Preface to the article of Martin Truijens «SCIENCE MEETS PRACTICE»
The experience of the swimming coach Martin Truijens is interesting at least because of successes achieved with the Dutch swimmer Femke Heemskerk (Olympic champion in Beijing, 2008) and with the Danish sportswoman Pernilla Blume (champion of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, 2016). These and other results of the work of Martin Truijens testify, on the one hand, about the importance of the coach’s role in sports training, and on the other — the importance of training methods for athletes, which the coach uses in his work. From the reports of Martin Truijens at the scientific conference in St. Petersburg (September-October of 2017) it follows that he offered to his swimmers to give up large amounts of training loads, increase the specificity of training work and get a greater effect from the training process itself.
The same path was taken by the American physiologist and coach David Salo, who trained many elite swimmers, including the Russian swimmers — Yulia Efimova, Vladimir Morozov, Nikita Lobintsev and Alexander Sukhorukov. In the article below, Martin Truijens writes about the «conflict» between sports scientists and practitioners and about the problems of sports science itself and ignorance of modern scientific knowledge by coaches. All these problems so familiar for Russian sports science and practice. In particular in 1999 S.E.Pavlov’s report at the scientific-practical conference in Federal Science Center for Physical Culture and Sport (VNIIFK) which include the call to drastically reduce the volume of training loads in swimming and to increase the specificity of training loads (as a consequence it will increase the specificity of adaptive changes in the swimmers’ body) were taken extremely negatively by the majority of conference participants (which are VNIIFK employees). Nowadays there is the same situation for Martin Truijens and David Salo, which are ignored by Russian sport scientists and specialists despite the numerous scientific and practical evidence of the effectiveness of this approach in preparation swimmers. At the same time, it should be noted that these foreign coaches in their practical work realize only a small part of knowledge that some Russian researchers claimed twenty years ago. Today the same Russian researchers have advanced so far in their studies: they describe the adaptation laws and the laws of transfer of training; the theory and practice of sports have been developed substantially; more effective methods of constructing a training process are proposed; physiological principles of improving athletic performance and training level of athletes; highly effective non-doping tools, means and methods to enhance the athletic performance and sport results of athletes are developed. If Russian coaches were armed with this modern knowledge their athletes would be the best in the world.
Professor of the Department of Theory and Methods of Sports and Synchronized Swimming, Aqua aerobics, diving and water polo of the Russian State University of Physical Education, Sport, Youth and Tourism, Ph.D., Master of Sports of the USSR Tatyana Pavlova
SCIENCE MEETS PRACTICE
Head coach of Denmark’s National Training Centre in Copenhagen
The differences in competitive sport at the highest level are so small (quite often less than 1% between gold and no medal); they frequently are at the edge of scientific measurability (2-5° о ТЕМ). Moreover, the optimization process that underlies performance in sport, i.e. training, has become an optimization «problem» in the scientific community. Indisputably, this is due to the complex way, in which several strongly interrelated factors that together define performance need to be controlled continuously. In search for a solution of this problem many models have been developed. Even though, these models have certainly contributed to a better understanding of performance in sport, they can predict actual performance by only 85% (Busso et al., 1991,1997; Mujikaetal., 1996). On the other hand, the trainers and athletes in the world of sports who are engaged in a constant search for the «best» ways to improve performance seem to regularly hold on to methods and means that are based on anecdotal reports on success with an individual athlete instead of fundamental scientific knowledge. This may be because, for international-level athletes, changes of less than one-third of their typical race-to- race variation in performance (~1.5%) are sufficient to increase the chances of winning a medal (Bonetti & Hopkins, 2008), while these chances are difficult to detect with the sample sizes generally used in scientific studies (Hopkins et al., 1999, 2001). Another reason may be found in the rather large inter-individual variability that has been observed in response to training or related interventions (Chapman et al., 1998; Bagger et al., 2003). The basis of these inter-individual differences is likely to be found in factors as genetic endowment, age, training status, training history, as they all influence the adaptive response to exercise training.
The above could easily suggest that considering the complexity of sport performance it is impossible to predict performance or properly study the effects of training interventions in athletes. This conflict between the fields of practice and science is often «felt» in the world of sports. On the one side, scientific (technological) developments ensure that more, and in greater detail, can be measured and calculated with regard to sport performance. On the other hand, the interpretation of the resulting data, as well as its translation to instructions, useful in sports practice, appears to be a slower and more complex task than expected. Moreover, existing scientific knowledge does not, or only in dribs and drabs, reach the sports practitioner, and the scientist is sometimes unfamiliar with the procedures used by sports practitioners.
In this presentation I present my journey in both the worlds of science and sports and try to demonstrate how these sometimes seemingly incompatible worlds are not so different after all. The essence lies in the three words that together create the Olympic motto: «citius, altius, forties» (Pierre de Coubertin, 1894). Both in science and sports we continuously explore the boundaries of the field, and try to go on beyond to achieve new performance levels and scientific understandings. With an open mindset to the swimming world I tried to build up a science based swim program knowing that science itself may not make champions, but can sure help to increase the chances for success.
Coaching for elite performance
When I first entered the word of swimming as a coach I was working as a full time scientist. Although my scientific background helped me in the development, monitoring and evaluation of training programs (using a system theoretical model of the power balance of swimming (Toussaint and Hollander, 1994), the first thing I had to do in practice was to acknowledge the complexity of sports performance and the importance of excellent coaching skills. Even if the trainer/coach was able to have all relevant information about his athletes readily available he should never forget that he is working with human beings, with the capability to think and communicate, instead of machines. To me this is exactly what coaching is all about: the interpretation and communication of information! And after 15 years in the world of elite sports, 1 dare to state that the elite coach makes the difference on the level of social and leadership skills. Where the athlete should be the center of attention of coaching, the coach should be in the lead and bears ultimate responsibility for the support team surrounding the athlete.