I am fascinated by science. The empirical nature of the scientific method has an innate appeal. (This may be a big surprise to my high school science teachers! Let’s just say- this love came later in my life.) It allows us to study and explore the deepest dimensions of our being and our existence in the world. That being said at the end of the day I try to be a practitioner. My job as a coach is produce results, to apply the science to the best of my ability by transferring it into practice (and practices). The nature of this leans heavily on the art that is based on practice-based evidence. You can learn the SCIENCE but you have to practice the ART to get better at it. Maintaining a healthy balance between art and science is essential to progress as a coach.
In the words of Winston Churchill at the end of the day to get results “Science should be on tap, not on top.”
I firmly maintain that for the gymnastics team to produce repeatable excellence that the coach must drive the bus but if the coach does not know the science then he will driving the bus without a map or a GPS. You might get there but who knows when and how? And will you ever make it there again? Science can help provide needed direction and purpose.
The Art of Coaching
If you give two people the same number of guitar lessons with the same teacher and the same content, you will not produce two guitar players who are the same, or even at the same proficiency level. One of the students will get better more quickly because there is an art to music. There is innate talent. There are anthropomorphic advantages as well.
The same can be said for coach and leadership skills. ART is intuitive, SKILL is mechanical. ART is something innate that is nurtured, SKILL is something learned that is developed. SKILL is the execution of a theory while ART is the execution of a theory using instinctive and intrinsic traits causing a positive result.
In gymnastics coaching, skill would be designing a training time with gymnasts that involves techniques and theories you have learned and then executing that plan in the actual session. The art would be in communicating the plan to the gymnasts and helping the client absorb, believe, and see the value of what you have designed.
Coach and Leadership Science and Art
Combining the science of coaching with the art of coaching is what makes a truly phenomenal coach. Just as most anyone could learn to play a guitar and even be proficient enough to play in a band if they worked diligently enough, not everyone would become a guitar virtuoso. There are countless numbers of three-chord teenage garage band guitarists, but very few who play with the innate and interpretive ability of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, or B.B. King.
Though the ultimate goal the USA Gymnastics University or other federations coaching programs and schools is to not create or discover the next Jimi Hendrix, it is to create the best coach by combining the art and science of coaching. This is done by developing the innate and intuitive talents of each student and then providing them with the tools of the trade. Likewise, leadership programs seek to nurture the innate ability of each individual to become a leader and merge this with powerful leadership techniques and skills.