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This Isn’t A Meritocracy

PSPVB Final Blog PhotoI recently listened to a TED talk that asked the question, “Where do good ideas come from?” I think the default response is that good ideas come from libraries, universities, laboratories, etc. But the speaker argued that this is not the case. The speaker stated that coffee shops are the birthplace of good ideas. It is a community of people getting work done and/or talking to each other with the aid of a stimulant. What I think is most important is the fact that people are talking. In this field I often encounter people with a sense of entitlement. Generally, these individuals refuse to be open to new ideas, or assume their education from 30 years ago was the apex of knowledge in the field. I get it: no one wants to admit they are wrong. I know the tone of my blogs indicate that I may fall into this category of entitlement, but it could not be further from the truth. I am merely so impressed by recent research and my own findings that I often give my posts that extra “oomph” when I put my ideas to text. And I hope the stubborn people out there are reading my blog.

 

The TED talk reminded me of a quote by Conrad Hall. He said that “You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.” This quote should be plastered across universities, hospitals, libraries, and any place that intelligent people gather. I routinely encounter people who think they are omniscient. They believe they have the answer for everything, even if it is out of their specialty. Whether it is doctors of (insert specialty here), strength and conditioning specialists, personal trainers, or sports coaches – far too many are guilty of this sense of mastery. Whether it be in one’s career, or sport, people must be open to new ideas if they are going to move forward. I am sure everyone has been guilty of this at one point or another. I certainly was a few years ago. Those who knew me then saw how steadfast I was to my health and fitness. I was going to be the best, if there was something out there that would give me a 1% increase, count me in. Once, Jonah Carson, my UCSC coach, was talking about me to another coach. He said that “if there was a National Championship on the other side of a brick wall, Austin would find a way to get through it.” When he told me this, I laughed, put a big smile on my face and wholeheartedly agreed with his statement.

 

During this time I thought CrossFit was the pinnacle of sports performance and fitness training. I would train about 6 times per week, even if I was in season. I figured I would be able to recover completely in between a 7am work out and a 6pm practice. In the off-season, that number oscillated between 6-9 times per week. I would do double days and triple days because I thought we lived in a state of meritocracy and the harder I worked, the more I was going to succeed. I was meticulous with my diet, measuring out my portions of macronutrients, took every vitamin that I thought would help me and most importantly: I made myself believe I was getting better. Throughout this time period I would drown out this nagging little voice in the back of my head telling me “You really aren’t jumping much higher”, “You don’t feel a difference with all these vitamins, do you? Because I certainly don’t”, and “You are too sore to walk…are you sure this is helping you?”.

 

I was eventually injured doing CrossFit. This was a moment of crisis for me, I thought I was invincible. CrossFit was essentially a habit, maybe even a small addiction. I craved it, that sense of accomplishment perpetuated by cognitive dissonance, the WAY above average cortisol levels adrenaline, the cult community. Only after reading The Power of Habit that I spoke of a few posts ago, did I retrospectively realize that this crisis is what allowed me to break my habit and be open to new information. I always thought that CrossFit was above science, that it was too new and too good to play by the normal rules. I made myself believe that the body was so amazing, it would just adapt to whatever you put it through and the outcome would be a bigger, faster, stronger me. No pain no gain, right? Pain is just weakness leaving the body, right? No rest days, right? This injury was a turning point, it shattered my sense of entitlement and ignorant arrogance. It was a necessary crisis.

 

What happened next could not have been more perfect, as if my own celestial stars were aligning. I started working at the best physical therapy office in Northern California, possibly all of California. I do not need to bore you with the details of what happened between now and then, but I have radically changed my thought process about EVERYTHING. Those who have worked with me in these two time periods can attest to that.

 

You see, I am lucky enough to work in a form of a “coffee shop” every day. I am surrounded by brilliant Doctors of Physical Therapy, and as much as I may consider them masters in the field, they are perpetual students. Each and every one of them is constantly deepening their understanding of the body. Ideas are bounced off each other daily and questions are encouraged. If I had not experienced my crisis moment, I never would have opened my mind to new ideas and allowed myself to think outside the box (any CrossFitters reading this, that is a pun for you).

 

So again, I challenge you to question everything, but also listen and rationally think through new ideas. Because I try to do this every day, I have had epiphanies about the biomechanics of volleyball, and sports performance training. Put yourself in opportunities to learn, because just when you think you have something figured out, you will realize you were wrong. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers (about what makes successful people successful) he states that, “achievement equals talent plus preparation.” He affirms that this country loves the idea of meritocracy, that hard work will get you anywhere you want in life. After all – isn’t that the “American Dream”? However, hard work is only part of the equation. Talent and the correct kind of preparation will lead to achievement. Do not just blindly chug away in the weight room with zero periodization, or focus on biomechanics.

 

Let that voice in the back of your head speak out, comment, ask me a question. What are you waiting for? This is the internet, where anyone can be anonymous!

 

Train Smarter to Play Harder

Please comment or feel free to email me with any comments, critiques, or questions.

Austin Einhorn, CSCS

Volleyball Skills & Conditioning Specialist

Contact: austineinhorn16@gmail.com

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