• Jason Wulfsohn

Older and wiser?

As of today, I am 30 years old… I’m not sure how I feel about this.

Naturally, this is a point where people get pensive about their life and the lessons they’ve learned. I would say that so far, I’m not ticking all the boxes I would have liked, but I’m doing alright and have numerous blessings and things to be grateful for.

However, SPORT SCIENCE COLLECTIVE isn’t a space for me to go on about my personal life. It’s meant to be about sport and sport science matters. So moving on, of my 30 years of existence, I am currently in my 12th year of working in sport across schools and clubs in coaching or conditioning roles. There have been the usual ups and downs, but overall, sport has treated me well and taken me to some cool places around SA (I’m really hoping that I’ll be doing overseas tours in the near future). Who doesn’t love a good tour? Anyway… here are some thoughts I’ve been having in the lead up to the beginning of my new decade.

My professional journey

While I was studying and in the years that followed, I had grand ideas of what I would eventually be doing in a sport science capacity, for example, getting involved in the professional setup and starting my own business. I was a fairly switched-on student and was very confident that I was correct in my knowledge. Why shouldn’t I be hitting the big time in a few years? Classic Dunning-Kruger effect…

Long story short… I am not where I thought I would be professionally, and I am actually ok with that. I’m not going to lie and say that I’m glad I didn’t make those things happen. I feel that would be too close to suggesting that getting into the professional setup or starting a business when you’re young is wrong. It’s definitely not wrong; it’s just that I’m ok with where I am. The truth is that I have sacrificed a bit professionally for major gains in my personal life. I made my choices and at the moment, I have NO RAGRETS. The plan is to just keep improving and moving forward, and hopefully I’m making some headway up the slope of enlightenment.

What works

I think it’s safe to say that most people preach or at least agree with the notion that there is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all for most things. This is true of life, and it’s definitely true of coaching and conditioning. For example, you’re not taking the training program of team GB hockey and applying it to your u14s. What worked at one club might not be the solution at another. Yet, a lot of people seem to think that only they have the answers and their ways are the best ways.

So here I am advocating that there is no single solution to a problem or situation. What, then, will I suggest works? Well, broadly speaking, I think it’s “buy-in”. I reckon that even if you have an average training program or strategy, you can still get results if you can get buy-in from the stakeholders (players, coaches, etc.). That’s it. Getting buy-in is crucial, and it’s where I will be spending a lot of my energy in my endeavours over the next few years. I’m not putting the cart before the horse here. You still need to know your stuff, but your world-class training programme will be 0% effective if no one does it. It’ll be interesting to see if I’m still singing this same tune a few years from now.

Studying further isn’t always a good idea

A Master’s degree isn’t all it’s made out to be. There’s a fair chance you’ll sink a lot of time into a specific topic that won’t necessarily be useful in the real world. My Master’s was a disaster. It took way too long, cost a small fortune, and other than learning to read research a bit more critically, I didn’t come away with relevant knowledge or skills. It might have been fine if I was going to make a career in academia, but I feel that I would have been better off using that money to prop myself up in an internship position, in order to get experience.

If I could go back and make these decisions again, I’d sink money into doing an internship (obviously a paid internship would be ideal) to get the experience and figure out what I’m really interested in. Further along the line, I’d do some research into a few university departments to find out which ones align with my areas of interest, come to the table with some of my own (basic) ideas, and pray that my supervisor and I get along.

Check your ego

I originally wanted to have the sub-heading of “park your ego”, but I felt that’s not quite accurate. Looking back, I feel like I parked my ego for too long. I parked it because I thought it was altruistic. I don’t want to step on toes and I want people to feel like they’ve got space to be themselves and express their ideas. This is not wrong, but I now think that I’ve taken that idea too far. I think it’s important to have some degree of ego driving you. You should want to do well, and have a bit of hunger for success; after all, hunger is necessary for success on the field. You should have confidence in your abilities and knowledge. Go for it! But, oh my word, do some people take this too far. I have a cold and deep hatred for these ego-centric maniacs. Yes, sometimes these people see success. The world is a cruel and unfair place.

However, more often than not, I’ve seen their campaigns collapse, taking down those around them. Players eventually cotton on to coaches or anyone who is more interested in their own agenda than that of the team or the individuals themselves. They develop resentment, and then there’s a serious struggle to get buy-in. These people also anger and hurt those around them, making them feel worthless and unappreciated. This really isn’t going to get the best out of players and staff. At best, it’ll have some short-term gains, but ultimately resulting in unhappiness and underperformance. Let’s rather just be lekker!

I could probably go on, but I think I’ve indulged myself enough for one article. In summary:

I’m not where I want to be professionally, but it’s ok.

Buy-in might be the most important metric for performance.

Think twice about studying further.

Be lekker.


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