Black Swans and the Court Jesters of Randomness


I read Kebba Tolbert’s post on Biomotor Threshold and enjoyed his understanding of not getting caught up with numbers. The irony is I am interested in the human side of coaching, as numbers are just a starting point. My concern is that pop journalism masqueraded as science frightens me as I am seeing a trend infecting sport science at the highest level. Conceptually the analogies are very helpful, and I am guilty of doing this weekly with my own writing, but we need a balance or we can get caught up on drone behaviors.

When I was reading Taleb’s work I was worried that I would start blogging about it and create a bigger problem with other coaches thinking too much about the outliers instead of the most likely. Black Swan theory is real, but is what we want to worry about? I don’t know, but worrying about randomness is dangerous as well. It was easy to push the world record by Bolt in the 200 as a Black Swan event until Blake ran his blistering time last year with a reaction time and start that cost him the world record.

The medical community has a saying that one should look for horses, not zebras, when we see hoof prints on the ground. Yet we want to talk about zebras not getting ulcers in blogs about stress or even my own interest in data analysis when simple attendance records are likely to be the highest value. What I am trying to say is that I think we over think the obvious because the answer is too simple or basic. We want more black swans because the clear or objective is too much to swallow. My fear is that we are trying to get proprioception data of the left knee because of a screen instead of general fitness tests and body weight. My fear is that we are looking at the left rib during breathing assessments instead of the left leg looking like Twiggy. Sort of like the Big Rocks and sand talk people repost as gospel, but later on talk about therapy on the left toe to get magical results. I have always praised the little things add up the spectacular, but glaring deficits will trump the cool little things we think are valuable. Performance concerns starts with a hierarchy of what is valuable, and my suspicion is mastering the basics is more sharpening the most valuable of tools.
Discuss entry

Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

Latest posts by Carl Valle (see all)