I know a few respected colleagues that have mastered the ability to see things that I never could see.One of them could see if his high jumper is taking off at an angle of 36.5 or 37.0 degrees, another one can see if a sprinter’s right gluteus medius is firing or his rectus femoris is contracting at the right speed, this while the athlete is moving at 11 meters per second.
To prevent straw man arguments, I understand that jumping power and other technical factors are part of jumping, but for the matter of simplicity, I am going to talk about approach velocities. Top speed doesn’t give you an automatic bid to jump far, but jumping far with below average speed is a recipe for failure. Looking at the best jumpers in the world the data is clear. Some pundits will attack coaches, attack research, and even attack the athletes themselves, but this is a history lesson in what is working and what is not. Right now we need a balance between great coaching art and data. You can’t have one as they compliment each other. Being a lab tech will make practices slow and artificial, but blind direction will doom the most talented of coaches.
Henk’s post on gifts is exactly the right direction we need. I am frankly disturbed that we seem to talk data but most of the observations I see with presentations is that the obvious is lost. So easy to claim that we are doing more than we do, but I think honesty is when objective meets collaboration. More eyeballs the better. The same with approach speeds and coaches claiming they see all of the angles and step patterns? Oh really. I recently had a coach visit me working with a long jumper as I was doing video for the jump coach as a favor. The graduate assistant was shocked that the coach with 20 years of experience could not tell the difference between 10.3 and 10.7 meters per second with the naked eye. Take off angle and knee joint position? Most coaches see the big picture and some are very talented and have shutter speeds that can catch movement at high speeds. My vision is better than 20/20, but having good eyes doesn’t mean much without having a working model. On the other hand, without objective data models become very difficult to make.
One year I had my program reviewed by another coach and I got ripped apart because the imbalance of objective and subjective data. While I was praised on record keeping, without solid objective records, it becomes a bards tale instead of a lesson in better engineering. The problem I was told is confirmation bias and ego ruins coaches because they rarely need to prove anything as most athletes just get better in time from competition and general factors. Did the athlete get better or did the meet conditions improve. For example last year I was at a meet and the weather was 72 degrees. This year 63 and overcast. Comparison is difficult but the most simple of questions must be answered.
How was the athlete better than last year?
How globally fast is the athlete? Is it transferring to the approach?
Is the athlete using the speed with their jump mechanics and power development?
Are they comfortable and consistent? Is that being worked on and is it improving?
Analog options are nice to have, but distance and velocity for speed on the runway is not evil. You don’t have to do it every day but testing is important. With the right set-up I find that collecting the data passively allows me to focus on wet clay and allow the science to be done without effort. The best technologies are the ones you don’t notice. Some find collecting data is a burden and sometimes it is. So is training! I have become more data driven because I have second guessed my education and information presented to me. I have tried honestly many programs and have yet to see it replicate with not only myself, but other coaches who felt that certain systems or methods would impact. Some options have worked like a charm and I thank god that I was at the right place at the right time. Some coaches have shared items that they never used in their own program! The lesson here is how does one know what is getting the athlete better? Without a combination of history, theory, and good data, it’s more voodoo and legendary stories than repeatable options.