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GAIN 2017: Coaching reflections
I recently spent 5 days in Houston, Texas at Vern Gambetta’s GAIN conference. In this post, and those to follow, I shall attempt to share some of the main ideas and reflections gained whilst there. This should be of interest to fellow coaches and some to parents of athletes too.
Opening address and overview by Vern Gambetta
Vern set up this conference 10 years ago looking to harness ideas on athletic development from professionals with different backgrounds. Sports coaches, athletic trainers, physiotherapists, strength and conditioning coaches, Doctors and physical education teachers were some of the people in attendance.
By looking at the same problems with different sets of eyes and brains, many different solutions can be found. This was summarised by Vern as
“Making connections to foster meaningful change and innovation.”
This was my 6th visit to GAIN and the highlight for me is the intelligent conversations with passionate people. Rarely do I get spend time with people who are experts in their field willing to share ideas and ask great questions without trying to sell me something or tell me how brilliant they are!
Vern’s opening address was a passionate call to arms to become better as coaches so that we can help our athletes better. This means sharing ideas and analysing what we do, rather than just follow herds or folklore.
He suggested that deep ignorance was a problem in the world today. We should look for the blank spaces, the holes in the knowledge. The answers may be there. “The right question is intellectually superior to finding the right answer.”
Vern wanted to us to focus on possibilities when working with athletes:
- What can they do?
- How can we get them to do it?
- Do no harm!
Beware of being seduced by data
E.O. Wilson said “we are drowning in information, while striving for wisdom.” The onset of data analytics means we can gather ever more numbers. This can be seductive and we can then train to improve these numbers.
Vern emphasised that we should coach the athletes in front of us, rather than the numbers on the spreadsheet. Because you can measure it, doesn’t make it meaningful (more on that later from Dr Joyner).
The internet has become a problem: parents, coaches and athletes are often unable to filter out all the noise.
Call to action
“We are more likely to overcome our struggles and difficulties to find out what we are looking for when we are willing to take others with us on the journey.” Simon Sinek.
Vern’s concept is to create robust, resilient and adaptable athletes. His mission is for the athletes to eliminate all physical limitations.
This was a much needed jolt in the arm for me. Setting up the Excelsior Athletic Development Club has been a harrowing process. I have started to run parent/ volunteer workshops to help them understand what we are doing. Those that have attended have given great feedback and I need to do more.
Not everyone “gets it”, the prevailing wind is for parent driven competitive tournaments for 7 year olds and “win on Saturday” mentality. Rather than fight this tsunami, I am attempting to build something different and give hope to the future.
GAIN 2017 allowed me to spend time with people who reassured me that I wasn’t alone in this endeavour. Thanks to Vern and everyone who attended for helping me get better.
Tomorrow: 7 Sports Science Myths: Dr Michael Joyner (Mayo clinic).
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