The formal education option seems better for a large scale
improvement in coaching standards.
- Hi everyone
I will take time to clarify my position.
There are many good courses available in sports and coaching in New Zealand.
I have seen many good things come out of most. I have also seen some bad.
Hence my opinion that this is not the key to coaching.
I do make use of sport science specialists. To answer Steven Seilers
question I expect them to have an education to doctoral level or at least to
the general standard like a physiotherapist who has done four years.
Although I will look at what advanced courses a physio has done.
My main argument is that most countries have a education programme for
coaches that is very sufficient to blend the required (yes required)
knowledge of sport science with the knowledge of the sport. Cycling New
Zealand has copied the Aussie Cycling Federation system where after sitting
a coaching course the coach has to submit their work with an athlete for a
season. At the higher levels it also involves spending time being observed
by higher grade coaches and at the highest levels involves submitting a
small thesis. The entire process may take 4-5 years but does allow the coach
to take the information from each level and have the time to apply it. My
personal experience from doing Uni courses is that after the final exam most
information is forgotten as students prepare for the next course.
Hence I am more in favour of coaches getting their information in small
doses over a long time and having the time to apply it to their sport rather
than cramming for 3-4 years to only lose most of that info.