Thinking About… Training Methodologies

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The last Olympic Gold Medal was won by Brazil. The one before that by Russia. The one before that by the United States. In between those Poland won two World Championships. Logically you would think that by studying the training methods that led to those successes you would some similarities and be able to reach some conclusions on the effectiveness of different training methodologies. Surely, success at the highest level must be an indicator of quality. Making that study turns out not to be very helpful. All of those nations have different, in many cases contradictory, models and methodologies. How can we say which one is the best if they all seem to work?

In the book Good To Go, author Christie Aschwanden reports on studies into the effectiveness of electrolyte ingestion on performance. Studies show conclusively that electrolyte drinks do not work better than water. However, when the study is electrolyte drinks versus nothing, electrolyte drinks are effective. Indeed the researchers reported that the subjects placed into the ‘nothing’ group were visibly disappointed. The electrolytes worked because the subject thinks it will work; a fairly classic placebo effect. Which got me thinking…

If different training theories and methodologies all seem to work more or less the same, maybe the key point is not that the methodology itself, but how the players think of the methodology. Perhaps training is a giant placebo effect; it works because you think it works. Perhaps the content of training is less important than how the players think about that content. As Hugh McCutcheon often says “Coaches are sales people and change agents.” Perhaps he is more right than he thinks he is.

More stuff I thought about here.

The total of 82 practical Coaching Tips can be found here and here.

Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.


  1. So, that’s why Klopp Is having success at Liverpool, not that he is necessarily doing something different, but that he sells it well and the players believe in it and also him.


  2. Last year I had a coaching epiphany that I dare not share in coaching discussions for fear of setting off a flame war. I realized that my life long abhorrence and disrespect for unproven natural remedies that relied on the placebo effect was misplaced and that I, as a youth coach, have been using the same maligned placebo effect during my entire career. My kids will do better if I make them think they will do better. I am a placebo peddler. Simple as that.


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