Knowledge Without the Right Tools

Today I was trying to fix my lawnmower. I fancy myself fairly handy (my wife has her doubts). I was attempting to clean the carburetor. This part provides oxygen to gas for combustion or something, all I know is it was probably dirty and that is why my lawnmower wouldn’t start (thanks google). Like pretty much everyone in the age of smartphones, I googled the symptoms, got a diagnostic and then went on YouTube to figure out how to fix it. Armed with a step-by-step video, I went to grab my tools it was only then that I realized I had taken my wrench and ratchet set over to Prototype Sports Performance to put together some new racks and not brought them back.

Being a Sunday, the 30 minute round trip to the gym seemed daunting; so I decided to assemble what tools I could find and attempt to get the carburetor pulled apart. Almost an hour passed futilly trying to squeeze ill fitted tools into tight spaces to no avail (I am nothing if not persistent). Finally, after a bucket of sweat and a few curse words, I bit the bullet, hopped in the car and went to pick up the necessary tools from the gym. 35 minutes later, the carburetor was reassembled and the lawnmower purring like a kitten with a can of tuna.

Moral of the story: Knowledge without the proper tools for application is pretty useless. Invest the time into acquiring the necessary tools to ensure that the knowledge you possess is more than just an exercise in academia.

For coaches this means going beyond the textbooks. Beyond the blogs. Beyond the YouTube and Instagram videos. This is understanding the practical implications of what you’ve learned in theory about periodization, energy systems, force production, etc., and how to best adapt and apply it for the benefit of the athlete. Want your athletes to Olympic Lift? Go learn HOW to properly execute and coach the lifts. Want to incorporate sprinting into your programming? Visit track coaches and learn what and more importantly WHY the do things, and then figure out what is appropriate for the adaptations you are trying to elicit. Want your athletes to BUY IN to your program? Improve your ability to communicate effectively, foster relationships, create connections for a variety of learners and earn their trust.

Check out “Is What You Said, What They Heard?”

For Strength and Conditioning coaches, the tools that make you valuable to your athletes, are the ability to not only access information (anybody can do that now), but to disseminate that knowledge for how it is best used in practice. The ability to understand the minutiae of complex biomechanics and be able to boil it down to its simplest form for digestion by the athlete, who can subsequently use that information to maximize their training time. To be able to communicate why you are asking your athletes to do specific things and, in the same breath, listen to their feedback/concerns/complaints and give it credence and consideration. Most importantly, the ability to act as an insulated conduit, which eliminates the noise and provides an environment where athletes can pursue excellence in the most effective and efficient way.

The coaches who do not invest their time, money and attention to obtaining the proper tools necessary to help their athletes, will take said athletes (assuming they are able to fool any into training with them) down a long meandering journey, trying to fit the wrong tools into tight spaces, resulting in, at best ineffective development with disengaged athletes and at worst injury and lost potential.

Want to be a Strength and Conditioning coach? Do you possess a full tool box? (Hint, none of us do) Are you willing to detour in order to pick up necessary tools to give your athletes the best possible coaching and programming? How much are you willing to invest in yourself and your athletes? How open are your constantly re-evaluating the tools you’ve got, even if you’ve invested a ton in them, to decide if they are still the best ones for the job? If these things don’t sound appealing to you, that’s ok. But, please find a new profession. For all of you rock stars who think this sounds like a worthy lifetime pursuit, be like Tim Taylor and go hunt for “More POWER!” And then look me up, because I’m forever in search of inquisitive minds to pick.

Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read this. If you enjoyed it, please like, share, follow, comment, Let’s get the conversation going!

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