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E75 | Keep It Real #18: To Coach or Not To Coach?

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On today’s episode, Greg, Doug and Trevor #KeepItReal while discussing when to coach and not to coach. 

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Episode Transcription:

Welcome to the Resilient Performance Podcast. This is Keep It Real episode number 18. I’m going to read a tweet here from January 3rd, from Doug’s account, @greenfeetpt, if you want to take a look at it. The tweet says, “why is sprinting technique something that’s supposedly self-organized as, without coaching, but Olympic requires instructional progressions doing”. This was something that he was inspired by from the track and field consortium and eat, sleep, train, um, on, uh, at, uh, a conference that he attended virtually. Just want to, you want to take that and just kind of explain it a little bit, Doug, and we’ll kind of unravel it. Yeah. I mean, I, I was kind of inspired by that talk because they were speaking to kind of the, maybe the bias in strength and conditioning and sports performance towards the weight room.

And I think that a lot of people are coming around to the fact that probably like the. Speed aspect is, should be the primary emphasis and that the strength work should support that. But I think there’s still, I mean, if you look at most strength coaching certifications, um, they probably do spend a lot more time going over, like Olympic lifting and squatting and deadlifting progressions and technique than they do sprinting technique and progressions.

And I would, I would bet that, you know, probably more, you know, um, SES is have like a, a weightlifting certification than they do, uh, a USA track and field certification. And just kind of makes you wonder, I mean, if you look at the track and field world like that, the goal there is to get people to run faster, jump higher, throw further, which are things that like probably define even team sport, athletics, um, and, and, and the track and field world they use.

Weight training, certainly to get athletes faster, to throw for it. Like, I mean, sh sh shot putters are probably stronger than, than football players. Um, so track coaches are using the weight room, but they’re using it as a means to an end, not. As the end itself. And so I, I, you know, I kind of wrote why is it that we consider like Olympic lifting to be very technical and it warrants like a lot of time to teach.

But I think that there’s kind of this idea that sprinting is this natural activity and that athletes quote unquote, like self-organized. And if you just tell them to run or chase people around, they’re going to run the quote unquote right way. Um, and I’m not, you know, I’m not saying that people should be.

That, uh, a team sport athlete needs to run as well and look like a, an Olympic sprinter. But I think that there’s things that team sport athletes can take from track and field and in terms of like key positions. And, you know, if you look at like the, the final heat of the a hundred meters in the Olympics, like what what’s considered good technique.

And in that competitive arena is different than what’s considered good technique in, in team sports. So I think there a lot of team sport athletes who probably violate egregiously, violate a lot of the principles that upright running and the track and field model, and just doing some very basic things can make those athletes and the team sport athletes faster probably have a lower potential for injury and improve overall performance without a huge investment and time.

We’re not asking these athletes. Team sport athletes, like look as good from a blocks start as an Olympic sprinter would be. But I think I said that like, you know, we’ll track and feel as track and field and team sports or team sports and that, you know, team sports can’t learn from track and field in terms of upright running.

When, you know, you get the fastest people in the world, there’s probably something that they can teach people that aren’t as fast, just because they might happen to run with a ball or an implement. So I think that that’s, it comes down to like, To say that I think it doesn’t matter at all in terms of technique and team sports is very, very lazy.

I think if we’re going to say that, like we’re going to, we’re going to spend a lot of time teaching Olympic lifts and I’m not saying Olympic lifts are bad. I think that, you know, you utilize properly. Like they’re fine. But if we’re going to take the time to teach somebody like a squat or a clean or clean or a snatch.

But we’re not going to, you know, we’re just going to say, well, athletes go run. We’re not going to Q technique. We’re not going to quote unquote coach it. We’re just gonna tell people to do it. I think that’s a little bit lazy. Um, because I think that sprinting is technical. Um, and it does require some coaching.

Maybe it shouldn’t be, you know, the, the, it shouldn’t dominate the entire session where you’re spending so much time on technique and you’re not touching on other qualities and you’re not emphasizing output and actually running with intent, but. Again, we avoid extreme say that it doesn’t matter, I think is lazy.

And to say that we should be holding team sport athletes to the same standard as you know, a track and field sprinter is also, um, probably a little bit irresponsible as well. And some of the, it was interesting discussion. Some of the comments that came up were, you know, well, um, human beings, if they use the word evolve, evolve to run.

Therefore running is a more natural activity, whereas we didn’t evolve to do the clean and the snatch, therefore the clean and the snatch should require more coaching. I mean, the, the evolutionary argument, it’s interesting because you can justify any human behavior. You can justify with evolution like you can.

I mean, sitting behind a desk and being sedentary and staring at a computer screen and playing video games, we, we evolved to do that because we’re here and we’re doing it. We P we evolve to abuse drugs. We evolve to drive cars. So like, yes, throughout most of human history, you know, like there probably was more of an impetus on, or, or a need to do, you know, locomotive type activities.

And there is now, but even if you look at sprinting, right, like we didn’t necessarily evolve. We didn’t survive as a species because of our sprinting ability, except for, until we started domesticating animals, like cows. I would imagine that like most of the things that we ate throughout human history and then from like an evolutionary time perspective, we probably could not outrun our prey.

What, what allowed us to catch our prey was through like, you know, group hunting, tactics, socialization in our brains. We weren’t like physically superior to the animals that we ate. Like, do you think that, you know, people that ate Buffalo 200 years ago were outrunning Buffalo, like hell no. If they were relying on their sprinting ability to survive against Buffalo, we wouldn’t, we wouldn’t be here.

Right. Um, they, and they also learn how to ride horses and hunt awful Buffalo on horses. So we were actually riding on animals, picturing you and your short shorts, like chasing after a Buffalo with a spear and like outdoor running him. And then literally turning around. I mean maybe if there was enough spirits, we could get the Buffalo down, but I’m not, I’m not defeating the Buffalo by outrunning it.

So the evolutionary argument is interesting, but I don’t think that, you know, like we necessarily evolve to be great sprinters. And even if we have the biological genetic capability, To run. Well, whatever that means, because throughout much of human evolution, we were more active and we relied on locomotion more than we do now.

There’s also a huge environmental component to it. So like, even if you’re like a really high level athlete, you probably went to school at some point in your life and you spent eight hours a day behind a desk sitting in a chair, listening to your teachers. So like nowadays, even like the best runners in the world were, they were, they have a genetic predisposition to doing it, but they’re also trained and coached to run a certain way because, you know, unless you live in like a Hunter gatherer society, which most people don’t know, like.

Even the people in the final heat, the Olympics, they didn’t grow up, running away from wild animals. You know, they grew up being socialized, going to school and somebody notice they were fast. They probably got either discovered track and field on their own or, um, Somebody discovered them because they were fast in a team sport and they were coached to run the way that they do.

So I don’t think that like sprinting to run like 10 meters per second is something that we kind of evolve to do. So I don’t know if that evolutionary argument and it’s a common one, like should really explain why we put a lot more of an emphasis on, you know, regarding Olympic lifts as technical, but as sprinting, as something as natural and kind of the last point, you know, before you guys shut him in, as the idea of.

Self-organization and it’s often said that like, well, we’re, we just self-organized to run. If we play games and stuff like that, people will find the best technique. I think it’s, again, it’s problematic to say that just because someone sort of stumbles upon a certain technique on their own that’s necessarily the best solution.

And a lot of times, like, you know, athletes don’t live in an informational vacuum. Like most, most athletes have been coached good or bad to do certain things. So like if we get an athlete, right. And we say like, okay, like whatever your leg hurts, when you run, let’s watch you run on the treadmill, the chances of that person, you know, like that technique that we, we look at the first time.

Being quote, unquote natural, I think is pretty low because most people have been told things. So like if it’s somebody that ran cross country in high school, what if their coach told them like, yeah, if you want to run faster, you should link them their stride. That’s not self-organization they, they internalized an idea and they were trying to respond to that cue.

And it could be the case that 10 years later they’re doing the same thing, or they’re still hearing that coach’s voice in their head. So. We don’t live in an informational vacuum. Most athletes don’t have this perfect training environment where they’re exposed to all of these like rich sensory motor experiences, where now they can find without cuing the best, the best solution.

Now, I think that coaching allows for effective self-organization because if you’re coaching, you’re exposing the athlete to the proper training environments. You’re allowing them to find the right solutions. But I think that we shouldn’t assume that all athletes have access to good coaching. And self-organization also relies on having certain things available to you.

So like, for example, if you’re, if we let’s say we accept it to run well, your, your legs have to achieve certain joint angles. Well, what if you had like an ACL surgery where you were never rehab properly and you’re lacking knee flection and hip extension because you know, you never, you know, you never like worked on your quad early on in surgery.

Well, if you’re watching an athlete run and now they’ve got a low heel recovery, Are you going to say well that they self organize and that’s the best thing, or are you going to dig deeper and say, why do you have a lower heel recovery on one side versus the other? It could be because they don’t have that joint range of motion available to them.

So I think that the self-organization thing requires a lot more layers and scrutiny. And just say that athletes just automatically self-organized to find the quote unquote, best solution. Because that’s what evolution, um, you know, kind of like facilitated. I think again, we have to dig way deeper than that.

I think your point about the self-organization is huge because I think we think that everybody’s a blank canvas when they come in and see a coach or a therapist or whatever, and nobody is, unless they have literally never seen another. No, I’ve never had a sport coach or anything like that. Like, unless they’re eight years old and they’ve just been playing in the backyard by themselves and not having any outside input, then they are truly, you know, a blank canvas self-organizing.

But like you said, everybody has been taught or told to do something when they’re moving by a sport coach or by a parent right. Or wrong. That impacts how they move. Like the number of athletes that. When they accelerate or when they run or trying to stay low for, you know, over the first couple of steps in their head and shoulders or eight feet out in front of their feet.

It’s like, that’s an athlete who maybe they are quote unquote self-organizing right now, but that’s something for them to be an effective mover on the court or on the field. Like they should be cued and taught how to fix. And I think one of the other issues with this idea that, you know, we don’t want to coach or change sprinting is.

Like, I think it’s a couple things. It’s like a, like, people don’t know what some of the good sprinting things really are, which is why having an understanding of the mechanics and a foot strike positions and just the overall body postures and positions. We want people to be in impacts how we coach and how we cue.

Um, and that like your, your setting makes a huge difference in terms of like the ability that you have to spend time working on those things. And I think with, with the sprinting stuff, there is this idea that. It’s like you’re, you’re not letting people sprint if you’re just working on technique all the time.

And that’s not really what it is at all. Like when we were working on sprint techniques with the athletes that we train and that we work, you know, to get back to a sport, it’s not like we’re spending. Every session, working on them, working on mechanics until they finally look perfect. And then we can let them actually increase the velocity and try to run fast.

Like we’re giving them one or two per repetition of something to kind of work on to hopefully impact how the running changes over time. It’s not this thing where you are no longer allowed to run fast. If you don’t run, if you’re running, doesn’t meet our technical model perfectly. So it’s like, there’s this idea of like, We see over coaching, what’s running, where people make it to cognitive.

Right. Mental. We were trying to think about a million things, but like, I mean, when we watched like Derek Hanson, uh, coach, I was one of the things I think completely changed my mind about coaching sprinting, probably. Cause I would say like I was in the camp where I’m like, Oh, just let them sprint, like let them do do the thing.

But then you watch Derek coach, coach, and he makes these unbelievable mechanical changes with acute, like up, he just says, Oh, I just want to think about the whole time that you’re running. Just go up, bring your arms up, get your knees up. And like, Oh my God, that run looks. A million times better. So it’s like little simple, quick changes.

If you know what you’re doing. And you’re a great coach with like someone like Derek can make a huge difference in someone’s running mechanics and make them change their efficiency and change their actual output that they’re doing. So it’s like, let’s say it doesn’t matter is it is almost like short-sighted to, to a certain degree because you can make those changes relatively quickly and it doesn’t need, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be sprinting or training acceleration of max velocity.

If it doesn’t look quote unquote. Perfect. Right now. Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And I think what you said about like, you know, if you’re just haven’t been exposed to the coaching or you haven’t seen quality coaching done for anything in this case, we’re talking about sprinting, but if it’s like changing direction, agility worker, even like deadlifting, whatever it is.

Like if you haven’t been exposed to good coaching or haven’t learned how to coach, well, then it’s almost like a, well, I don’t know how to change it, so I’m just gonna kinda let it go and, and hope for the best. And. Um, I definitely remember thinking about that a lot with like change of direction stuff, you know, when I was like 23, 24 or whatever.

Um, and in my mind is just like, well, that looks it’s happening so fast that like, I don’t know that I want to tell them to do something, which is like, yeah, you probably wouldn’t want to tell them to do something you want to just give them something to do, give them a constraint or give them a drill to work on.

Or maybe you give them one simple cue. Like you’re saying like up. Um, and maybe that can fix things and like, that’s something that I just was never exposed to at that point in time. And now after, you know, meeting Lee and learning a lot from Lee, as well as Derek with, uh, the course that he, he put on for us, um, it’s definitely like, wow, we can really change a lot of things.

And that goes back to like, Our profession in general. Like if you’re, if you’re in this profession and you’re saying like, don’t even bother coaching, like, why are you even here? And, um, you know, like this whole, the thing about like, Oh, just like let them squat. And like, whatever squat shows up is is good enough.

It’s like, well then, like, how do people wind up in a, in a doctor’s office? Like after they hurt themselves squatting, it’s like, they probably weren’t doing it appropriately or like their program wasn’t appropriate either. Like there’s public, there’s a lot of different factors, but, um, to be like, Oh, it’s okay for that spine to undulate under 405 pounds.

Cause it’s just self-organizing is complete trash and that’s just like, yeah, it’s complete garbage. And that’s just saying like, I’m useless as a professional if you’re okay with that. Like I think you guys would completely agree and I think, um, I think we’re all fine saying that publicly because. Why else would we have this job?

Um, and yeah. And that goes back to like, you know, you guys are talking about people showing up with like preconceived notions or like maybe they were coached to do something one way previously. And like, what about the flip side? What if somebody did come in and they, they weren’t coached at all and their entire life to do anything physical and move a certain way.

And then you have the squat and it looks like trash. Like that doesn’t mean it’s good for them. Like that’s what the other end of the coin would be, is like, Oh, well, like whatever they do, they’ve never been coached. So like, it’s fine. It’s good enough. And we’re not, we’re not okay with that. We have a model of movement that we want people to be close to.

Nothing’s perfect. Then we’re fine with that. And like Trevor said, we’re not spending an entire hour, like working on somebody squat, like that’s, that’s also a waste of time. There’s an evolution to it. And. Yeah. You just use the word evolution after we spoke a lot about it, but there’s an evolution to it.

There’s a progression. There’s, it’s a skill. Like everything takes time. Um, and you know, even within a session, like everything’s an assessment. So if I’m watching a kid know some sort of like lateral cut movement and I don’t really like how it looks, I might not really know right now because I’m not an expert on that.

Like how to fix it in the moment, but I’m going to think about it. And the next time I see him, I’m going to have something to do with that kid. And that’s. That’s what I think being a good professional should be, is like, you’re, you’re finding solutions for things. Maybe it’s not in the moment because if you’re not skilled with that yet, um, then there is a solution for some, for, for everything or there should be.

Um, and, uh, it’s just a matter of finding it and then letting that process happen. And, you know, it’s like nobody, nobody just wakes up one day and can. Squat four Oh five, like that takes a long time to happen. Um, you know, trained for a long time and practice these things. And that’s what our move, you know, quote unquote, moving specialists.

That’s what we are. Right. So just saying it’s okay to move. However you are, uh, moving to begin with is not, that’s not a really, really robust specialty to me. A couple of things that you guys maybe think of is. Having a model of movement doesn’t mean that you don’t allow for individual variation, like a good model of movement should have certain principles.

You expect people to abide by, but while also allowing for kind of idiosyncratic behavior. And like we talk about in our movement foundations course, there’s always like this. The extremes are rigidity and chaos. If you’re overly dogmatic and you have this model of movement that doesn’t allow for any individual variation or any kind of flexibility.

That’s rigidity that that’s no good, but chaos is nihilism. Chaos is saying like, it doesn’t matter how you do anything. You’re, you’re, you’re naturally going to find the right solution. Like that’s, th those two extremes are both, I think, very problematic. You want to have, you know, something that, that has some structure, but also allows for some flexibility.

That’s the interplay. It’s that gray area between rigidity and chaos. That’s what a good model of movement should allow for. And again, the idea that like, we’re going to say that Olympic lifting is technical because we didn’t evolve to do it. But sprinting is natural because we evolved to do it in 2020.

Like, I don’t think that sprinting at max velocity is a natural activity. So I think that teaching sprinting from a model of movement that also accounts for, you know, individual differences in physiology and biomechanics and lever length, and also the sports somebody plays. Right? Because it’s like a running back is accelerating that running back might not want to have like a, you know, that vertical line 45 degree angle, because then if they get popped.

You know, they’re not gonna be able to maintain their balance or change direction, or like, you know, if that running back knows that even near max velocity, they might have to, you know, avoid contact. Well, if you’re really upright, people are tackling you that you’re going to get pancakes. So we’re not teaching or running back how to, you know, run from a track and field model with decent, upright mechanics.

If they have those that running back has that available to him. He can always divert diverged from it when people are chasing them. But in the open field, when there’s nobody around that running back might actually be able to create more separation by having better quote unquote you know, upright mechanics.

So there’s that. And then, you know, Greg, to your point about like the squatting and the, the dead lifting and just saying, cause I I’ve seen other threads and it’s the same thread every time where it’s like, Oh, well, you know, There’s we’ve, we’ve shown that the spine, there’s no such thing as a neutral spine, the spine always moves under load.

Therefore just kind of let people do what they want when they squat or deadlift. Like none of us would dispute that if you look at a. Even a highly trained Olympic lifter doing a squat or a powerlifter, you know, with electrodes and fancy equipment that like, there’s going to be movement in his lumbar spine and even a little bit of flection.

But that doesn’t mean that like when you’re watching that person with your eyes, there’s different degrees. Like yeah. Some movement is always going to occur, but are you okay with that? Person’s spine moving like an accordion, because that’s not the same as it moving a little bit. Like there’s degrees of it again, we’re trying to avoid the extreme.

So that’s why I wish that. Instead of these abstract discussions in a way it’s why Instagram can be very useful. It’s like show yourself or an athlete. You work with squatting or deadlifting, that’s going to tell everybody what you think is acceptable from a technique standpoint. Cause I doubt that even the people that are, that are saying like, you know, there’s no such thing as a neutral spine.

I really doubt that when they have somebody that comes in with like back pain from squatting, they say, you know what? Just. Do whatever you want, we’re just going to lower the weight and then ramp you back up. Like, I don’t think anyone is that extreme in their beliefs, but I frankly think that, especially in our profession, that physical therapy, if you want to get other professionals to kind of like, you know, applaud you, you talk about self-organization you talk about how there’s no neutral spine.

There’s no bad movement. And we’re not saying that there is a neutral spine or that there is bad movement per se, but there’s degrees of it. And if you don’t have any model of movement, I don’t think that that’s really responsible for a physical therapist to be saying, because why are you a physio or a coach, if you don’t believe that there’s, you know, there’s different degrees of good and bad when it comes to movement while also a layer allowing for individual variation.

Anything else with that? I think we beat it up. I mean, it’s going to keep coming up because people are going to keep having the same conversations. We’ll talk about this in six months and we can literally have this conversation every week. Cause it’s the same, the same threads. And it’s, that’s why, like we always talk about show the programming that you’re doing and show what things look like, whether it’s yourself or someone else, because otherwise it’s just abstraction and yeah.

Then don’t have a conversation unless you can do that because then we’re just talking about nothing. You’re just talking about. You’re you’re comparing what you imagine versus what somebody else is imagining, which probably isn’t the same as what you’re imagining. So then you’re not even talking about the same thing.

It’s just this vicious cycle of, of talking about nothing. Um, so that’s why we like to share stuff because I mean the body and the body can adapt to anything. This is true, but even, you know, I want to actually get a running researcher on to talk about like what, what the data shows and the research shows about.

Running technique and injuries because there isn’t great research to show that modifying your technique necessarily changes injury. But then again, that’s not the only reason to do something like there’s also there’s performance, there’s injury, you know, risk, all these variables that would influence what kind of, you know, mechanics you want an athlete to display.

But I also hear people talk outside of both sides, sides of their mouth, because a lot of like, kind of running based physios will say, look, there’s no good and bad running. It’s load management. You know, even if you’re hurting to spill yourself back up, but a lot of those same people are universally endorsed.

Hey, if you want to get back to running, um, increase your cadence as well. If you increase somebody’s kids, you change their mechanics. Cause you’re going to store it in their stride. Like that is a, that’s a mechanical phenomenon. It’s also a neurophysiological phenomenon because if you change the motor pattern, you’re loading different shit tissues.

It may change a sensation of pain, but there’s no. There’s no differentiating biomechanics from neurophysiology, because anytime you, you know, you change something like stride length, we’re going to change mechanics and you’re going to change all that. Neurophysiologic neurophysiology as well. So it’s like, people are just, it’s, it’s become like a confession to say, like we coach mechanics.

It’s like, I don’t think it’s a dirty thing to say. And again, we’re not saying that, like, we expect everyone to look and move the same, but to say that, that it doesn’t matter at all. It’s very disappointing. And I think scary coming from a profession where that’s supposed to be like your identity. It’s like, what is the identity of physical therapy?

If you don’t believe that there’s any degree, any degrees or any of, of good and bad movement or that technique doesn’t matter because coaches seemed to think it matters. And if you look at even like in skiing, a sport like skiing, like even without being trained as a ski coach, you can look at different people and say, okay, like this there’s a, there’s an aesthetic to good movement.

And there’s a reason why the people that are in the Olympics for skiing, they’re doing certain things to get their skis on edge and manage forces that allow them to ski at that speed under control. And there’s reasons why novices aren’t able to do that. And some of it is just pure genetic talent. Some of it’s pure physical ability, but it’s also the fact that like really good skiers have been coached to do certain things.

Um, and I don’t think that like, there’s a lot of really elite skiers as an example that have self-organized and just done it with no coaching. I don’t think there’s any track and field athletes that have made it to the Olympics with no coaching or Olympic weightlifters. So, um, you know, team sport athletes.

So. If you’re a coach, there’s nothing wrong with, with coaching. It doesn’t make you bad. Yeah. And to your point, you mentioned like being interested in talking to a researcher and how, like, there’s not a lot of research on mechanics and injuries and stuff like that. I even saw something about somebody posted some resources months ago, about how like acute to chronic workloads with runners.

Isn’t like, you know, significantly things that we should even worry about based on the research and like that doesn’t make any sense to me too, because you’re then comparing people who don’t run the same to each other. And then you’re just, uh, you know, if you put somebody who doesn’t in our world run well enough, and then you just put a ton of volume on them, they’re going to break down sooner than somebody who runs the same amount or shoots the run the same amount in our eyes.

So like, even that research to me is kind of like, well, if that matters and. Some of these people were coached and some of these people weren’t coached. So you’re not even comparing apples to apples with that, that same research. So, um, yeah, just, just made me think of that. But if you guys don’t have anything else, I think we should close this one down.

Awesome. To be continued. We’ll do this again in a few weeks or a month or whatever, but, uh, thanks for listening and we look forward to having you next time. Thanks everybody.