Looking and Moving Forward
How do technological advances affect the coaching industry?
The education industry underwent a technological revolution in the past ten years. Pencils and typewriters were replaced by interconnected computer networks and the ?University of the Internet?. While some worried that technology would forever doom the book to obscurity, the actual result has been an increase in production, distribution and availability of written words. Technology increased the speed with which ideas could be shared and exchanged, giving people access to more information to make them more curious and hungrier for even more information. When I look at the coaching industry, I see the emerging technological advances having much the same effect. Coaching will go from a privilege once available only to few to a service relied on by many. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /?>
Coaches now have a wide array of tools at their disposal. Back in the ?old days?, and those were only about a decade ago, coaches (for the most part) relied on knowledge, practices, and techniques handed down to them from previous coaches. Many of us started the same way: An older, more experienced athlete helped us when we were young and years later, as high-level athletes ourselves, we were sought out for advice by younger, less experienced athletes. We passed along whatever advice and help we could because someone had done the same good deed for us years earlier. Some of us realized we loved developing future talent as much as we had enjoyed developing our own, if not more. We started working with as many athletes as we could, but were limited by our geographical locations, available pools of local talent, and finances.
Perhaps more important than the sometimes sparse athletic population available were the lack of quality coaching education and the limited accessibility to established, top-level coaches. We were left to coach primarily by feel: prescribe training like we had been prescribed and then adjust accordingly. We learned the hard way that the training that worked for you as an athlete does not necessarily work for athletes you coach. Over time we gained experience and refined our coaching styles. We studied and exchanged ideas with coaches we encountered at various events: Nationals, Worlds, and Olympic Trials. But the information exchange was relatively slow and there was as much poor information floating around, as there was good.
Technology has already done great things for the coaching industry. Biofeedback tools that were once available only in laboratories were adapted for use in the field. The flood of data was incredible and had wide-ranging effects on coaching. We had real-world data to correlate against real-world performance, and we had the files to derive theories from and ask other coaches about. As the cumulative collection of data grew, the most successful training techniques and theories were validated and the ones which failed to produce repeatable results perished. The quality of coaching available improved drastically, but there was still a problem of access.
The emergence of the internet changed coaching in much the same way it changed education, as it should have. After all, coaches are educators and coaching should be an