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or Say it Ain't So

David Landau


Photo 1

They keep reinventing the wheel or, should I say the ball. Recently I was watching the local news, when the sports segment flashed and showed the Miami Heat's "Training Regimen." Indeed, I have many times encountered the outright ridiculous, but this was worse than pathetic.

Photo 1 depicts a feat of balance comparable to the "brilliant" display on TV that caused my dismay. This picture was taken from Beauty Fair Magazine, Fall of 1947, a trendy magazine the edited and produced by the legendary Strongman Joe Bonomo, a silent motion picture star. He obviously understood trend and allure. Here we have a fashion magazine 60 years removed that preludes modern day sports training. This alone is so sad, if it were not so funny and true.

Someone once said, "There must surely be a few people who are not idiots, but they follow the advice of idiots, listen to idiots, and train in a fashion that can only be described as idiotic." This statement describes the vast majority of ‘sports and fitness’ training today. Feats of specific skill are being misinterpreted as having some sort of magical/mystical crossover transfer to sports, masking the true fact that the playing of the actual game is what hones sports skills.

This reminds me of a similar, but well known established scam. In carnivals, we see several games that require an exact skill. Not withstanding is the game of Basketball Toss, whereby the sinking of three in a row wins you a stuffed animal of your choice. The person is given a regulation basketball, but is met with much smaller than regulation hoop rims that stand a bit higher than is found on a standard court. Basketball players with highly exact and proficient shooting skills miss badly at this carnival game of skill, often spending a great deal of cash before winning stuffed bears for the girls. The ball players are used to an exact hoop diameter and height, and the carnival operator has a great understanding of this, as their objective is to make money and to take advantage of that understanding.

In sum, skill training must be exact! Sports trainers, on the other hand, haven't a clue, and I often think that had these clowns appeared on the scene 25-30 years ago, they would have been beaten up and thrown to the gallows. Pure progressive strength training was and still is the athlete’s main ally to his or her given sport. This needs no explanation, but the following rational should clear things up. I will paraphrase expert physiologist Robert N. Singer: “The balance demanded on the ball apparatus differs from the body balance needed when shooting a jump shot, dribbling a basketball, or rebounding. In other words, an athlete may demonstrate a highly defined example in one sport, but not in another.”

To analyze ‘real life’ tasks through research is a virtual crap shoot, but the obvious demonstration of today's sports training defies logic. Simple common sense or the uncommon sense for that matter must be observed. This does not need a large amount of critical analysis; the average Joe in observation would view such training as something in a vacuum, outside the realm of rationality and reason. In another situation, we cannot be reasonably sure that the ‘learner’ of such balance actually views such rhetoric as meaningful, which can further affect a more negative outcome. On the order of, "Oh my god, this is foolish… let me get out of here, but the coach said I gotta do it and everyone else is doing it."

Unfortunately these "training antics" are widely held assumptions in the world of general and athletic training. This fact is not surprising, and the vast majority does indeed follow. As Bertrand Russell stated: “The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd.”

© 2010 David Landau