One Foot In, One Foot Out

The micro-cultures of sport are strong. Norms, values, and common practices of coaches and athletes create athletic worlds that are truly different from the world that exists outside of their locker rooms and playing fields. Walk into many a boathouse and you will see the endurance pain and suffering at the hands of a ergometer praised (i.e. this is not hyperbole… we’re talking blood hands and lost lunches… passing out is praise-worthy not medically questionable). Consider bounty-gate. Within the confines of a NFL locker room encouraging career-threatening harm to fellow players is seen as a path to Super Bowl glory. Witness the hockey parent that seeks out the sport psychology professional because his child is afraid to “hit” other kids. Never mind that “check” is a term more beneficial and sensical, failure to “hit” others is seen as an obstacle to the Hockey East scholarship. The micro-cultures of sport have some strong beliefs.

The strong beliefs of sporting cultures are wise, they have been built on many decades of experience and from the mouths of many passionate coaches and teachers. The strong beliefs of sport are also caps on potential. They may lead to good play, but it is important to question if they truly lead to great play.

In rereading Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat, I was struck how his description of Berlin Wall falling created a new word-view that “unlock[ed] enormous pent-up energies” was a concept that benefits sport culture.  Friedman states, “The Berlin Wall was not only blocking our way; it was blocking our sight.”  So often the tried and true traditions of a sport’s micro-culture blocks our way and blocks our sight.

This failure to see beyond the walls of habit and comfort that we tend to create is a common theme when considering potential unrealized.  It’s a subtext to many of the thoughts, reflections, and examinations of neuroscience writer Jonah Lehrer.  In reading through many of his recent blogs and his new book Imagine, the willingness and ability to think about things “differently” is at the core of creativity and achievements of great renown.  Stepping a bit out of the context and culture in which one practices, competes, and coaches could be considered essential for great strides forward.

Finding the muse of high performance also requires the sport scientist to have one foot in the world of the sport at hand and one outside of it.  A great example of this mindset in coaching action was the Heat’s Erik Spoelstra’s off-season continuing education efforts.  He spent time with Oregon Duck football… rather than excessive hours on the hardwood.  Love or hate the Heat, I feel pretty good about the growth of a team whose coach grows in the sport by looking beyond the sport.  A wise coach asks, “What am I saying?  Is there a better way to say it… one that has greater resonance and meaning to my athletes?”  The excelling athlete wonders, “Just because a television commentator highlights it, is it a truly valuable concept to occupy my competitive thoughts with?”  Conventional wisdom in all sports can lead to good things, great things lie ahead for all athletes and coaches that put windows in their walls so they can look outward for other perspectives on daily practice and approaches to game day play.

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1 Response to “One Foot In, One Foot Out”


  1. 1 Alex April 11, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Hey, I like your blog. Lot of awesome information you posted here!


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