Thursday, November 20, 2008


Today is the World Philosophy Day. I did not know this before I started reading the BBC News website tonight, it was just after reading about Copernicus' skeleton and a navel-less model.

But let's go back to Philosophy. First a simple definition:

Philosophy is the study of general problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, truth, justice, beauty, validity, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing these questions (such as mysticism or mythology) by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on reasoned argument.

Given that definition, anyone would be hard-pressed to argue for the mere existence of something like “coaching philosophy” (even if there is a good case for the existence of a coaching mythology). So if there isn't such a thing, why is the expression everywhere? Why is it that every coaching website for a triathlon coach has this little paragraph where a “coaching philosophy” is described. It's usually a collection of general and empty pseudo-concepts, that really doesn't say anything. However, its use is so entrenched, that the every coach feels the need to have their coaching philosophy. And every athlete looking for a coach feels the need to ask a prospective coach what is their “coaching philosophy”.

Here is an idea: if you are looking for a coach, don't ask them what is their “coaching philosophy”. Ask the coach what is his/her coaching practice. Their practice is their results with athletes of similar ability and personality. The way they work and how they interact with the athletes. To sum it up, the way they coach. It's not philosophy.


rappstar said...

Coaches are like doctors or mechanics - they should have a set of "tools" and "technique" that they use to extract maximum performance from a machine. When you go to a guy who builds racing engines, you don't ask him for his philosophy on putting together a V-8. People want to be coddled, though. They want to be special. They don't want to accept that, generally speaking, they are pretty much the same as every other engine block on the line. Yeah, maybe their total capacity is smaller. And there are obviously some variances, but generally speaking, we are all much more the same than we are different. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. HTFU.

Nathan said...

By definition the word would actually be style.

"What is your coaching style?"

A coaches practice would be how he goes about applying the approach defined by his style.

Agreed on everything you posted though.

gnicholson said...

C'mon Paulo, you can do better than debate semantics.

Paulo Sousa said...


I really meant practice, not style. Style can be one thing and practice can be something else.


It's hardly semantics. Read it again and you might understand what I mean.

MarkyV said...


course then that sounds kinda close to becker... and like hell i would want to sound like that. ;)

Colin said...

Once again, my position that mathematics is more akin to philosophy than to science is supported.

Dan McKerrall said...

I can see your argument, however, another definition of philosophy is "the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group'.

In looking for a coach, I would want to know this first, then the second question would certainly be around "practice".

"Practice" tells me WHAT the coach does, while "Philosophy" tells me (or should tell me) WHY.

gnicholson said...

Paulo, I can't seem to find anything on your website that defines your "practice"?

Paulo Sousa said...

Oh, it's you Greg...

Can't find my athlete's page? My athletes' results best reflect my practice.

gnicholson said...

Ahh.. got it:

"results with athletes of similar ability and personality. The way they work and how they interact with the athletes. "

Egoic narcissism is not my thing, thanks. You're definitely coaching the right sport though...

Paulo Sousa said...

Hey Greg,

Apparently your passive-aggressive personality is passive when in person, a good example was when we met each other at IMC, and aggressive behind a keyboard. If you want, we can continue this discussion in person the next time we see each other. Until then, do me a favor and go do some training or something like that.



khai said...

I had to go look. Yep, back in 2004 I did indeed ask about your "coaching philosophy"... Oh, how little I knew back then! :p