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4/30/2013 2:14:58 PM -
Know your role...

My niche is American football. I played the sport, I’ve coached the sport, and I’ve physically prepared many athletes who’ve been successful in the sport. My own career, combined with years of researching and networking with some of the best coaches in the sport, has led me to develop a high degree of confidence in my ability to teach athletes to play the game—both from a physical and technical standpoint (as well as tactical).

Although I’ve “helped out” athletes in other sports from time to time, I don’t know how to get a bodybuilder ready for a show. I have no clue how to train a female cross-country runner. And I wouldn’t have the faintest idea—nor would I give two shits—how to prepare someone for a CrossFit competition.

This is one man’s opinion (mine), mind you, but the same is true of a lot of other coaches I respect. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Shelby Starnes. I like the guy personally, and I respect him professionally (and personally, too). Shelby doesn’t talk to me about zone blocking or improving the get-off of a 2 technique, and I don’t tell him how to deplete for a show. The same applies to several other guys I respect in the business. They stick with their niche, and if they’re going to publicly go outside of their niche, they do shitloads of research before they say anything.

The same can’t be said of certain others, and I find this very interesting. It’s almost a bit of a “God complex” thing, where, if you’re a fitness guy who gets his ass kissed in one niche for long enough, you tend to think you’re free to comment on technical points within other niches.

And again, this can be okay if you’re sticking to what you know. Guys like Shelby would probably be okay commenting on football stuff if they have someone advising them with regard to the energy system needs and practice/competition schedules within the sport. If I laid out this schedule for Shelby, I’d trust him to come up with something good. What I would not trust, however, is for a bodybuilding guy (or a guy from any other niche) to start spouting information based on his own impressions of what the sport requires, i.e., without first talking to people to see what actually happens in the sport.

That’s where we run into problems, both in the information that’s put online, and in the clinics and seminars we attend. There are guys who are so awesome in a singular niche that they attract literally thousands of followers within that niche. They build their online presence, they sell their products and services, and they get “famous” within this sphere.

This, unfortunately leads to two things. First, they believe their expertise has carryover to other niches—niches where people in their realm have already spent dozens of years developing proficiency. Next, the crowd in the new niche, desperate for new information, wants to “give it a shot” with these other-niche-experts, so they offer a platform from which this expert can reach an expanded audience.

The problem for me here is that each individual sport requires years of study to master. I’ve spent years learning about football. Decades. And I’ve gotten good at it. I have no doubt that were I to have the same level of experience with basketball or gymnastics, that I would be fairly competent in this disciplines. Outside of playing high school basketball, however, I don’t claim to possess a high degree of expertise in the sport.

Therefore, I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to write articles about basketball or give speeches about the sport to groups of people who are better versed in its nuances than I am. If you don’t want to sound forced, or sound like you’re making a blatant play for attention—and increased business—you need to spend years learning about the biomechanics, etc, of the sport. I can’t just spend a few days thinking about what I think happens in basketball, with my limited knowledge base, then profess to have a superior understanding of it. It simply doesn’t work that way.

Whether we’re talking about powerlifting, football, or cricket, sport coaches are both easy to impress and hard to impress. If you cover all your bases and you know what you’re talking about, you’re probably exceptionally advanced in your niche, at least as far as they’re concerned, and they’ll be impressed and listen to what you’re saying. We’ll turn on your, however, at the first crack in your logic. If you make a mistake or misapply something, it makes it blatantly obvious that you’re trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

In other words, your niche might fit into what we do, and it may even help win us championships, but if you have no experience with our sport and can’t tell us specifically how it applies to our athletes—and what we’re using it for—without sounding like you’re obviously engaging in speculation, we’re going to tune you out.

In other words, if Shelby came up and started talking about how to “make weight” for a football game because it helps with tackling technique, I’d toss the rest of what he was telling me, because that’s a telltale sign that he knows absolutely nothing about my sport, its biodynamic, bioenergetics, and biomechanical needs—or its rules, for that matter.

And for the record, I’m just using Shelby as a totally fictional and hypothetical example. I’m fairly certain Shelby could pick out a football in a lineup. Whether he’d care is a different story, but the point here is that he’s not going around masquerading as an expert in anything else but the thing he’s an expert at.

That’s where the whole “money grab” thing comes into effect, and it’s what bothers me about the entire industry. You’ll get a guy who’s had some modicum of success in one sphere, and he’ll use that popularity as a point of entry into another sphere—one in which he’s developed a knowledge base of approximately nothing. This is perfectly fine if there are people around to call him out and tell the uninitiated that the guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

This, however, rarely happens, because people are free to broadcast whatever they want, wherever they want. And again, what bothers me most is that there are too many 15-year-old kids in the world—the kids we used to be—who believe these people are credible sources because they’re endorsed in glowing testimonials by their blowjob marketing partners.

Meanwhile, it has nothing to do with the information, and everything to do with making money—and the guy that pays the price is you, or your kid, or the kids you coach.

And it’s highly doubtful any of this will ever change.

Angry Coach

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