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Here is where the beef starts.
The blame for gaps between science and practice lie jointly at the intersection of the bullheaded coach, their audacious belief that they “know” their athletes well enough to determine the best course of action, and the smugness of the sports scientist in believing that if they study it, or publish it, that the coach will use it.
I propose this solution: a bridge—a transition from evidence-based practice (EBP) to evidence-informed practice (EIP).
In our context, EBP is best described as an evaluative, qualitative, problem-solving approach that leverages the best available information to support coaching decisions.
In other words, coaches use relevant evidence in (peer-reviewed) literature to answer essential questions about performance enhancement strategies and prescriptions.
The origins of EBP date back to the 1800’s when Florence Nightingale introduced the idea to provide better outcomes for patients following her experience in the Crimean War (Mackey & Bassendowski, 2016, 2). Following the work of Nightingale, EBP evolved slowly and today can be traced to Archie Cochrane in the 1970s, who coined the term evidence-based medicine, and later to David Sackett, who provided us with our modern definition above (Mackey & Bassendowski, 2016, 4).
The typical process looks something like this:
I like to think of EBP as the scientific method of coaching.
Evidence-informed practice (EIP), while sometimes used to describe the EBP process, is quite a bit different in both depth and breadth, especially given the tools and technology at our fingertips today. However, make no mistake about it; EIP still relies heavily upon the best available research but incorporates a far broader scope of information, goals, and agility in terms of evidence sources.
Simply stated, EBP is far too narrow a lens to capture even a tiny portion of the complex systems surrounding human performance!
Consider the depth, breadth, and relationships between the elements in the image below.
Have you pondered some of the underlying sources of information in these elements that we, performance professionals, should be considering?
Let me expand for you.
Research and current data refer to scientific results related to intervention strategies, assessment and monitoring, sport demands analysis, athlete populations in the field and the lab, and influences such as medical, nutrition, psychological, and related fields.
Categorically, this might include some of the following information:
Coach and athlete-related variables should be strongly considered as they profoundly influence athlete and team outcomes. Many of these variables comprise multiple learning domains and states of the athlete or team readiness. For example, consider things like functional status, readiness for change, level of social support, and sports history and traditions.
Athlete characteristics are essential to consider when making training prescriptions or providing coaching. Consider the following:
Finally, coaches should equally weigh their expertise alongside the elements mentioned above. Coaching expertise is the sum of all knowledge and experience the coach has accumulated in their career. My dear friend, Al Jean, calls this wisdom. Expertise is essential for identifying and integrating the best information available and includes several processes that improve performance outcomes. Here are some considerations (American Psychologist, 2006, 276):
Do you still think evidence-based practice is “best practice”? I hope not. So, what’s next?
How do coaches implement EIP in the context of sports performance? You don’t have to eat the whole steak in one bite, for starters. Instead, slice off a palpable piece and continue to move forward. Here are some simple steps to get you started.
Do this across all three elements provided above. You will have run the spectrum of human learning domains - the cognitive, the affective, and the psychomotor - and your program and athletes will be in a much better position to be successful.
End of beef, now for dinner.
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