The other day someone asked me what the functional path was? Good question and certainly a legitimate question. The functional path is a metaphorical journey in pursuit of knowledge, wisdom and understanding of the fundamental truths of training an athlete for optimum performance. The journey began in the early 1960’s, actually well before I even started coaching, as soon as I started training as an athlete around the age of 16. I started looking for the best way to train, I did not have much guidance aside from some coaching in the actual sport techniques and tactics, but there just was no help on speed development, strength training, flexibility etc; So to improve athleticism I had to go on my own. I was determined to find out everything I could to improve myself. The more I learned the more determined I became.
When I started coaching in 1969 I had moved onto the functional path. Honestly, then it seemed pretty clear to me I had all the answers I thought I needed. It was going to be direct and straightforward, wide and fast like a superhighway. I had done more reading and research, some of my classes in college helped and I had been experimenting on myself for a few years and I had improved my speed, strength and flexibility. What I had really done was make a bunch of mistakes (I did not know they were mistakes at the time) but I worked very hard and improved. Unfortunately instead of learning from these mistakes I kept repeating them for my first several years of coaching. The athletes improved, but certainly not at a rate and magnitude commensurate with the work. This was the first exit off the functional path. I had no road map, my compass was oriented to magnetic north and I ended up on a dead end street. I needed to get back on the main road. When I did I got in the slow lane, bought a current road map and reoriented the compass to true north. I also got some good guides (mentors) and listened to them. So with more research, more observation of great coaches and great athletes and I got back on the main path again.
It seems that this has been an ongoing process, a continuing journey to learn and improve my coaching. As I gathered experiences, made more mistakes and learned from them, the path opened up and destination became clearer. There were many road blocks and detours and there have been times when I have had to blaze a new path, because no one had been there before. At other times I found that many had explored and blazed the path before me and all I needed to do was learn what they had done and apply it.
As I more forward in the later stages of my career I heed the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” There are new worlds to explore and ideas to learn, that is what makes traveling on the functional path so challenging and motivating. I hope to have the continued opportunity to share my travels on the functional path and blaze some trails.