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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On Being a Student of Your Sport

Ah…school days.  In our junior year of high school, we look forward to graduation while we begin the process of applying to colleges for the purpose of…more education.  Toward the end of our four year stint at the university, we contemplate graduate school, law school, medical school…more education.  With the celebration of every milestone, there stands a reminder that school isn’t quite “out.”  How quickly we learn that it never really is. 


Nowhere is this more apparent than in the healthcare field; and for good reason.  Whether its traditional Western medicine, or so-called “Alternative” medicine, when working as a healthcare practitioner, it is the most basic of premises that providers “first, do no harm.” To that end, most every discipline in the healthcare industry requires that some form of continuing education be completed regularly in an attempt to “force” rank and file and higher ups alike, to stay abreast of current research, new findings, evolving techniques, and other information. The implication is that without a mandate, many would not take the time to further their knowledge and thus, quality of care would decline.  The fitness industry, for the record, is held to the same standard.


We may grumble about the “conspiracy” amongst the educators and organizations that create the courses, seminars, workshops and conferences that we are obligated to attend, claiming that "the system" exists solely for the purpose of lining “their” pockets.  But, I would argue that if the cynics were honest with themselves, they’d admit “the system,” as it exists, though far from perfect, benefits everyone.  Like I always say….just because someone is selling something, doesn’t mean you DON’T need it!


In the business world, marketers, consumers and businesses study what the criteria are that influence customer preference for one professional or one business over another.  We live and work in a very competitive world where everyone wants “the best” but few are willing to pay for it.  Often, what can set a business apart from their competition can be as basic as superior customer service, or having established a connection, relationship, even a friendship with a customer. 

Ultimately, the basis for such a connection stems from the degree to which people are drawn to us and want to engage with us.  This is often a reflection of the degree to which we love and have invested in ourselves.  If you want other people to invest in you (emotionally, intellectually, financially), you have to invest in yourself.  This is why a higher degree, a jumbled alphabet of letters after your name, and a resume packed with certifications and credentials can garner such respect.  Even though, in the final analysis, education is only part of the equation.  In the fitness industry, an academic who has never been “under the bar,” won’t go very far but neither will a gym rat trainer whose only claim to fame is being “old school” (which in this industry, is more like claiming to be obsolete.)

Philosophers have extolled the virtues of continuing education since Aristotle first muttered “Education is the best provision for the journey to old age.”  Self-improvement gurus and fitness experts alike (one in the same if you ask me) have recently been promulgating Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule” from his bestselling book Outliers. The theory puts "the magic number of greatness" at 10,000 hours—the amount of time it takes to perform really well at anything. That's six hours a day, six days a week for six years. Gladwell's theory is based on the idea that one's capacity to perform successfully at the highest level is a choice, not a birthright.  That level of performance requires some serious studying.

Back in college, Dr. White, my Sports Psychology professor, did his best to impress upon us the value and importance of “being a student of your sport," whatever sport that may be. Today, in a world where the average person now has three different careers before he/she eventually retires (I believe they exclude parenthood for some reason)-getting educated then, apparently, will take a lifetime.


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