OK… maybe the title of ‘You’re Not an Expert,’ is a bit harsh, as you could certainly be an expert in a specific area – but in respect to endurance sports, both as an athlete and coach, it is impossible to be an expert in all areas. In my prior career as a personal trainer, fitness facilities would often ask for trainers’ bio’s to promote them. It was not uncommon to see bio’s that read, “Specialize in fat loss, toning, sports performance, muscle gain, stretching, pre/post rehab, working with beginners, pre/post natal, corrective exercise, youth and older populations”.… really? I was always sort of surprised that these individuals also didn’t include master plumber, car mechanic and general contractor on their bios!
I Didn’t Know That!
I’ve been a competitive cyclist since the age of 14 (yes, I’m old now!) and was a USAC cycling coach for quite a long time and consider myself to be somewhat a student of the sport of cycling. However, when I started to speak to the high level contributors for the UESCA Cycling Coach Certification, I was blown away! Not only did I pick up some new tidbits of information, but as it turns out, many of my current beliefs about cycle coaching were flat out wrong. Whether it be specifics regarding drafting formations or power analysis, I was humbled to say the least.
Learning is Not Static
What is true and factual today might not be tomorrow. The goal of a coach should be to stay as up to date as possible on sports science and in particular, new research and information in respect to the sport(s) that they coach. While doing this will likely not qualify you as an ‘expert’ in any particular area, it will ensure that you’re doing your best to stay current on the most recent sport science information. Because here’s the thing… let’s assume you’re an expert in a particular area, if you don’t stay up to date both in terms of learning and the application of that knowledge, you’re no longer an expert.
Seek Out Specialists
Whether you’re an athlete looking to optimize your training and racing or you’re a coach looking to get the most out of your athletes, one thing is certain – you can’t go it alone.
Just like you wouldn’t seek out a primary care physician to perform your rotator cuff surgery, you shouldn’t seek out a ‘generalist’ when looking for the best and most cutting edge information. Thanks to blogs, podcasts, etc… it’s not hard to identify those that are the best people in particular areas and read/listen/watch what they have to say.
In creating the UESCA certifications, we went out of our way to find the best contributors and advisors for specific areas. For example, we sought out an environmental physiologist, an overtraining syndrome expert, a sports psychologist who focuses on endurance sport athletes, an cycling-specific aerodynamics expert, a leading dietician whose focus is endurance sport athletes, etc…
In reviewing their content, I realized the value of seeking out specialists and moreover, despite personally reviewing thousands of peer-reviewed articles previously in the area of endurance sports, I realized how much I still didn’t know!
Therefore, as both a coach and athlete, I would recommend writing down a list of the areas that you want to learn more about (ex: biomechanics, nutrition, power) and then perform some due diligence in respect to who is considered an expert in these areas and read/listen/watch content that they produced and/or contributed to.
If you ever come across someone that claims to be an expert in all areas of endurance sports or even all areas within a particular sport… run away! As alluded to earlier in the personal trainer example, not only is being an ‘expert’ in all areas impossible, but it should not be your goal. As a coach, you should have a solid understanding of most areas of the sport(s) you coach and maybe consider yourself a specialist in a particular area – but for most areas, you should source the information from those that truly are experts in the respective fields.
Experience Does not Equal Expert Status
To be clear, there is no substitute for experience as there is a lot of knowledge that is gleaned from experience that sitting through college classes or reading peer-reviewed journals won’t teach you. That said, all too often, coaches solely equate their time within a sport to being an expert. This is also the case with one’s speed/race placings or the number of races they have done… but I’ll save that fun little rant for another post 🙂
The reality is that experience is a critical part of one’s knowledge, but it isn’t the whole picture. Becoming an ‘expert’ is a combination of education, experience, staying current and seeking out as many resources and mentors as possible.
You will not be an expert at all things within your sport and you know what? That is not only OK… but it is expected and normal. You should not strive to be an expert in all areas of your sport, but rather seek out the expertise of those that are experts.
Final thought: Stay humble, be teachable and have fun!
Rick Prince is the founder of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science-based endurance sports education company. UESCA educates and certifies running, ultrarunning, cycling and triathlon coaches (nutrition coming soon!) worldwide on a 100% online platform.
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Click here to check out our UESCA Running Certification
Click here to check out our UESCA Ultrarunning Certification
Click here to check out our UESCA Cycling Certification
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