Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Basketball and Other Examples of Evidence-Based Coaching



"Tradition." Much of what we do follows tradition. Separating facts and opinion demands data, egoless interpretation, and time to wound all heels. 

Seven words have wrought much chaos and destruction. "This time it's different," and "in my experience." Both reflect cognitive bias; that informs overconfidence or arrogance. We can restrain the voice inside yapping, "I always know best." We all have ego; but is ego our master or do we master our ego? 

Sometimes conventional wisdom bites us in the backside. In 2005, the Federal Reserve Chairman announced, "I guess I don't buy your premise. It's a pretty unlikely possibility. We've never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So what I think is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize: might slow consumption spending a bit. I don't think it's going to drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though." 


Chart from The Economist

That prophecy went horribly wrong, in part triggering the global financial crisis. Easy credit and experts went off the rails. 

Doctors believed that suppressing rhythm disturbance after heart attacks reduced the risk of death. We knew that.


A pair of studies proved those ideas not only wrong, but harmful. The story is not unique. False Hope describes the acceptance of bone marrow transplantation for breast cancer followed by study showing it ineffective. Many of the brightest minds in cancer treatment were undermined by data. We doctors get it wrong, too. 



Brian McCormick has become the strongest voice for changing the way we practice. He is not alone. Our members are represented. 



"Tape your ankles." Sound advice, except it didn't restrain ankle laxity after forty-five minutes.

"See the game." Software developed for the Israeli Air Force helps train hockey and basketball players. The software helped elite athletes improve time and space relationship. Correlation may not prove causation, but "out of 30 National Hockey League draft picks in 2011, 16 had trained with IntelliGym." They now market it to individual subscribers (disclosure: no user experience or financial incentive). Some have likened it to the old 'Asteroids' video game. 

"The fittest survive." UNC Women's soccer coach Anson Dorrance molds elite athletes into national champions using his Competitive Matrix. I think it would be a psychological hammer on younger athletes. I could be wrong. 

"Know thyself." What's the right approach to sport psychology? Professionals like Brett Steenbarger or Jason Selk advocate specific programs for self-training. Harvard researcher Amy Cuddy has shown a link between expansiveness of body position and stress hormone responses (salivary cortisol and testosterone). Dr. Roland Carlstedt challenges this empiric approach and offers his Carlstedt protocol as an alternative. 




Dr. Carlstedt argues that anecdotal (however numerous) claims lack scientific rigor. He argues that "placebo effect" accounts for some of the benefit and is a harsh critic of most sport psychology programs. 

"Measure a thousand times but cut only once." - Turkish Proverb   Kentucky coach John Calipari and his staff monitor effort using heart rate measurement. He states, ... "Because we are able to read their heart rates, now we know who is maxing out in practice and who is hiding, who thinks they're going hard and who isn't, who is able to push themselves through pain, and who has mental toughness to be special." Does a monitor make toughness or do tough players validate monitoring.

"Basketball players are the best conditioned athletes." Brazilian researchers studied small sample sizes of soccer and basketball athletes, examining maximal oxygen uptake (a traditional measure of aerobic fitness) and time to exhaustion. In their sample, the soccer players had higher maximal oxygen uptake but the basketball players longer time to exhaustion. It's a descriptive study that doesn't help us. The Cooper 12-minute run test offers a surrogate for expensive cardiopulmonary exercise testing.  

"Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" "Higher levels of psychological skills have been shown to have a positive correlation with better execution of general motor and cognitive tasks." South African researcher Pieter Kreuger found in ruggers, "The results seemed to support the suggestion made by other researchers that the key difference between a good performance and a poor performance on an elite level in rugby is often the level of psychological skills, rather than just good physical skills." Did good technical skills improve confidence or do they simply parallel each other? 



Tabata Training (at supramaximal maximal oxygen consumption for short intervals) increased maximal oxygen consumption by conventional testing. Professor Tabata developed it for Japanese speed skaters. A lot of training has adopted the Tabata label. They don't exert the same physiologic stress. 

"You make a choice of bringing negative or positive..." - George Karl




The Positive Coaching Alliance doesn't guarantee that it makes the best players. They emphasize that making better people makes people better players. 

What's the point? Do what you think works or you found works. But look for better ways. Listen and receive other viewpoints. Study the origin methods and ask whether they apply to your situation. We find better ways to train within different practice domains. Our biggest constraint can be our own beliefs and time available for research and development. 

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