Zebra Zombies- Rebooting Education in Performance


When you hear hoofbeats behind you, don’t expect to see a zebra

-Dr. Theodore Woodward

Robert Sapolsky is popular and that is a good thing, but my fear is some of the best materials are lost because they are not cool or trendy. I asked a strength and conditioning group in an exercise science class during one summer who was Al Vermeil and nobody raised their hand. I asked the same question on a fitness coach who was under 30 at the time and everyone knew him. When I showed video of his training five years earlier, everyone looked down at their desk uncomfortable and disappointed. The reality is not as fun as the fantasy.

Some older coaches are turned off by the new breed of coaches who have far more information at their fingertips and are razor smart. I see potential as education has benefit if directed the right way. Unfortunately nobody wants to talk about the need to set-up equipment and do attendance while everyone is talking about cool things and cool books on twitter. I am not on twitter technically, as don’t like public discussion that seems more like bragging, but I am watching some of the conversation and see an alarming trend.

Everyone apparently has no problems that are timeless, such as lazy athletes and difficult practice and game schedules. Everyone is in Utopian environments with athletes eating clean, going to bed at 10:30 after doing static stretches for HRV changes, and entering a 5 minute POMS score and RPE. The real issue is how to manipulate the small sided games and corrective exercises to improve REM sleep. Right.

Ahead of Print research means you are ahead of the curve, except speaking about the fact athletes are dogging warm-ups and skipping lifting sessions really means their ANS is drained and they are self auto regulating their CNS fatigue. The more extreme the research the more sophisticated one is.

Data on twitter is cool, except for comparison or longitudinal data that shows simple and repeatable testing in performance. Let’s not show 30m dash times or CMJ scores, let’s show catapult data that is completely out of context. Having GPS data with proprietary load metrics is perfect for those who don’t want the average college coach to say doesn’t look like anything is getting done besides babysitting.

The more out of the field a book is, the smarter the coach is. The super coach can take abstract economics books about banking crisis and show how the parasympathetic system is connected in soccer or rugby. Of course all of this is hidden behind their team of data staff using their own proprietary algorithms that NASA and China would pay millions for. Asking for strength or speed data and medical or privacy laws are brought up, so why host an education workshop or mentorship program?

So the question is how to change this or is their an antidote? Who are good resources? What are great books? Where are the best conferences? I have my biases but I think those questions are the right ones. 10 years ago Supertraining was the text you must have. A few years ago Anatomy Trains was all the rage. Now DNS is the secret weapon. Yet we still have athletes that need to get leaner, athletes who show up needing conditioning, athletes not going full range on lifts, and athletes that walk off instead of doing stretches or range of motion work. Sometimes the obvious is the most needed, but it’s hard to be cool when one is counting time during hamstring flexibility work day after day.

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

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