Story of the Chainsaw
While the many things I have planned are still in the seemingly constant draft/concept state, I remembered a joke somebody told me once. As both a coach and an athlete, I think it perfectly illustrates a point that gets missed quite often. What point you ask.
Well let me tell you a story…
Not too long ago in a region far away, lived an (fictitious) indigenous tribe called the Chukchi. Some of the activites they performed were logging in the thick Syberian forests. True to their ancient or some might say primitive ways, they used only a handful of hand tools, yet a SINGLE person could chop a massive truckload of wood in one day (try it, it’s MUCH harder than you think…). Though the marketing and product managers of their time of a certain chainsaw making company decided that the ‘primitive’ people needed some technology. So our managers in question, put their pointy shoes on and off they went to the deep Syberian forests to promote their product.
“Hello logger, we want to sell you this chainsaw to make your life easier.
“Axe fine every day, no need for orange metal machine.”
“Yes we understand logger, however, with this chainsaw you would be able to do more work. Up to 20%*!
*by purchasing our monthly maintenance plan and over-priced spare parts that we will charge you dearly for and never deliver on time.“
“Ok I try, but I tell you machine no good, axe better”
They sold him a chainsaw and merrily went back to the comfort of their office, with visions of all the products and maintenance plans they will sell to all the indigenous people.
Not too much time passed and news started cropping up of how their product was turning out absolutely massive productivity numbers. What did you know it was from the region where they had met our friend – the logger. Further investigation was needed. Pointy shoes were adjsuted and…
“Hello logger, as our constant efforts for process improvements to meet the latest standards, neccesites we inspect how our products are being used.”
“What the F***?”
“Show us how you can use the orange machine to chop two truckloads of wood per day”
“Machine heavy, but me very happy, I make twice more money. I show you!”
The managers stepped back and let the logger do his thing. It was an impressive simbiosis of man and machine in the eternal struggle of man versus nature. Splinters were flying, smoke was rising, it was an epic sight, worthy of poems, myths and legends.
“You think we should tell him how to turn it on???”
“Are you F*&#(! crazy?!??!? He will decimate the region and we will be out of a job in 2 days!”
What does that have to do with coaching and (endurance) sports?
Too much coaching today is what I call hand-holding and life-support; do this or that workout 5 times and wait for me to tell you what is next rather than this is why we do things and you are in charge.
I get asked or more accurately condescended quite often that this or that guy or gal parties all night, drinks, smokes, eats junk food, trains only when they want to, in the OPPOSITE way of what is considered sustainable and productive (or any combiantion of the above), yet they are very good, often PRO, maybe even the frequent winner in what they do. Who am I to tell them that what they do is wrong?
The role of the coach should ALWAYS be to make the athletes better, by giving them the correct tools and knowledge for the job and TEACH them (NOT spoon feed them) how to use the tools SAFELY. Ultimately after some time the coach will not be needed, besides the occasional maintenance.
Everybody is at a different level – total begginer or advanced. What makes coaching fulfilling for people like me is figuring out where the person stands; it is not as blatantly obvious as in the story most of the time. It is a (lifelong) process and YOU the athlete are the main character behind the story, you should take the full responsibility for it, the coach is just there to show you that while with a chainsaw you can chop trees down easier, you still have to go to the forest yourself.
Be safe and sane people!
No innocent indigineous people, trees or pointy shoes wearing marketing managers were harmed in the making of this article.
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