A good friend of mine recently posed a question on the book of faces.
“Would you rather enhance your strengths, so you’re exceptional in one specific skill(set), or work on your weaknesses, so you’re a jack-of-all trades, master of none? I’m interested in what people’s perspectives are on this one..!”
I imagine he was asking this from the professional sense, being a fellow traveler on the road of human performance enhancement. I read the question right before bed, and thought it over a while in my head. Here are my thoughts, which I know present no definitive answer.
To begin, this question may be looked at in too specific a manner.
For example, I am a preparation coach, and I know quite honestly my strengths lie somewhere between effective communicator and patient teacher. I feel confident in my ability to execute a plan, teach movements, and control the gym floor. These qualities may seem rudimentary, but in reality they are the less glamorous back bone of any quality preparation program. Without the ability to put a plan into action correctly, the plan is useless. It’s no surprise that this would be where my strengths are. I have put in 7 years of 30+ hours weeks actually coaching people. Where else would I be better served placing my focus, especially in a system where those qualities may be the only definitive thing I have control of without too much outside influence?
To back track to the question, would I be better served becoming even better at these traits, or improving my knowledge of say sprint mechanics, energy system development, functional anatomy, biomechanics, PRI concepts, etc.
I think that’s how most coaches break this question down. They line up all the different areas of study, and application, concerning human performance and see where their strengths and weaknesses lie.
I’m not sure that’s the best way to look at it. I would look at it more globally. My job as a preparation coach is to prepare athletes for their chosen sport. I want to be a master of physical preparation for athletics.
When I look at it that way, becoming a pseudo jack of all trades may in fact still elevate my mastery of sport preparation. Albeit, never making me an absolute authority on any given area that could apply to sport preparation.
Let’s go deeper though.
The number one thing you can do as a preparation coach, is not to focus on one or two areas. It is to focus on one or two populations. If I try to become the jack of all trades who prepares athletes in 10 different sporting events, both sexes, and from an age range of 14-30 years old, I am setting myself up to always be proficient at, and never a master of, physical preparation.
If I instead focus on preparation for hockey, as an example, I can narrow down my understanding of energy system development, power development, orthopedic concerns, etc., as they pertain to hockey. I am not a master of any of those areas, but I am a master of all those areas as they pertain to hockey.
This question also highlights a glaring problem with athletic development in America. The role of the preparation coach is too undefined. There is a lack of different professions working together, and there is a lack of a single person serving as a manager to oversee that each element of preparation is given the proper amount of detail at the proper time in the athlete’s development.
Essentially, we have sport coaches, strength coaches, physical therapists, and so on, all operating individually. It’s no surprise that those with extensive networks and open relationships with the teams they’re preparing athletes to compete on tend to be the leaders in this profession.
As preparation coaches in America we focus greatly on understanding exercise science, and focus very little on understanding what we’re applying those concepts to.
There is no great answer to this question as it is proposed, at least in my eyes. This question does however help us to see where we can improve as coaches. We can improve by narrowing down our focus. By doing so, we can master the preparation of a given sport by understanding how to train for the many demands imposed by it. Furthermore, we can strive to develop a team of individuals who can work together therein allowing each member the opportunity to zero in on certain aspects to even greater detail.
If you are in a position that has you working with dozens of different populations, teaching the basics (of many disciplines) very well is of your utmost priority. In this position being a jack of all trades may just make you the master of exactly what your role entails. The issue is that your role isn’t optimal.