What vs. Why

By Jason DeMayo

As I’ve been traveling around the country this year I’ve seen quite a few different things.  In the past few months I’ve seen and heard of teams using a variety of methods to improve performance, from warm ups ( pre-competition and training), to new recovery modalities. While I, in no way shape or form, am saying I have the answer to what IS the right way to do things, I have come to a few important conclusions. Early on in my career all I cared about was the “whats”.  What is this team doing? How did they get their squat up? What does that coach do for conditioning? What restorative means are they using?  I’d ask those questions all the time.  Since I have had the fortune of adding an Omegawave to my tool box, my questions have shifted to the “whys”.  Maybe it’s because we have been pushed back towards the research aspect due to the new information on HRV and omegometry are not in simple programming books. Or maybe it’s just that we see drastic changes in how their bodies “are” before the athletes do and we want to know why. Maybe its just the addition of a new staff member that has sparked that in me a heightened desire to “know”.  No matter what the reasoning is, I think that just asking “what” leaves the door open for issues, but if you follow the “what” with the “why” and you understand and can justify (legitimately) what you’re doing, improvement seems to fall into place better.

I think that this is something that we are missing in all aspects of sports performance.  Strength coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, even sport coaches, could all be doing more of this. We need to establish the “what” and the “why” with everything we do. I think that this list of questions  should lead you to your “why’s”, but I feel everyone needs to take a step back and look at what they’re doing and answer these questions.  I did it, and trust me, it really opened my eyes as to what we actually were doing.

  • What is your goal?
    • Basically, what are you training for?  If you’re training athletes and your answer is anything other than improve performance, I need to ask you one question. Why?
  • What are your deficiencies?
    • What may or may not limit you or your athletes in reaching this goal?  What things need assistance or correction?  What things can they not/should not do?
  • What steps are there to reach your goal?
    • Where are you trying to get and how can you get there?  Maybe you look at what are the most extensive training means you would implement to reach your goal and work your way back to get there, as an example.
  • What requirements are there to reach your goal?
    • What are the requirements of the sport?  How are the people you deal with at these requirements?  Can requirements of the sport even be separated from the sport itself?  How much (volume and intensity) is required to improve these requirements?

Once you answer those questions you need to evaluate your answers and figure out not just what to do, but why you’re doing it. The theory of “changing to change” or “athletes needing change to stay motivated” are absolute garbage.  I’m sorry but that’s the honest truth.  I’ve witnessed it day in and day out watching our program build from 8 wins to 29 in five short years. Were there some changes? Sure, but not in every day structure, and minimal, at most, in practice.  Some tactical changes are always required in sports, and yes you need to “update” your training program every year, but to tell me a kid needs to do something completely different every day is a mistake.  As Dan John said in his “A Philosophy of Strength Training” DVD, “the goal is to keep the goal, the goal” and “the plan is to keep the plan, the plan.”

So with that in mind, let’s look at some of the “why’s” I ask myself and the people who work with me:

  1. Why are we doing that exercise?
  2. Why are we using that volume/intensity?
  3. Why is that method better than this?
  4. Why is that actually important and will it make our kids better at what they do?
  5. Why do we need this progression/change?

Think about those for a second.  If you can use precision in your training, know why you are implementing the means selected and what their purpose is, do you really need 100 different things?  If you take a step back I think that you’ll look at what you’re doing and realize that there’s a lot of “fluff.” I sure did.  So just take a step back and look at what you’re programming and see what you need to do, versus what you want to do, and watch how the sporting results improve.

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2 thoughts on “What vs. Why”

  1. Jay,

    Awesome article man. Such a great point. Its a lot easier to answer what we want but to know why is so imperative. I’m showing this to our interns today. Hopefully they see the bigger picture when thinking about their own training philosophy.

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