Athletics Illustrated has an interview with physiologist and coach Trent Stellingwerff on the 'Belief Effect', delving into psychology working with athletes and coaches.
Trent works for the Canadian Sports Centre Pacific, the multi-sport sports agency, supporting Olympic sports in Victoria, and Vancouver.
I had the opportunity to work with Trent when based in Victoria - he's one of the few scientists that understands the practicalities of implementation of research into athlete programmes, and gets the coaches mindset, and specific challenges coaches face.
In this interview Trent discusses the complex relationship between athlete and coach belief in their programmes, particularly in the face of the desire for more practise to be 'evidence based'. In reality often coaches and athletes are 'ahead' of research but believe in their practise, whether there is evidence to support what they are doing or not - see the continual use of altitude training world wide, despite the relative dearth of strong evidence that altitude training 'works'.
This isn't to say coaches should ignore evidence or not question their practises, but that belief is a very important element of coaching, and likewise athletes must believe strongly in what they are doing - and for both athletes and coaches the ultimate evidence base is performance - even if we know performance is so complex and multi-factorial that drawing links to a specific intervention is not usually possible in any case.
"However, as an applied sport practitioner I am not concerned about bias – I want to leverage all the bias I can get into “belief”. And that belief is included in myself and belief by the athlete and coach. To me this is not fraudulent. If I have done my homework (e.g. studied for 20-plus years, looked at all the research papers, reached out to my international network for insider information, done some internal research and trial/error) and I truly believe in an intervention, I want the athlete/coaches I work with to know that I am convinced this will help them, that I have done my homework, and that they are in good hands with me – that they have a strategic advantage by applying new knowledge into a new intervention. In this situation, we have both evidence and belief maximized – which is perfect in the applied sport sciences as both have been shown to improve performance separately."
Follow Trent on twitter.