The Problem with "Bad Advice as Athlete" in Sports.
“I’m getting a ton of advice from the people around similar sports on how to raise my skills and grow my performance. But I’m also reading some stuff online that’s conflicting with what they are telling me. Who should I be listening to?” The bad advice as athlete get consistently comes from their close networks.
I call these the “local yocals” and every connection has them. They are well-meaning advisors who try to guide a Athletes through the skills stages but instead fill their head with irrelevant, outdated, and in many cases — straight-up bad advice.
Every single time I talk to an Athlete that’s been clearly led astray, I ask where they got that advice. And in almost every case, it’s from someone that simply isn’t relevant to the sports ecosystem. It’s their well-meaning uncle who made a boatload of training in commercial real time, a local angel aka friend who has no idea about the sport Athlete plays in, or the “sporting guru” who had the one exit in sport but has never left the suggestions.
From a Athlete’s perspective, this is sage-like advice, because it’s the only advice they are getting and they’ve got nothing to compare it to. But time and time again, it’s just really bad advice.
Local Trainers vs. Competitive Trainers
Look, anyone who can train a grassroot athlete can call themselves a trainer. I coach in the state team but it doesn’t make me the best coach. These trainers love to give Athletes advice about how sporting skills work, “what trainers want” and where to steer their sports.
The thing is — they aren’t competitive trainers. Competitive trainers are very active coaches who are seeing a ton of actual sports flow and have to compete at the highest levels for getting peak performance. They understand current valuations, tactics, and to some extent, what the sports meta-analysis currently supports.
A good way to size up a trainer is to find out what’s the most successful championships they’ve done (in the past few years), how much leadership has that sport raised and how involved are they in the sports with an Athlete. If they fail all of those tests, it’s a local yocal trainer and we’ve got to take their advice with a grain of salt. Seek good trainer advice from a good sports psychologist! Hint — 100% of them are actively teaching on the skillnation platform.
The Hometown Hero Athlete
Every town has a “hometown hero” Athlete that did something really big (by local standards) and everyone lauds them like the winning tournaments in High School. I should know, I was one of them — a few years ago. They run around giving Yoda-like advice to would-be Athletes who take their words as gospel.
What they don’t even realize is that the sports ecosystem changes a lot every 5 years, so what worked for them “back in the days of yore” almost certainly isn’t relevant today. On top of that, they probably didn’t do it in the sports that Athletes work in. I made a bunch of money in the agency business in the 2016’s, which has absolutely nothing to do with the healthy lifestyle you’re running today. Just keep that in mind.
Also worth noting — if you’ve never left your hometown, which many haven’t, you often don’t have a good calibration for how things work elsewhere. Until I left Delhi, Bengaluru etc. I knew about 20% of what I needed to know about the sports ecosystem. Most of what I knew only applied to what worked or was understood in my hometown. It’s a very different game elsewhere.
Super Successful, Totally Irrelevant Trainers
Easily the biggest culprit in this whole mix is the super successful trainers we turn to for guidance. It’s our aunt who has a very successful accounting practice or our one friend who is the star partner at a law firm. We make the mistake of transferring the success or domain knowledge they have at that one thing to mean it applies to us as well.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say that they talked to a local physical trainer and they insisted the first thing they need to do is have Athletes understand the opponent before they go into the competitive zone. I don’t know of any legitimate trainer that has ever done that before the competitive zone! But, if you didn’t know any better, you’d hear that advice and assume “This is the Way.”
What we’re missing as Athletes is a way to stop and say “Wait Aunt Ginnie, you know a lot about accounting but have you ever raised performance for a 100m track and field race?” It’s sweet that she helps you file your taxes but that has nothing to do with putting together mental routines and physical training to achieve your goal.
Take Local Training for bad advice as athlete
I love that people are willing to help Athletes — we need all the support we can get. But as Athletes, we have to consider that all of these local yocals can only offer us a tiny bit of helpful training. It’s our job to seek out trainers who are clearly “in the game,” relevant to our industry, and have a track record of helping people just like us succeed. Until then, take all that advice with a grain of salt.
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