My personal philosophy is that knowledge is power. Forty plus years ago the avenues to pursue knowledge were much narrower that they are today. Then it was the library, phone calls and letters. Today we have instant information (Notice I did not say knowledge) a world where anyone can be an expert with the click of a mouse. Ideas can go “viral” and take on a life of their own in an instant. This is both good and bad.
The upside of the internet is the access to scientific studies, papers, thesis and dissertations that in the past would have taken months of time and much expense to compile that I now can do online. This past week as I was doing some research for a project I have been working on I started thinking about why I selected certain sources and rejected others. My conclusion was that my past experience is what helps me keep my bullshit filter fine tuned, it was the things I had to do before the internet that gave me the tools to separate the wheat from the chaff. I also realized that that so much of my early learning and sharing of knowledge was observation, personal, and face to face conversations with colleagues. My concern is that we are getting away from that.
I also think being a generalist is a terrific advantage. Today’s world seems to demand increasing specialization, a narrowing of knowledge into very specific channels. If you are in this trap break out, look outside your sport, look outside your discipline, you will find that other people in widely divergent fields are working on solving the same problems you are. If you are in a school, university or training center walk down the hall and talk to another coach in a sport as far away from your sport as possible. You will be surprised at what you will learn. Being a generalist demands big picture thinking, it is as far from reductionism as you can get. Pondering and debating if it is 3 x 5 at 95.345% or 5 x 3 at 96.897% is an exercise in futility. Step back, look at what you are trying to accomplish, have a clear picture of the end result and get started. It reminds me of the debate about the squat or the clean I saw somewhere. What difference does it make? What are you trying to accomplish? How do you want to get there? Then chose the appropriate exercise that will get the job done, it is seldom an either or proposition, it is definitely more than an exercise. It takes some knowledge coupled with experience to know what to chose.
If I were starting out again the first thing I would do would be seek out someone with gray hair who had traveled the path before, had made mistakes and learned from them. This approach is much more productive than the mutual masturbation that passes for information exchange on many of the discussion groups and web sites today. Bottom line is, read a book, find a mentor and coach; there is no substitute for getting your hands dirty and practicing.