Wednesday, 27 March 2013

'get stuck in'/the power of the network...a guest-post from Marcin Goszczynski

Let me ask you a question:

“Do you want a surgeon who knows how the heart works or a 
surgeon who knows how to work on the heart?

Easy answer, right?

I'm about to save you hundreds of dollars and countless hours.  

  • Never again, shall you visit the self-improvement section in Borders or Chapters...

  • Never again, will you spend your evenings listening to the preaching of Tony Robbins, Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey, or Dr Phil...

  • Never again, will you need to search the 'inspiration' section of TEDTalks...

Because I'm about to sum up the entirety of this multi-billion dollar 'self-help' industry in three words. 

Almost a decade before Nike developed their famous slogan, my soccer-coach father repeatedly bellowed a different three words to my teammates and I: 

"get stuck in!"

Thinking about it is not enough.  Philosophizing on it won’t get you anywhere. Sleeping on it doesn’t work.  You see, you don’t know what you know until you’ve tested it in the real world.

And the only way to test it is to 'get stuck in'. 

Early in my coaching career, I understood that there were two ways to influence mechanics: 1) what you say to the athlete; and 2) what you do with the athlete.  I learned the benefits of performance therapy, while not necessarily knowing how to apply it.  I did not, though, spend the next six months taking courses and reading books on therapy (at least not exclusively).  I started doing it.  

I got stuck in. 

I figured out why it was working while I was doing it. This is a simultaneous process. It has to be...

And that's the key...balancing the empirical with the theoretical.  

Understanding why something works is essential to our growth.  But waiting will get us nowhere....we’ll become paralyzed.  

By ignorance...




As an illustration, consider the thought experiment ‘Buridan’s Donkey’, named after medieval philosopher and priest Jean Buridan. An equally thirsty and hungry donkey is faced with a dilemma: standing exactly midway between a pail of water and a stack of hay, the rational donkey becomes paralyzed with indecision.  He needs a reason to choose one over the other, but in his indecision, he dies of both starvation and thirst.  

The message is an obvious one...

...the donkey encourages and challenges young coaches to just get to work.  You have a theory?  Try it out!  Where’s the harm?  

Of course, experimenting willy-nilly will get you nowhere.  

You need a starting point.  A springboard.  

And that’s where building an effective network comes in.  

Years ago - along with Matt Jordan, Scott Maw, and Jason Poole - I helped develop and teach a Strength and Conditioning practicum at the University of Calgary.  One of the first students to come through the program was Marcin Goszczynski.  A talented speedskater, Marcin was nearing the end of his career, and was interested in getting into coaching.  Within three months of joining our practicum, Marcin was getting his hands dirty.  Working with University athletes and teams, he quickly began to build the experience that sees him now in the early stages of a successful career as a coach and therapist, working with Canadian National Teams, and traveling the globe. The practicum provided Marcin with the beginnings of a network.  It gave him the confidence to go out and explore...

With our encouragement, Marcin got stuck in.  With our supervision, we gave him the freedom to experiment.  To hypothesize.  And to find his own solutions.  

This week’s guest-post discusses the importance of empirical learning.  Of developing a strong support network.  And of getting stuck in!

Evolution: Athlete > Student > Coach > Therapist...
a guest-post from Marcin Goszczynski

You know that awkward and uncomfortable feeling of being in a position of importance, expected to know all the right answers and/or actions and simultaneously feeling completely under prepared?

Some people thrive in those situations and are able to fake it til' they make it, but this is one skill I am not very good at. 

I began working as a Strength and Conditioning coach and Performance therapist five years ago. I thought - naively in hindsight - that an eighteen-year speed skating career, eight years of post secondary education and a dozen-continuing education courses would suffice to mitigate that feeling of under-preparedness. 

Cumulatively, twenty-seven years of experience sounds pretty good to begin one’s profession with confidence right? Somewhere down the line, though, there was a disconnect from my knowledge base to the actual daily requirements of coaching and therapy in high performance sport.

And it became apparent that I wasn’t going to figure this out on my own. There was no book called, ‘The Complete Step by Step Guide To Developing A World Class Athlete’ - at least not that I could find...

I knew three things: 
  • I wanted and needed to continue learning 
  • I was going to need some help 
  • It wasn’t going to be easy

So what to do?

I was fortunate.  Fortunate to have been surrounded by a network of professionals who took the time to help me through my journey. Fortunate for having the ability to ask and bounce ideas off experts with real life experience. And most importantly, fortunate that this network, and the guidance it provided, accelerated my development ten-fold - to the point where I now make my living in high-performance sport.

Whether it was Matt Jordan, Scott Maw, Shayne Hutchins, Dr Bryan Myles, Stu McMillan, Dan Pfaff, or countless others, they all opened their doors to me and were happy to teach me everything they knew that I wanted to know. 

Evolution - defined as a product of development - requires a stimulus to elicit an adaptation. Ensuring that the stimulus is appropriate is critical. By establishing relationships with these guys - by building a network - I have found that my knowledge base has improved exponentially.  Empirical learning is the key to figuring out how it is actually done in the real world of high-performance sport.  

It has been the key to my evolution.  

If I could offer one piece of advice for upcoming - or even established - coaches and therapists, it would be to build a support network with as many quality professionals as possible. 

Diversify the network in terms of areas of expertise - for seldom will you meet one person with all the answers. 

Keep your mind open to the possibility of allowing new ideas to formulate upon existing ones. 

thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed it, 
please share on Facebook or tweet it out!

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Marcin’s Polish-born parents emigrated to Canada when he was young.  Encouraged to take up speedskating, Marcin quickly excelled, and spent time on both the Canadian and Polish National Teams, and raced professionally for a Dutch marathon team. Marcin competed at a number of World Cups, and placed 22nd at the 2005 World Marathon Championships.  

Marcin has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Kinesiology from the University of Calgary and a two-year diploma in massage therapy from Mount Royal University. He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist with the NSCA and is A.R.T certified. Operating his own consulting business, he primarily contracts his services to the Canadian Sports Centre, working with athletes in speedskating, bobsleigh, skiing, hockey, track & field, swimming, and cycling.

Give him a follow @Mars_TS


  1. Great blog! "Get stuck in" - love it.
    Networking is so important, trying to do more.

    1. thanks Carson....definitely an under-used method. I've always believed in surrounding myself with folks smarter than I. And with communication the way it is these days (FB, Twitter, email, etc.) there is really no excuse to not broaden our networks...

      thanks again for reading, and your comments. Looking forward to you getting back to your own blogging! (or maybe you can write a guest-post for me?!)

  2. Thanks for this. Though I only work with a U16 ski program in Manitoba and have no aspirations to make my career in high performance sports this rang true for me. I have been fortunate to be surrounded by others who have continuously sought to expand on their experience and to be regularly exposed to leaders in my field. Ultimately it's that challenge to excel and the opportunity to apply ideas practically that motivates me to coach.

    1. thanks for your comments Glenn
      semi-related, I read an excellent post on Aaron Schwenzfeier's blog yesterday that you may relate to:

      (and there's no 'only' in coaching...ALL coaching is teaching...and ALL teaching is important)

  3. Thanks for reading Glenn!

    I would also add that, ultimately, without coaches like yourself, who spend countless hours developing our young kids into future athletes and preparing them for life, there would be no such thing as high performance sport.

    I am really happy that you could relate to my post. All the best in the future with you ski program!


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