• Jason Wulfsohn // MSc (Med) Exercise Science

Editor's Musings: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall..

… why did I think like that at all?

Have you ever looked back at your old self and wondered, “what were you thinking?”. I’m not referring to any poor life choices or such things, but rather I’m talking about the way you used to think. For instance, around 1st year of undergrad, I was of the opinion that it was fine to eat anything I wanted as long as I exercised sufficiently to work it off. It was simplistic and I was adamant that I was right. Thank goodness I’ve evolved my thinking on this and other misunderstandings I’ve had. It wasn’t an overnight process, nor was it always a passive undertaking. Sometimes, we have to be intentional. To challenge my preconceptions and paradigms, I’ve tried to maintain two simple practices.

Reflective thinking

Firstly, it is important to be able to be introspective and reflective. I’m not suggesting that you grow a pony-tail and learn to meditate, but that you take a few moments of your day to reflect and question the decisions you made. It doesn’t have to be intense, just honest. It has been suggested that cultivating the personal attributes of open-mindedness, responsibility, and wholeheartedness (i.e. sincerity) can help in improving reflective thinking[1]. Additionally, reflective thinking is made easier by environments that are non-hierarchical, encourage flexibility, acknowledge that multiple views on a topic might exist, and that these topics can be complex[1]. Hopefully, modern businesses and companies are moving towards having such environments as common practice

Sport science mentors

A few years ago I realised that I tend to subconsciously seek out older and more experienced individuals whom I attach to and learn from (whether they’re aware of this or not is uncertain). While it used to be something I did to develop personally, I have taken to intentionally seeking sport science mentors to abuse for their sage advice and guidance. I’m not sure if this a common practice in sport science circles, but I definitely think it should become a thing. Mentorship is a vital source of knowledge and development, not just for the individual but for the team or the profession as a whole. Consider that it has been shown that greater collective experience among forwards was a contributing factor to winning the 2007 rugby world cup[2].

The young bucks benefitted from the experience of the senior forwards in the engine room. Then, coaches sometimes benefit from informal mentorship by way of learning as a player or assistant coach[3]. So, experience counts and we should endeavour to glean what we can from those who are older and wiser. The reality is that there isn’t a formal mentorship program for sport scientists, so for now the ball is in your court. Until such a time as mentoring becomes part of “the system” (whatever that might look like), we’ll have to hone our networking and communication skills.

To those of you who are already “older and wiser”, don’t see this as a one-way street. I’d be willing to bet that the young bucks might just help you learn a bit yourself. I must admit to being a bit of an idealist, and at this point in time I can only see the adoption of sport science mentorship as progress for the profession. I strongly believe in the benefits of being professionals invested in each other as a collective.

Combining the two

One last point on these two practices. It is important to combine reflective practice with learning from a mentor. A problem can arise when knowledge is blindly accepted as true and infallible. If we don’t process information from mentors (and peers), then we risk perpetuating outdated practices, beliefs, and team culture[3]. To me, that is stagnation, maybe even regression, and we want to be pushing for progress.

Now, in this 2nd issue of 2017, two of our regulars return to provide a review dealing with the topic of anti-oxidant supplementation from Simone do Carmo, and a discussion on the decision making and planning process from a coaching perspective from Dr Jason Tee. We’re very fortunate to welcome three first-time contributors. Greg Purcell gives us a pharmacist’s insight into some basics about drugs in sport, and Keelyn van Breda introduces her field of neurophysiology with a look at “deep practice”. Lastly, Michael Ashford unpacks the decision-making process players might experience during team sports. As always, I hope you enjoy the light reading and that you find SPORT SCIENCE COLLECTIVE useful in some way.

  1. Handcock, P. & Cassidy, T. Reflective Practice for Rugby Union Strength and Conditioning Coaches. Strength Cond. J. 36, 41–45 (2014)

  2. Sedeaud, A. et al. How they won Rugby World Cup through height, mass and collective experience. Br. J. Sports Med. 46, 580–584 (2012).

  3. Cushion, C. J., Armour, K. M. & Jones, R. L. Coach Education and Continuing Professional Development: Experience and Learning to Coach. Quest 55, 215–230 (2003).

#SportScience #ReflectiveThinking

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