The way that athletes are taught in our sport expert education system is a problem for me. I feel this isn’t just a problem of the sport expert education system but is also common to other educational systems as well.

Let me explain by drawing a parallel.

Imagine that you have enrolled in a driving school for one sole purpose—to learn to drive a car. In the first class, the instructor places you in front of the car and begins disassembling it. The instructor removes the engine, the steering mechanisms, the accelerator, the gear mechanisms, and all of the other parts that make up the car until there is a pile of parts in front of you. Next, the instructor explains each individual part—the type of material it is, its mechanical properties, its purpose, and its connection to all of the other parts. Then, the instructor reassembles all of the pieces again (into a car), looks at you, and expects you to know how to drive it!

Imagine a different situation now. On the first day of class, the instructor puts you into the car and explains to you which parts you use to drive the car. The instructor explains what the instrument cluster does and how you read it. Then, you start the car and discover that pushing the gas pedal causes the car to accelerate and turning the steering wheel makes the car turn. You do all of this without any knowledge about the individual parts or their interactions with the other parts to cause these actions.

Our sport expert education system works much like the first example. The sport expert takes the athlete and creates car mechanics, not drivers. Experts who know how to “drive” or manage a sport preparation system are not created, but rather physiologist-biomechanics who know all about the individual parts but have no idea how to put them all together and manage, or “drive it.”

In a system, it’s unnecessary to know the parts and their complex relations in order to control it. It’s almost impossible to do this. A system is more that just a sum of its parts! To explain system behavior and control it, we can’t rely on information flow between its parts, but rather we need to develop special sets of notions that explain the input-output relations. In the car, these are the information table, steering wheel, gear, and pedals. To drive the car, you don’t need to know what the axis and engine torque do, or what dynamo voltage and the caloric capacity of the gasoline are, or what the steering wheel angle is. With athletes, we can gather the information we need by listening to them, watching them perform and sweat, hearing their breathing patterns, checking their skin color, and listening to the sound of their feet striking the floor. You don’t need to know their blood lactate level, the creatine levels in their urine, the biochemistry status of their blood, their heart frequency, their oxygen consumption, or other useless data. As a coach or trainer, are you looking at your athlete and seeing the feedback he or she is giving you? Are you teaching your athletes to “drive” better?

The best experts in the field (coaches) don’t always know about the physiological reactions in the body. But even though they may not know how to perform a biomechanical analysis, one thing is for sure—they know to drive! And that’s the only thing that matters!

When driving a car, it’s unnecessary to tell someone, for example, to turn the wheel 56 degrees, or push the gas pedal with 17 Newtons of force. Rather, less is more. This is why training represents art more than science. As a coach, you need to feel how much pressure is necessary to turn the “car” in the right direction. You don’t need to know how many Newtons of force are used to push the wheel! The same applies when training your athletes. You need to know what the right dosage is for an individual athlete, but you don’t always need to monitor their behavior. Use the feedback the athlete gives you! It isn’t necessary to introduce numerical data and numerical analysis to control a system but only qualitative data (fuzzy logic, qualitative analysis). In our education system, we are being asked to memorize unnecessary and useless numerical data instead of focusing on qualitative data and phenomenon relation (reasoning, critical thinking, etc).

Although I just finished my third year of a four year studying plan and I know a bunch of data, I still don’t know how to DRIVE. I have to re-evaluate all of the things I learned—the parts—and put them together into the WHOLE!

In conclusion, in a sport expert education system, it’s necessary to use complex theory, chaos theory, catastrophe theory, fuzzy logic, qualitative analysis, or critical thinking. Forget about learning in parts, or using quantitative analysis and mechanical learning.

But the main question remains unanswered—what do you want to be—a mechanic or a race car driver?