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The Fundamental Need for Theorists in Sport

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James Smith

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In this blog entry you are presented with my argument for dedicated theorist/strategist positions to become foundational in sport organizations, in order to guide the staffs of experimentalists who are the coaches. 

A preponderance of professional domains within science, medicine, and technology incorporate the synergistic work of theorists and experimentalists. The net result of this aggregation of cognitive effort is a sum greater than what each individual part can accomplish on its own. Sport, however, has yet to capitalize on this dynamic.

Sport coaches, along with coaching adjuncts, are experimentalists. The overwhelming majority of time spent each day regards coaching, itself, and its preparation. 

Theory, in sport, has largely been isolated to the pedagogical realm and, as of yet, unlike the far more advanced models of scientific, medical, and technological research, not fully integrated into every sport organization.

A sport theorist mustn’t be conflated with the emerging field of sport science. Sport scientists are also experimentalists who, same as experimentalists in any other scientific domain, are, by definition, engaged in specialized research and experiment. In this way, sport scientific research and publication, same as any other experimental domain of science, does not endeavor to unify.     

While experiment is essential for progress, in order for experiment, itself, to advance, it not only benefits greatly from, it utterly depends/relies upon, theoretical input and guidance. The late philosopher Karl Popper was the first notable intellectual to rightly and expertly define this objective truth- there is no context to observation without preceding theory. Popper would offer a simple proof to this argument by starting his classes with telling students to "observe". After which he would walk around for a few minutes. After no time at all students would begin looking at each other, unclear as to what they were supposed to observe (was it Poppers motion, the view outside, the noises in the hallway...). In this way, Popper clearly proved the point that the observation itself necessitates theory to give it meaning and context.

Observation, on its face, is the experience of sensory input; and it has no meaning or context, less the observer enters the observation with a preceding theory to direct his/her attention in such a way as to contextualize the observation. Without this essential theoretical guidance, no amount of isolated experimentation can achieve what is achievable; and instead, further segregates knowledge domains that must be theoretically unified to optimize progress.

Coaches, sport scientists, and adjunct staff alike, necessitate the guiding influence of a theorist; who, unlike coaches, sport scientists, analysts, and other adjunct personnel, spends the entirety of their working and thinking hours reviewing, summating, extrapolating, assimilating, formulating, calculating, quantifying, and theorizing upon the boundaries of what is knowable as it regards the profession in question. The result allows for the ongoing direction for further experimentation; which tests and either confirms or disproves theory. Such is the mechanism of progress that has afforded the exponential increase in knowledge in so many disciplines apart from sport. Sport need only recognize and accept the value of the theorist to evolve to the level commensurate with unbounded knowledge in order to reduce the chasm separating the knowable and the known that currently, and historically, has prevented sport organizations from fulfilling their potential.

I am currently amidst the process of presenting this idea to professional sport staffs in the context of a 'strategist' position who possesses the theoretical insights and planning capability that includes what I refer to as 'sport engineering' in my most recent book The Governing Dynamics of Coaching. 

Email James@globalsportconcepts.net for consulting information in this regard
 

 

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